If you are a business that is trying to get your activity or service into schools or nurseries then this blog will give you the tools to do just that, whilst also hopefully, having a significant impact on the children who’ll experience the activities you provide. It’s important that you find the way that works best for you, but today we’ll be covering a specific method which was created by Cerys Keneally, who’s built a business helping activity providers get their businesses into schools and nurseries.
In this article we’ll go through the process Cerys has developed and provide you with easily actionable ideas about how to approach schools and nurseries. You’ll also discover the STOP method she’s created and find out what to do and what to avoid.
If you hate cold calling – stop!
Schools are known to have excellent gatekeepers who do a very good job of diverting cold calls away from the decision-makers you want to reach. People buy from people, so if you’re spending a significant amount of your time preparing for and unsuccessfully calling them, then it’s time to rethink your strategy so that they can actually have the chance of getting to know you. If you hate cold calling then stop and wait until you’ve managed to create a relationship with that school before calling them. There is no point wasting your time making unsuccessful calls when you could be building relationships through well-thought-out emails instead.
How do I grab the attention of the reader so that they actually read my email?
Cerys found that lots of her clients were using, “…their emails to talk about themselves rather than solving a problem.” It seems natural to introduce yourself to potential clients before offering them anything, but until that school has some sort of relationship with you, they won’t have a good enough reason to be interested. With that in mind here are some great hooks to include that will be likely to grab the reader’s attention.
Offer them something for nothing
It may seem counterintuitive to offer a free morning, day or workshop when you’re trying to build up your business, but the reality is by showing goodwill and offering them something of high value, they not only get to experience your offering but also see the effect it has on the children. Cerys advises her clients to avoid talking about what they do and instead, “…talk about the benefits of what you do.”
Treat your free offering like an interview
Cerys believes that its vital for future clients to, “…see how the children engage with us, to see how we deliver outcomes for the children.” It’s a really powerful selling tool when the teachers and leadership team witness the impact your session has had on the children. It’s this that is going to convince them they want you to come back.
Consider your taster session as the beginning of your relationship with the school
The buzz of children being excited about what they’ve just experienced is the best way to demonstrate that you have something excellent to offer. Also bear in mind that this first “taster session” is probably going to be the beginning of your working relationship with that school. Once a positive and successful relationship has been established, you are no longer a cold caller, you’re someone who has a history with the people rather than the institution. You never know what bad experiences schools or nurseries have had in the past with other providers, so it’s vital that when you get your opportunity, they see how well you control the class, how much the children get out of it, how much the children enjoy it and how it could potentially fit into the school in a long term capacity.
Utilise FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
Cerys calls this, “The Bandwagon Effect”. Make sure you have testimonials from parents and other schools in the main body of your email so it’s easily visible. No head teacher wants to think their school offers less than other local schools. It’s natural for them to want to keep up with their peers, especially if it seems as though the children at their school are missing out on something that everyone else is raving about.
Cerys noticed that potential clients were cautious about clicking links but that they “… can also trigger the spam filter if you have too many of them.” This means that you can’t rely on anyone reading your email to click through to your website, Instead, your email must contain all the good stuff you want them to know about you but presented in a very concise and engaging way.
Offer a solution to their problems
All teachers with a leadership role and responsibilities within the school are busy, but if you can demonstrate all the ways you can solve potential problems they may be facing, such as CPD or say a workshop that fits in with a religious holiday or event such as Black History Week then you are immediately giving them a reason to keep reading.
What problems can I solve for them?
A great place to start is by looking at recent Ofsted reports
These can give valuable insight into areas where the school will actively be trying to improve. With this knowledge in hand, you can tailor your service to meet their needs.
Demonstrate how your offering can help to build confidence
Lots of children suffer from a lack of confidence and as budgets are slashed it tends to be the “fun” classes that get sacrificed. It’s also the “fun” classes that help to build confidence. When children have confidence, they are more likely to take chances in learning, they’re more likely to survive failure and they’re more likely to develop the softer skills that are essential in adult life. With budget’s being tight, it can seem impossible to persuade a Headteacher that your class can make a difference, but testimonials from other schools or parents about the positive way your class has affected the children and benefitted the school community speak volumes. Think of it like an interview, you don’t get paid for the time you spend with that potential employer but you will get paid when you get the job.
Get imaginative in the ways you solve budget problems.
Suggesting different departments contribute to timetabled events that cross over various subjects.
If you’re targeting UK Primary schools then ask if they want to look into the PE and sport premium which is £16,000 pa plus £10 per eligible pupil. This can be used to add variety to the extracurricular timetable and is especially valuable in reaching less active pupils.
