DS in the Education Market

TinersTakeDS-featuredWhen thinking of selling digital signage to the K-12 market, many integrators would simply walk away. We all know the budget struggles of public schools, therefore we know that there is not excess money to spend on what may be seen as frivolous. Yet, there are some things you may not know, particularly if your child has been out of school for a few years. Communication is more important than ever in schools. Years ago, if a parent wanted to contact a teacher, or get information from a school, they were expected to visit the school and talk with the teacher. Not anymore. Today, parents expect to have the news pushed to them in a variety of ways, including social media.

Your first step as a salesperson is, as always, to do some research. If you have kids in school, think about the way the school communicates with you. What works, what does not? Go pick your kids up from school some day. Stand in the lobby and listen to what the parents are talking about. What are they interested in hearing from the school?

Next, think about what information can go on a regular cork board at the main entrance. I find digital signage that is simply a replacement of these boards to be a waste of time and money. Money being the critical waste in a public school budget. So, don’t try and sell the digital signage to a school as a replacement for the cork board. Kids (and teachers) actually like those boards.

My first suggestion is to think about and research ways in which schools are using the board as an educational tool. An example of this would be a class developing a set of slides for the board, explaining something they have worked on. My son’s class did a unit last year in which they raised fish over the winter, and released them in the late spring. They did this in conjunction with a local ecological group. Along with pictures of the growth and release of the fish, and research the class did, part of their assignment could be to develop a succinct set of slides to share with the school.

Another very important piece of information for parents is the current successes of the school. Driven by the No Child Left Behind Act, test scores, attendance numbers, graduation rates and many other metrics are now something that parents want to know. Showing schools way to highlight these numbers to parents and others visitors, encourages them to get more involved and ask more questions. This is something that schools want.

Think about the particular market you are selling to. For example, at a local private, catholic school there is a digital sign. It has two slides. One says, “Welcome to Saint Dominic Academy,” the next gives a thought of the week. The thought, with a religious connotation, is a very powerful message each week. The sign is placed in a very strategic location so that as you walk in the front door, it is very obvious. It has an effect that a handwritten poster could not.

Finally, remember to approach the schools with a starter system. It needs to be one that is very easy to use, and can be used by multiple people around the school. If you are giving the school a system that needs a half day of training, it is too much! They really need a system that is, essentially, self explanatory. Also, an investment of $2,000 is a lot of money for a school. So, don’t go into the school expecting to sell them a $10,000 server and $2,000 media boxes. Rather, explore the various options available on the market. Perhaps even selling them something that is very inexpensive, and you make your money on design and support. The last thing you want to think about is the scalability. Schools don’t want to feel suckered into a system at a low price, and then be told they need to come up with all kinds of money to expand. In the end, yes, it is a bit more challenging to sell a system to a K-12 system, whether public or private. Remember though, you are not just selling equipment. You are introducing the system to your company and their skills and abilities. Someday, they are going to build a new school, and need some AV systems installed. Wouldn’t you like to be the first company they think of?