Bottom Line Up Front: This year, stun your school prospects with a new framework for back-to-school selling. That, plus four of our most effective school selling tactics, are inside. Your fullest back-to-school marketing potential awaits.

We’re on the cusp of another busy school season, and excitement is everywhere. And that’s before we even consider all the sales potential. If you haven’t started thinking about back-to-school marketing, now’s the time.

Consider this: The need for community has never been stronger — and that means the need for custom merchandise has never been more striking.

But we didn’t just create this Marketing Kit to help you appeal to your audience’s emotional needs. We created it to help you appeal to their every need. We did the research, pored over the facts, and compiled the How-To Guide so that you can zero in on every morsel of selling potential this year. And so that you can do it quickly.

This kit shows you how to frame your offers, when to put them out there, and how to incorporate business dollars for maximum results. It’ll touch on how social media can change everything for your selling capacity, and it’ll pinpoint how fundraising can singlehandedly shift your bottom line.

It’s coming in hot, and it’s coming in fast — just like the back-to-school season itself. Ready for the mayhem? Let’s go.

InkSoft School Store
Example of an InkSoft Store that complements the marketing kit.

The Right Framework

Your current framework for back-to-school marketing? It’s wrong. And not only is it wrong, but it’s limiting. We’ll explain: right now, if your back-to-school season hits the surface in June and lasts to the end of September, you’re allowing yourself  — and it’s a tight allowance — about four months of selling steam.

Historically, those are a powerful four months for our industry. Decorators go into marketing overdrive, schools, and athletics enter a buying bonanza, and everything has come and gone by the time there’s a little more chill in the air. It’s a thing of beauty, and we’re not slamming the way things have been done.

We’re just saying there’s a better way to do it.

So it doesn’t just last 4 months, but it lasts 10. So it doesn’t just hit one type of back-to-school shopper, but it hits all of them. Yeah — that’s what the new framework we’re proposing makes possible. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Switch from a small revenue timeframe mindset to an ongoing marketing campaign mindset — that lasts through the whole school year
  2. Sell to needs beyond just the back-to-school start-up period: seasonal clubs, sports, and events are huge drivers for urgent custom merch, and they pop up year-round
  3. Appeal to every type of end-consumer with the same fervor…
  • The families who do all their “back to school” shopping in August
  • The teenagers who split their spiritwear purchases by semester
  • The college students who buy whenever necessity, or the mood, strikes
  • The exchange students who arrive for the spring semester
  • The mature students who start night classes in January

The bottom line here is that there’s no right way of back-to-school shopping, so why should there be a right way for back-to-school selling? Don’t limit your profitability by sticking to the traditional four-month zone. Expand when your customers are selling, expand who they’re selling to, and their sales will have no choice but to expand too.

The Right Details of Back-to-School Marketing

Not convinced there’s enough fuel for a 10-month selling strategy? Let’s look at the facts:

  • As of fall 2021, roughly 49.5 million students were enrolled in public school (pre-K through 12th grade).
  • Approximately 19.4 million students attended colleges and universities in fall of 2020.

Taken together, that’s more than 68 million students engaged in a school community. And that doesn’t even include families, teaching staff, or admin/athletics personnel. But wait — there’s more:

  • In one national poll, only 13% of grade-school families had finished their back-to-school shopping by early August.
    • For college shoppers (and their families), that number came in at 15%.
  • Conversely, 22% of those K-12 families hadn’t even started theirs.

What do those numbers tell us? That 87% of grade-school shoppers and 85% of college shoppers hadn’t completed their shopping by the time August rolled around. And that over 1/5th of school families hadn’t even started.

Instead of solely selling to the families and students who pride themselves on getting out there early, widen your customers’ lens. Get them to consider how many other families and students there are who are waiting to buy until it’s the right time for them.

Maybe they’re spreading their budget out to last at intervals throughout the year. Maybe they’re holding off until they can capitalize on major holiday deals, or maybe they’re prioritizing seasonal sports and event spiritwear over a generic back-to-school haul.

Whatever the reason, you’ve got to remember that there is a reason. And if your customers are too busy selling to the small subset of buyers behaving in line with their expectations, then they’re missing out on everyone else. And the earning potential they bring with them.

If you don’t bring this new framework to your audience’s attention, then you’re doing exactly what every other decorator is doing: the same old. You’re not standing out — and you’re certainly not paving the way for them to exceed their wildest profit expectations.

Because in 2022, that’s exactly what’s on the table. A profitability boom. A new way to approach a classic selling period — and drive outlandish results.

So how do you convince your audience that this approach is the right one — and close more orders as a result? Simple: you continue to highlight your impeccable capabilities, and you leverage the following four selling strategies:

The Corporate Advertising Program

Every one of your customers wants to earn more. Whether it’s a middle school uniform store, a basketball team spiritwear store, or a veterinary college branded gear store, the intention is the same: engage communities, sell products, and rack up profits. 

With this strategy, earning more is made even easier — because you’re granting them an alternate revenue stream. In addition to the sales coming in from selling products, your Online Store system allows them to offer local businesses the chance to sponsor their store. 

And that sponsorship brings advertisement power with it. So the arrangement leaves everyone happy.

Here’s the breakdown: your customer — a school, team, or organization fueled by students — connects with relevant local businesses. (Pro Tip: have your own Rolodex of businesses whose interest levels you’ve already gauged to streamline the process.) Then, the program’s explained:

  • In exchange for $X, the business receives advertisement space on the Online Store site.

