The One Very Important Thing You Can Learn From “Back to School” Marketers

I was in OfficeMax the other day and came upon a rotating rack at the front of the store offering brightly colored lists of “suggested school supplies” according to grade level.

While I could envision mothers bargaining with their kids over what they could and could not afford, I also pictured these same moms feeling slightly relieved to have a comprehensive list at their fingertips to make shopping easier.

Just about any business can do something similar:

  • The garden center that offers lists of tools for beginning gardeners, best types of flowers for shaded patios, or step-by-step instructions on planting a shrub or tree.

  • The home improvement store that features a list of everything you need (tools and parts) to fix that leaky toilet.

  • The restaurant that showcases a “chef’s secret” takeaway recipe card in a holder on the table.

  • The wine store with a beautiful wooden literature rack near the register that offers flyers on building your first wine collection, or how to figure out the quantity of wine you’ll need for a party.

  • The bank that provides a checklist of the basic financial and personal documents or copies you should place in your safe deposit box.

  • The sporting goods store that offers flyers on the equipment you need for cycling, camping or hiking.

The list for potential marketing opportunities is endless.

I wonder why more businesses don’t do this.

What business are YOU in?  What kind of lists could you offer customers to make their purchasing process easier (and maybe even get them to buy more than they originally came into your store for)?.

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10 Responses to “The One Very Important Thing You Can Learn From “Back to School” Marketers”

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  1. rick copper says:

    great post! Just went school supply shopping at Officemax. They made it as easy as possible. Someone should do this for first-time home buyers.

  2. Another great idea, Rick – thanks!

  3. Jeff says:

    Last year, my wife spent the better part of 2 days running around town and searching the internet for our oldest daughter’s school supplies. See, the school had supplied the list and the list was *extremely* specific.

    What baffled me at the time was why some independent store (or even a chain like the local Office Max) hadn’t coordinated with the school to create packages for the parents. Most parents, if given a choice between spending 20% more and being able to pick up a neat little package in one quick trip vs. scouring the town for everything would chose the former, for sure!

    So, yes, the list is a great idea, but what about taking it one step further – not only make the list, but pick out the best buy for each item and then assemble the entire list of items into a neatly packaged “starter kit” for people, with a satisfaction guarantee on both the kit and every item in it? Then get a known expert to endorse the kit.

  4. Dave Young says:

    Believe it or not, our local Wal-Mart has these lists and they are school-specific. There are even a few of the employees who will grab the list and help you pull all of the items. Good customer service, provided by a good employee. Too bad it’s not a policy-driven approach.

  5. Great points, Jeff and Dave. A FB reader also told me about the Wal-Mart strategy – seems it’s a corporate effort, and an excellent one.

    And great idea, Jeff – a starter kit!

  6. Paul Boomer says:

    The starter kit is a great thing, Jeff. The University of Missouri Bookstore does something similar in that they’ll pre-package a students books based on the schedule. All for free. Hand over your schedule three days in advance and bam, it’s ready for pick up.

    For a local business, offering similar services free up staff members and other resources during busy times. Think how it could work during the holiday season at your local [insert name here] store.

    One other thought, based on all sorts of things and puchases and sother reasons, people hate to think. Remove the barrier of thinking and you’rre already ahead of the game.

  7. Good holiday thinking, Paul! Freeing up staff from non-essentials is such a basic, efficient way of doing business. Sometimes the simple answers are still the best.

  8. Oh boy! I am weary of all the “back to school sales” nonsense. I figured this post would be about the back to school sales that have nothing to do with school OR sales for that matter. Our local John Deere Landscapes supplier has a back to school sale for irrigation equipment. Not kidding: . We are going to promote our Bi-partisan lawn care packages in November. Gosh.

  9. OK, Paul. THAT made me laugh out loud.

  10. Renee Malove says:

    School supplies are always a huge expense, but to answer the gentleman earlier about product packages, the simple answer is that with the sheer quantity of schools most supply stores cater to and the fact that most teachers are very specific about what supplies they want, it’s simply not practical. Instead, what they do is gather supply lists from area schools, post them in a public place, and make sure they’re well stocked on EVERYTHING on the list.

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