It’s school summer fair season again! That means I’ve been approached by a LOT of schools in the surrounding area, for either adverts in their brochures or vouchers for their raffles.
Realistically, the vouchers do not really help me with my business. I don’t get a lot of visibility from them and I don’t get a lot of business. However, I do like to support the local community; my kids are at a local school, and I’m very aware of how hard the PTA’s work for both the private and state schools. Sadly at times I do feel a little ‘used’ at times by the schools that approach me (not all, just some), which I suspect makes the PTA’s job even harder.
So I thought I’d write some tips on how to get those much needed adverts or vouchers from local businesses. Most importantly you are looking to create a relationship with the business; where they know that you don’t just want a voucher from them, you actually care that they gain from it.
- If you are asking for raffle tickets, have a simple brochure and list all the small businesses that gave you a voucher with a thank you and their contact details. Or create a poster that is in a prominent position at the fair if you can’t afford brochures. The raffle prize will cost the business money to provide the service/product and it takes a lot of return visits from that customer to cover that cost. So this gives them increased visibility.
- Suggest they offer you a raffle ticket for something that can be upgraded; this gives them a chance of covering their costs at least. For instance, if I offer a 45min massage, someone might upgrade it to 60mins.
- If you are asking for adverts, please consider what value for money you are providing in comparison to other local advertising options. Some schools would like to charge me the same amount to potentially reach 300 parents that I can reach 20,000 people in for a local magazine/newspaper. They also tell me how many children are in the school, rather than how many families, which can often be about 60% of the original number.
- If you are asking for adverts give them plenty of time, a deadline, explain what format you need the advert in (e.g. PDF/Jpeg) and what the dimensions of the advert will be. Also, send them a complementary version afterwards, to show them that you definitely did do the advert.
- Offer them a package where they can have a stall at your fair, offer a raffle prize and advert in your brochure at a reduced rate.
- Do some research into the most popular stalls; my heart breaks sometimes for the small businesses sitting their all lonely with products which are just not suitable for that school.
- If their business doesn’t really suit a stall at your fair, they could sponsor one of the PTA stalls. For instance we often have simple games, where the kids win sweets. These could be sponsored by the business, and reduce the PTA’s cost in return for a sign thanking the business for their sponsorship.
- Keep a record of the businesses and the contact person that help you each time. Then to save you time you can contact them directly each year.
- I recommend that you find out if any of your PTA or parents actually use the business – I’m much more likely to give a voucher to a client, than a stranger who contacts me once a year.
- Contact the most local businesses first; they are the most likely to gain from supporting you. Whereas I’m often contacted by schools from a long way away, that probably are too far for me to realistically gain clients. It’s worth walking up the local high street and making a list of the companies, the person to contact and which ones might be interested. Once this list is created it can be used each year.
- Support the business on social media – send a thank you tweet and message on their Facebook page. Like their Facebook page and follow them on twitter. Mention them on your private Facebook profile as well. All these things help with a small businesses marketing campaign, and helps to reduce their costs.
- During the following year, share one or two of their Facebook posts or like them to show that it’s not just at Christmas and the Summer Fair time that you are interested.
I know this probably sounds like a lot of work, and it might be a little late for this year’s fairs (sorry!). But once you have your list of businesses, it is likely that they will automatically help each year and you’ll only be looking for 1 or 2 extras per annum. You will stand out as so much more loyal and caring than the other schools, that the business will always be willing to help you where it can.
I’d also recommend other ways of building a relationship with the business:
- Invite someone in from them for careers days, and send thank you’s on social media for their time.
- Offer them the opportunity to put fliers in the school bags – this can be more successful than an advert in the school brochure and lucrative for the school.
- Proactively find out what local businesses the parents work in and specifically target them, as they have greater interest in the school.
- If you have railings at school, you could offer for them to make a banner and advertise there every now and again (for a fee of course).
- If you do other events during the year, potentially offer for these businesses to sponsor some aspect of it.
- For your most reliable and loyal business supporters, you could add a thank you page to the school website.
Please remember that these are small businesses. Unless they are very lucky, the owners are probably earning as much or less than they would do if working for someone else, and they are much more stressed. Why on earth in that case do they do it? Well that’s a question I’m not sure of the answer for!
I really hope this helps in that rather desperate rush to compete with other schools/charities for small business support.