Your customer can set their price based on size, placement, and length of time the branded logo/slogan/message stays up, so how they benefit from the arrangement is up to them. But, since they’re already on board with the school-year-long “back-to-school” selling approach, their earnings aren’t limited by a tight timeline.

Some companies might want their business name up top on the site for the full 10 months. Others might want theirs present before big holidays or seasonal sales, and others still might want theirs up leading up to a relevant event. (For example, the local tux store will want that real estate before prom.)

Offering this advertisement program as an option will help you stand out from the crowd, earn your customers more in profit, and appeal to a whole new audience of potential buyers. That’s because those businesses will have custom merch needs at some point. And when they do, they’ll remember you.

The Fundraising Power

If you’re looking for a stand-out offering, this is your winning ticket: schools are always, and especially now, in need of effective fundraising tactics. Thanks to your Online Fundraising Store capabilities, you have just the thing. 

More than just producing killer merch and making the buying experience seamless, you actually have a way to streamline the whole backend of their fundraiser. (And the embedded marketing potential doesn’t hurt, either.) Whether it’s a week-long rally or an initiative that lasts the whole school year, you’re equipped to take the time-consuming, labor-intensive, tedious-to-manage hassle out of the equation.

And help them raise more because of it.

Not only does that differentiate you from the competition, but it also helps to further your wide-lens approach to back-to-school selling: every day is another day their students engage with their community. Every day is another day to start a new fundraiser, support a new cause, and give the community a new way to show up. And since all types of customers shop online now, positioning yourself as an e-commerce-savvy print shop also stands to benefit your business in the long term.

If your customers are only focused on selling school spirit and community pride at the start of the school year, they’re imposing restrictions on their own fundraising power. But, if they kick off the year with an eye on the long-term — and all of the fundraising opportunities situated along the way — they’ll be perfectly positioned to act faster. And earn more.

The Campus Ambassador Program

To supercharge the earnings from your customers’ full-school-year selling approach, the marketing has to be top-notch. That’s where your Campus Ambassador Program comes in. 

The concept is simple: as we see with collegiate and Greek life sales campaigns, your customer will activate campus ambassadors, or leaders in the community, to promote the Online Store (and the spiritwear/merch inside it).

Pro Tip: those leaders should also be leading the scoreboard in social media followings. Retaining the help of influencers can singlehandedly transform the success of a store.

But it’s not just enough for you to give voice to the idea. If you’re really smart, you’ll enter the initial pitch with an actionable plan for implementation. 

Are the campus ambassadors part of the school’s entrepreneur program or marketing internship? Are they earning commission for their posts — with every ambassador getting their own (trackable) coupon code to promote? 

Showing up with a developed, easy-to-execute strategy is a concrete differentiator that your prospects will remember. It shows them that you’re not just here to sell them on an approach, produce the goods, and then jet off into the sunset. You’re their partner for the long haul. They can depend on you, and they can trust that you know what you’re doing.

The Classic Bundle

The final strategy comes back to the excitement of the traditional back-to-school rush. While we’re encouraging you to pitch a “back-to-school program” that lasts the whole school year, we’re also encouraging you to lean into the community-wide elation that the start of school brings with it.

There’s a spirit surge that comes with the first few weeks of back to school — you know it, your customers know it, and even their communities know it. So leverage it. 

When the Online Store goes live, don’t just include one-off T-shirts and hats or car decals and notebooks. Offer the community more. And more, in decorator speak, is bundles.

  • An everyday T-shirt bundle — with a tee for every day (or gym class) of the week
  • An essentials bundle — including a T-shirt, long-sleeve, hat, and hoodie
  • An ultimate fan bundle — 5 items from the new line of spiritwear
  • A senior year bundle — a range of items with senior or “Class of 20XX” messaging

By pitching this tactic to your prospects, you’ll be showing them that you value the traditional rush of back-to-school buying just as much as they do. You’re not avoiding it. What you are avoiding is losing sales once that period ends.

The Right End-Game

Every print shop will try to get in on this year’s rush. But your prospects and customers want something different. Something that’ll help them make up for the ups and downs of the pandemic and its ripple effects. Something that helps them start this school year off with a bang.

Your new sales framework can help them do just that. By gearing up to tackle every sports season, school club activation, weather change, and seasonal event now, they won’t be caught by surprise at the sales opportunities they missed later. 

Plus, by keeping their eye on their full school population and not just the early buyers, their returns will grow. Exponentially.

This is the perfect framework for the upcoming back-to-school season. And the four strategies we broke down — the Corporate Advertising Program, Fundraising Power, Campus Ambassador Program, and Classic Bundle — are its perfect sidekicks.

This Marketing Kit goes deep into the details for stand-out selling — and for good reason. But if you’re looking for a refresher on the basics, like how to sell your foundational capabilities (hello, Online Stores), who to pitch to, or what products to highlight, then you want to check this article out. And if what you really need is pitching intel — as in, how to pitch in a way that guarantees maximum sales, then this is the article for you.

This is your year to shoot further. To sell more, to earn more, and to impact without hesitation. This Marketing Kit and the articles above will help you do it. Seamlessly. From pre-written emails to copy/paste social captions and site headlines, this kit’s got everything you need to promote the tactics we discussed.

So get ready, get set, and start pitching. Your fullest earning potential is waiting. And if you’re somehow still without the Online Stores (and Online Fundraising Stores) set up, there has never been a better time to grab ahold of it. It’s the industry’s leading e-commerce system for a reason. That reason? It works. Combine it with your other shop resources like screen printing software, and you’ll have a powerhouse of tools to print merch, sell online, and master e-commerce sales across the board.

Get to know InkSoft and all it can do for your business this back-to-school season here.

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