Book Your Back-to-School Appearances Now!
As a test prep professional, booking live presentations through local schools can be a great way to promote your business and reach new clients. In some cases, this is easier said than done.
Some schools offer in-house test prep options while others have existing relationships with your competition. Some districts may just be flat out opposed to starting a relationship with an outside business. In any of these cases, you have an uphill climb if you are trying to land what is certainly one of the largest potential client pools around.
In order to have the best chance of landing a lucrative school relationship, you need to be active. While there are things like social media marketing that you can work year round, timing matters when it comes to booking school appearances.
Do Your Research
Before picking up the phone, sending off an email, or setting up a meeting with a school official, put in some time researching the school district you want to pitch. Thankfully, school and local government websites can make the process quite simple.
A school’s website is always the natural starting place, but there is a potential treasure trove of information available if you know where else to look! Most schools post their entire school calendar -- everything that's relevant to students and parents -- on the school's homepage.
Most school business is public record. Find and read any available meeting minutes posted by or about the school district. Typically, the board of education meetings and curriculum meetings will have the most pertinent material.
Some key pieces of information to be on the lookout for include:
- the district calendar (including events and board of education meetings)
- references to existing test preparation programs or arrangements
- the names and contact information for relevant decision makers (superintendent, principals, guidance supervisors, etc.)
- course offerings (particularly AP and college prep)
Assembling as much of this information ahead of time as you can will help ensure you are making a pitch to the right person and offering the right type of services! Typically, the more familiar you are with the goings on of a district, the more likely it is you will be successful at making inroads.
Timing is Everything
If arranging to get your test prep business into schools wasn’t tricky enough, some of the best opportunities to do so come right at the beginning of the school year. Looking at a district calendar will give you some important guidance on how to best pitch your services.
First and foremost, circle any events on the school calendar that focus on parental attendance. “Back to School Night” and parent-teacher conferences are great opportunities to make contact with parents looking for support for their kids. These occasions usually happen in the fall, so don’t wait to get the ball rolling! If you aren’t able to gain access to the school, these are still great times for community outreach since parents will have academic growth on the brain.
Also be on the lookout for events dedicated to a school’s college-bound culture. College nights, college fairs, and anything related to AP courses should be chock full of students focused on achievement and success. If you can position your business as a means to those ends, the client rolls will fill up quick!
Who Are You Really Trying to Help?
If the people you contact get the impression that you're only interested in participating in these events so that you can "spin-off" clients, you can expect your conversations to taper to a dial tone. It's worth keeping in mind that many of the people you'll interact with at schools have already been burned by opportunistic for-profit education providers. Remember the supplemental education services boom/bust? Yeah, that was pretty bad.
You need to not only make a good impression but also differentiate yourself and your services from the companies that came before you.
The only way to do this is to consistently emphasize the value that you're interested in delivering for free. If you're quick to propose a partnership or a revenue share or anything else, you'll trigger alarm bells -- and for good reason! When it comes to offering test prep through schools, you need to approach year-one as an opportunity to establish yourself as a reliable ally who delivers credible results.
Isn't There a Shortcut?
No, there isn't.
If all of this sounds like too much work, then you're probably not cut out for this. If it sounds like it won't be lucrative enough to warrant your time, then you're the exact person that teachers and administrators are hoping to protect their students from meeting in the first place. I'm not trying to shame you or anything. It's just the reality of the situation.
Another piece to pay attention to when looking at the school calendar is when the board of education meetings take place. Districts will require some degree of board approval before you are welcome to interact with parents and students on their campus. Aim to make your pitch at least two weeks before the district’s next board meeting to ensure the best chance to make the agenda and get approval!
Test prep requires hustle to succeed. You may strike out from time to time when trying to book appearances in local schools, but it only takes a few successes to make a profound impact on your business. Be as prepared as possible to make your pitch opportunities count!
How have you been able to make inroads successfully with local schools? Share your advice and experiences with our readers in the comments below and on social media!