Sales Strategy · Mobile Apps

Best avenue for selling app to schools and school districts?

Michael Meinberg Teacher (iOS Development) at The Mobile Makers Academy (A Hack Reactor School)

May 17th, 2016

We are excited that our app for schools is now gone through a final beta and is ready for the real market.   We are ready to reach out to schools and school districts.   

Given that we are bootstrapping this company, we currently have limited resources.   So I wonder what the group thinks the best sales and marketing approach would be: 
  1. Cold calls?
  2. Higher a commission only sales person or two to make cold calls?  (I know with commission only it can be hard to attract a good sales person, however we can pay high commission and our product will be reoccurring revenue). 
  3. Email campaign?
  4. Direct Mail campaign?
  5. Google Ad's?  
  6. Something I haven't thought of?
Thanks in advance, 

Michael Meinberg

James Till Vice President, K-12 Marketing

May 17th, 2016

I might suggest a pragmatic approach to developing your go to market plan. Have you already identified who your school district buyer and influencer personas are? Did some of these types participate in your beta program? Are their experiences approved for sharing via your marketing efforts (presuming they were positive and can suit your needs)?

Proof of performance, ideally with outcomes associated with critical district objectives (pain points) is critical for winning the attention and dialog you need with district/school leadership. K-12 leaders are typically risk-averse and often rely upon peer networks to validate potential decisions. You may be best served to launch locally, or in a defined region where you can build a reputation of success among that community and, then expand - leveraging state-level organizations related to your app/solution category to spread awareness.

If your app offers a 'freemium' or intro. level model and can benefit teachers/students, you may also want to consider employing a targeted 'bottom-up' - strategy to compliment your efforts at the district level? This approach has proven effective for several current K-12 category leaders particularly among academic-oriented apps that can benefit from rapid teacher adoption. Obviously, this approach depends significantly upon your business model and how you expect to monetize your customer relationships over time.

Adam Pressman I've helped make a number of people millionaires. I'd like to do it a few more times.

May 17th, 2016

SLED marketing (State & Local Government and Education) is challenging to say the least, you typically have bloated bureaucracy and anemic budgets.  Relationships are key therefore I'd find a business that markets to the your target with a different (perhaps adjacent) service to what your app provides.  Think about what your potential customers would buy before, during and after they buy what you're selling and that will help you identify the right kind of strategic partner with which you can trade leads, cross-refer or otherwise joint venture in marketing. 

Marc Schulman Educational Entrepreneur Reporter

May 17th, 2016

When you figure it out please let me know- I have been trying to sell to schools history software for 20 plus years. The problem is that in every school and every district the customer is different.  The purchase cycles very long so you never know what worked and did not.  We have tried it all over the years and while we are still in business all these years later, we have had our good years and bad years, and often we never know why

Rob G

May 17th, 2016

Michael, what did you discover when you did your product/market fit verification prior to building your app?  who did you confirm as your customers, users, buying influencers, competitors, sales channels, etc?  Presuming you defined an ideal prospect and called on several, who is you ideal prospect?   If the results of your product/market fit efforts up front yielded results positive enough to justify moving ahead with development then say follow your original plan. 

Tom Jay

May 17th, 2016

This is an app for schools? As in Employees, Teachers, etc.?

There are so many free ones.

Best way to connect with schools might be face to face, then go to trade shows.

Once you have a few thousand active users they can tell others.

I would also focus on the Teacher Unions.

Apple had a complete company that focused on school apps, not games or learning but running and managing schools (Grades, parent / teacher interactions, etc) It was called Power School at one time (I think they are in Folsom, Ca). Maybe contact them and have them market it for you if its not in competition with one of their products.

Jonathon Lunardi

May 21st, 2016

I worked at Blackboard for many years and they have an app that provides alerts to teachers for learning purposes and for emergency notifications. We always found the best way to connect with buyers was initially at the big K12 industry conferences. We published valuable articles, for free, that talked about best practices for sending alerts through K12 channels and then marketed those best practice articles to prospects. We always were very targeted with our marketing based on geography (school districts that are close to us / our sales people that we can physically go visit) and schools that have a reputation for technology innovation and spending. I suggest you find your local schools and work with people you already know in your network, develop case studies on how they can use your product, then market those widely using social media and then have a presence at all the appropriate industry conferences.  You will definitely find business this way and then grow through referrals of your happy clients and through press.  The press will always pick up stories of yours as you are successful.  Good luck!  Ping me if you want to connect.  I know many K12 leaders in the DC area and OK/TX areas.

Sidney Sclar SID the SECURITY PRO at

May 17th, 2016

Check out for access to Montgomery PublicSchools and the Catholic Business Network for access to the area Private Schools.

Paul Goldstein Founder at

May 18th, 2016

Michael, thanks for the info about your app, but it means I can't offer any advice or help due to a conflict of interest. See where I work.

Patrina Mack Experts in global commercialization

May 17th, 2016

You need to catch the school budget cycle so that you're trying to talk with them when they're in a buying mood.   Each school has different priorities for what they're trying to improve in a given school year.   This is sometimes posted on the school website.   Depending on your product and what it does for the school you may wish to talk to members of the Foundation (fund-raising arm) or the PTA.   They may have the funds for your product but they tend to be slightly more business oriented folks motivated by improving the educational experience for their child(ren).

Chris Ross Co-Founder of SafeSubs

May 24th, 2016

Unfortunately you have a lot of competition in this space and from many companies that already have a large educational customer footprint. My child's district already has such a system and many just use email to alert parents. 

It also sounds like your target is Superintendents or decision makers, not so much teachers and principals. I would focus in leadership education conferences to start. You need some wins and districts to use as examples, I find that is key in the education space. They trust each other and no one wants to be a pilot school for such an app.