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Back to School

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | August 4, 2015

Tips to capture an important market!

While at the Anderson Building dedication on Sunday, I ran into an area teacher that was speaking with a group of friends.  An individual in the group changed the direction of the conversation from the wonderful remodel of the building to the impending arrival of students for the new school year.  A look a terror washed over her face as she realized the school year is not that far away…

From a business perspective, any season that encourages buying is an opportunity to garner sales IF businesses plan and market correctly.  Below are a few simple tips to capture the “back to school” crowd this year.

1.  Contextualize your windows – The science of spending is all about communicating simple concepts to a target market.  Understanding the needs of your clientele (back to school students) gives you the ability to create windows that address the needs of your target market.  If your target market sees something they need in the context of a purchase they were already planning to make, you can grab additional sales.

2.  Interior signage – Once people are in your business, do you have internal signage that reinforces the back to school message?  It is important to let consumers know what products or services will benefit their students with appropriate visual cues.

3.  Sales staff training-  Signs and displays will only go so far without appropriate staff training.  Talk with your staff about what people need for back to school items and why they need certain products or services.  If your staff can tailor their pitch to the specific needs of the customer, they will be more successful.

4.  Product/Services Grouping – Consider producing a special “back to school” display or area in your business that is designed to appeal to your target market.  Asserting your market presence with appropriate interior displays can encourage additional shopping.

5.  Traditional Advertising-  You need to get the word out.  People in the buying mode are more susceptible to traditional advertising because they need to understand where to go to get everything they need in a compressed time frame.  Radio, newspaper and television advertising can help reinforce your businesses ability to provide goods and services to the back to school shopping crowd.

6.  Interactive Communication – Social media, in particular, can add a “Q and A” component to product or service marketing.  Businesses can produce interactive blogs for their web sites and create specialty interaction for both parents and students to encourage a more immersive shopping environment.  Targeted social media advertising can help solidify your reach to the back to school market in your target time frame.

7. Partner with other stores – A singular business can’t generally carry everything that a back to school shopper needs.  Partnering with other businesses that may have complementary products creates a shopping “loop” that encourages spending while promoting cross business cooperation.

8.  Adjust your hours – With all the kids activities going on, its sometimes difficult to shop during compressed store hours.  Cooperate with partners to have extended back to school hours or promote your on-line sales capabilities to virtually extend your hours.  Every effort to add convenience to the shopping experience typically results in greater customer loyalty and increased sales over time.

9.  Partner with causes – Local PTOs, after school programs, church youth groups, boy scouts, girl scouts, sports teams, 4-H and many other worthy student organizations can partner with businesses to create special shopping nights that “pay back” the organization.  Businesses should REQUIRE that any partner organization is an ACTIVE participant in marketing.  The last thing you want is to find a disengaged partner that takes a donation without providing exposure.

10.  Appeal to parents, grandparents and teachers – Remember that you aren’t just selling to students for back to school.  Parents may convert a students’ room to a different use when they leave for college.  Grandparents may want newer technology to connect to their favorite student.  Teachers may need an upgrade for their wardrobe.  Back to school spending goes beyond the student; remember that in your marketing efforts. 

One of the hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs is opportunism.  Identify and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.  With a solid plan in place, you can generate extra sales and profitability for your business this back to school season.

See this article and MUCH more in this week’s Emporia Main Street E-newsletter!

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.