5 Back to School Marketing Ideas for Top Results

by | Mar 18, 2021

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Back to school marketing is traditionally a big driver of retail sales, second only to the holiday season. With the numerous uncertainties and disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, you should start planning now for how to approach consumers in the months ahead.

Why now?

  • The National Retail Federation says that combined K-12 and college spending for the current school year is a record $101.6 billion.
  • Technology and home furnishing spending increased more than apparel, because of the switch to at-home learning over the last year.
  • Shoppers increasingly prefer the convenience of online purchases instead of store-to-store comparison shopping.

Your back to school advertising should reflect the shift to digital channels. Regardless of where in-school learning will stand this upcoming school year, it’s important to take advantage of these long-term changes.

4 Points to Consider in Your Back to School Marketing Strategy

1. Target consumers by location. Geographic segmentation is usually a good practice. But now, as businesses struggle to return to the pre-pandemic “normal”, it’s crucial to reach customers as they respond to less restrictions on in-person learning and shopping.

2. Set your budget well ahead of time. Especially for your direct channels (direct mail, email), planning now helps determine your ROI.

3. Prioritize your resources. What are you willing to do? Do you make major changes to your site or app just for back to school? Do you focus on helpful content for the consumer and where they are now? Do you spend on PPC campaigns?

4. Review competitive research. What others are doing in your market space may shape your creative, price and pain points, targeting, and so much more.

5 Marketing Ideas for Back to School

As the second biggest shopping season each year, back to school marketing is very competitive. For the 2021-2022 school year, the landscape has changed dramatically. Many retailers have gone out of business, online commerce is more dominant than ever, and consumer preferences have changed – maybe permanently.

Here are some ideas to help your back to school marketing stand out.

Back to School Marketing Idea 1: Direct Mail

Direct mail has been the channel of choice for reaching broad audiences with back to school marketing efforts. Proven, winning tactics include:

  • Coupons
  • Sales
  • Friends and Family Discounts

Mail is well-suited for the extended back to school shopping season. Depending on the state, it can begin as early as July 4th and finish up well into late September or October. A direct mail piece – like a folded self-mailer, or co-op insert – can be mailed at the beginning of summer and stick around for months before being used.

Direct mail and digital channels can support each other by presenting a unified brand voice as well as meeting customers where they are with messaging and offers tailored for each method.

Back to School Marketing Idea 2: Sponsored Ads

Many brands sell goods or services online that fit a back to school theme. So sponsor ads for them wherever it makes sense – on Google, Facebook, Amazon, or Instagram.

You’ll need:

  • Back to school imagery
  • Engaging copy
  • High-performing back to school keywords

The key is to grab the attention of the main influencer, i.e., the student, with your ad and the offer.

How direct mail can help: Let’s say an ad for a specific product, such as a tablet, appears in online shopping results. If the shopper goes to the product page for the corresponding ad, but decides not to purchase, don’t abandon them – retarget them. A direct mail postcard featuring their item, maybe with a more tempting offer, can be printed and mailed quickly. If they’re still early in the sales funnel, the postcard may prompt a purchase.

Back to School Marketing Idea 3: Local Search

Put yourself in the shoes of your back to school prospects. They want that new laptop, soccer ball, haircut, or dry-cleaned suit NOW, not tomorrow. Local SEO helps them find local or regional businesses that can meet their immediate wants and needs.

Searches with local intent appear higher in results and generate more value for businesses.

Some ideas:

  • Basketball shoes near me
  • Pediatric dentist in Phoenix
  • Nearby kids hair salon

Also, if your local business has a free Google My Business profile, it can increase your relevance in search results over organic and paid results.

How direct mail can help: Share your profile’s URL on all of your direct mail pieces, or even better, use a QR code to bring customers there quickly.

Back to School Marketing Idea 4: Social Media

Your customers follow their favorite brands on their social channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. So it makes sense to be there when they are with your back to school offers.

Marketing activities to consider include:

  • Announcing your back to school promotions
  • Providing a coupon, promotion code, or link to your site, BTS landing page, or app
  • Post reviews, ratings, and recommendations from other shoppers
  • Launching videos or live stream events

How direct mail can help: Your social media sites can announce when your back to school campaigns drop in the mail. And because you put your social links on your mail – right? – you’ll help build their loyalty to your brand.

Back to School Marketing Idea 5: Email Marketing

This one is a no-brainer. You already know – or should know – how effective your email lists are. And while a blast to your audience may work, segmenting it may produce better ROI.

As with direct mail, all of that audience and buying data you have should guide your decisions about what products or services to promote for back to school season.

Think about how to engage customers with:

  • Subject lines and preheaders that mention back to school
  • BTS promotions targeting past buyers
  • Informative and helpful content that provides value
  • Deadlines or quick sales that scream urgency

How direct mail can help: Direct mail and email make each other better in many ways.

Here are some examples:

  • Assuming you have physical addresses, you can mail to your email customers.
  • Use direct mail as part of a drip campaign over several weeks – perfect for back to school.
  • Re-engage cart abandoners brought to your site by an email and make the sale.

Wrapping it up

The restart of in-person learning for millions of children, teachers, staff, and parents is a major transition. Figuring it all out – new rules, schedules, and expectations – will present many challenges. To manage all of them well may be difficult, but marketers have opportunities to make a positive, helpful impact like never before.

These back to school marketing ideas can support your goals and help them succeed. And they work better as part of coordinated or even integrated omni channel campaigns. The key is to reach your customers at the right time with the right offer.

At mailing.com, we work with marketers of all kinds to bring their direct mail campaigns to life. Contact our team to talk about how we can work together on your back to school marketing campaign!

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