In some instances, children who are eligible for pupil premium will ensure that those children who are eligible for free school meals can potentially be given access to clubs or activities that they wouldn’t normally have access to.
Finding time for clubs
You may find that most schools already have all their after-school activity slots booked up, so come up with alternatives like lunchtime or before school. Before school especially may appeal as more and more children need to make use of breakfast clubs and exercise or activity at the beginning is a great way of helping kids feel ready and alert for the rest of the day.
Convey the benefits of your activity for their least active pupils
There are always children who can’t bear joining in with traditional PE activities but if you offer alternatives like dance, KungFu or Yoga, then you’re also offering those children a way to access activities that they may feel more comfortable joining in with.
Offer your services as a curricular provider, not just an extracurricular provider
Junior schools tend not to employ specific teachers for PE or enrichment. The class teachers tend to take on that role, so it’s worth making it clear that you’re able to take on some of these lessons. In turn, this will give the already stretched teachers extra time to catch up on their work. Again, if your offering can be linked to several departments then the budget for this can be shared.
Be an option for their enrichment programme – offer workshops
Although enrichment programmes aren’t statutory, they are encouraged by the department of education and Ofsted. In fact, Ofsted’s inspection framework emphasises the importance of personal development and extending the curriculum beyond academic achievement. So, if you can come to the table with a pre-existing offering for enrichment, then it’s another potential problem solved.
Provide an offering for teachers too
Perhaps you could offer something for teachers during inset days. Or, you could contribute to CPD (Continued Professional Development) by creating something cross-curricular that could upskill teachers. Initially to get interest in this you could offer to give a taster at a staff meeting, so you also get buy-in from the staff themselves.
Make the most of seasonal events or awareness days
Make sure you have something to offer on these special days so that you have something pertinent to present that will be of interest to schools and nurseries. Also if you’re communicating about something that is rapidly approaching, they will be more compelled to get back to you.
In order to get into schools and nurseries, you’ve got to S.T.O.P
I know it seems like the complete opposite of what you should do when trying to build relationships with new clients but S.T.O.P. is an acronym for the system that Cerys Keneally created to help you do exactly that.
S – Solving a problem
Cerys says that “S stands for solving a problem for the school or nursery with your solution.” Identify a need that the setting has and find a way of solving it using your service or activity. Remember, Ofsted reports are your friend.
T – Testimonial
Make sure your emails contain positive reviews or comments from existing or previous clients so that they can see how other similar settings have benefitted from what you do. Cerys believes that your emails should showcase, “…relevant reviews or testimonials of your work …in the main body of your email or in your letter. Don’t leave them to go and click on a website to find them.”
O – Offer
As we’ve already discussed, give your future clients something of high value for no cost, be it a 20-minute slot during an assembly or a day-long workshop that covers every year in the school. You need to make an impression so that when you call to follow up, they’re pleased to hear from you. Cerys says that your offer, “…can really flip a school’s mindset, particularly if they’ve got preconceived ideas about what you do.”
P – Persistence / Patience / Perseverance
Once you’ve sent out your initial email, follow up. As Cerys says, “Following up can boost your chances of getting a response by 80%.” Don’t worry about being pushy, decision makers expect people to follow up, so your call won’t be unexpected.
Don’t feel pressured to follow up straight away, wait a week so you’ve left them enough time to get to your email and if they haven’t read it on your second call, try again in a week. By week three if they haven’t read the email then when you call there will be a feeling that they must get around to reading it.
The key is to be persistent, keep calling back, be patient, don’t expect it all to happen on the first email or first call and keep going, be prepared to put in the hard work and you’ll find your perseverance will begin to pay off.
So what should I do now?
- Make a list of 10 schools in your local community and gather their contact details
- Come up with an idea for what you are able to offer for free – making sure it’s of high value and represents your offering well
- Identify the 5 schools you are most keen to work with and email them with an offer of your free taster
- Follow up a week later and follow up another 2 times at least each week after
- Email the other 5 schools on your list 2 weeks later so that you are staggering your workload. Hopefully, by this time you will be in the process of building relationships with the schools on your first list and this second round will work into your future pipeline
During all parts of your communication with your potential clients, it’s really important that you know that your offering has value. At all times be convinced by its strengths and benefits and allow your enthusiasm for it to spill out into all conversations you have about it. Your vision, combined with the quality of what you’re offering, should be enough to convince any future clients that it’s something to get excited about. And remember, the sales you get from your hard work mean that you can continue to do what you love.
*This article has been created using the information from our previous webinar with Cerys Keneally. You can watch the webinar here.
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