For an advert to be very successful…

For an advert to be very successful you need the recipients to read, and remember you, even if they don’t buy there and then.

It is a fact that is easily forgotten, but for advertisers it is fundamental.   Many teachers don’t buy a product immediately that they see the advertisement.  But they might buy later – of course we simply don’t know.

And this raises an interesting, but often ignored question.  How can we get those teachers who didn’t buy first time around to think of us later?

One idea is regular re-advertising, often using the same, or a slightly varied advertisement and this indeed can work with some.  But still the basic issue returns.  How can we make sure that our advert will be remembered so that if the teacher finds a need for a product like ours, he or she will remember our advert later.

Is the answer to advertise over and over again, or is there a trick within the advertising that one can use, to get the teacher to remember our product, rather than that of a rival.

Indeed could it be possible to find an approach in which the teacher doesn’t only remember your product or service when you send out a new advertisement, but also thinks of what you sell when your rival sends out an advertisement?

To achieve that is quite amazing.  It means your competitor is paying to promote your product or service!!!

This trick of getting the teacher to think of your product when a rival sends out an advert (or indeed when the need for what you sell arises at a moment when you have not just send out an advert) arises from the fact that most advertisements sent to teachers do not reflect the way that memories work.

If you can create advertising that is in accord with the way our memories work, then your advertisement will be remembered, even when the teacher is looking at an advert from another company!

So the question becomes, how can we design advertisements that are purpose built both to  get sales now, and to be remembered and indeed recalled when a rival’s advertisement arrives?

First, and most obviously, creating an advertisement that is different from those of other companies, can bring in additional sales there and then, of course.  Being unique helps.

But second, where that difference is created in a way that makes it easy for the recipient to remember the advert when prompted by a trigger event this can have an even greater effect.

To be clear I am not saying that adverts “designed to stay in the memory” remain at the forefront of the individual’s thoughts day after day.  But rather that when the topic of the advertisement is mentioned (for example by receiving an advert from another company), it is the advert that is designed to stay in the memory, that is recalled.

As a result, the recipient will set aside the newly received advert and look for the details of the company that made an impact in the past with its promotion.  In short, your competitor advertises a product, and then the teacher is reminded of you and your business and goes to look at your website.

For this incredible effect to happen the association between the product or service, your name, and your web site must be built up over time.  And for this to happen you have to keep on advertising in a particular way, so that it is your company that is associated with the product and its benefits, and thus your company that is remembered.

Of course during the time of build up you will still be getting orders in the normal way, so that is not just advertising for the future – your advertising still works on a day to day basis as well as setting the scene for the future.

So, how is it done?

The first rule is that your emails and your website should be different from your competitors, but at the same time should still be attractive, interesting and user-friendly.

Fortunately, being different is not as difficult as it might seem, as most advertising in the school market is either of the straightforward “this is what we sell” approach, or uses the “a picture’s worth 10,000 words” approach.

Curiously, although these approaches dominate, neither is at all successful either when it comes to reaching out to teachers and school managers or when it comes to being remembered.  Hence companies that use this approach, play into their rivals’ hands.

In what follows I won’t try and deal with both web pages and emails at once, but instead just confine myself to emails.  I’ll write a separate piece on web pages.

For your email you will need

1: A subject line which grabs attention.

The best subject lines are unusual and short (normally no more than four or five words) and are designed to make the reader look at the email.

Subject lines which say something about the product such as “Solving broken windows” or “Marking homework faster” can work but are instantly forgotten.   However “No solutions, avoid the problem” which says nothing about the product or service, but grabs attention, works just as well (if not better) but starts the process of identifying your company with your product.

2: The headline

Most firms don’t put headlines in emails when writing to teachers, arguing that it looks too commercial or salesy.  But headlines do work – although only two types of headlines work particularly well when it comes to associating your company with your product.

Headlines that announce the product, those that announce the price or a discount, those that specify a feature (the colour, next day delivery, range of sizes…) are by far the most common, but are also the least effective both for immediate sales and long term remembrance. 

But open questions and quirky headlines do work – especially if used consistently.  To be clear the “open” question cannot be answered yes or no, but leads to a discussion.  Such as one that begins, “What is the most effective way of…”

To take this out of the context of advertising to schools for a moment, imagine the headline that says, “What is the most polluting popular car on Britain’s roads?” that will get a lot of reads from people who look, simply because they want to make sure it is not their car, but the car of their show-off neighbour.   That doesn’t bring a sale in from each reader, but it stays in the memory.  That is the power of the open question.  It stays in the memory.

3.  Make your style of writing different from that of your competitors.

If you are not an experienced writer this can take a little more time to get right – which is why offers a free service to help you find the right headlines and write your promotions to make them slightly different from other firms adverts.  If you want some help with this please do give a call on 01604 880927.

4.  Read other people’s advertisements, avoid common sense, be friendly

Common sense says that you should tell your reader what you are selling.  And yes you do, at some stage.   But if you announce what you are selling at the very start, then the only teachers who will read on will be those who are already thinking about that product at the moment when they see your email.

The majority who might be interested, but who are not actively thinking about the area of purchase, won’t bother to read on.

In fact there are two clear rules for writing emails to teachers, beyond having an attractive headline that draws the teacher in.

First, in the email, focus on the benefits of your product or service, not the features.   And second, link to a web page that specifically deals with that product or service – not a webpage that covers all the things that you sell, or which talks about your company.

If you would like some clarification on this point we have a briefing paper on this very subject “Features good benefits better”

Second, write as if writing to an acquaintance.  Don’t be ultra-casual, but not too formal.  You are the helpful person who has the knowledge, but you are not pushing it down the throat of the reader.

5.  When you are finished look afresh at the email, on the screen.

Teachers and school managers almost certainly won’t read all you have written, at least not at once, but will skim through the piece.  Try doing that with your own copy, and see what you pick up.   

And be careful if you are tempted to ask a friend who works in a school if she or he would read your text.  The individual will probably say, “no one will read all this,” – and that is the point.

We need to make the recipient feel that this could be interesting, but also allow the reader to skim.  We do this by making the opening four or five words of each new paragraph sound promising, so that one or two of these paragraphs will draw the reader in.

So you need to open the paragraphs with “One way to do this is”, and “Quite often teachers have found that”, and “You can always try” and so on.

Thus your aim is not to get the email read, but to get enough of it read to make the recipient click on the link to a website page which will continue the message by moving from the benefits listed in your email, to the features.

6.  And because the readers have made this journey….

… when the reader next sees an advertisement from one of your rivals which focuses on features and not benefits, and is thus not nearly so engaging, that reader will think, “I was reading about this sort of thing the other day….”

And then because they will find your website again, or the original email, or because you are sending them a new email every week or two with interesting information on it, written in the same style, your rival’s email will send that potential customer back to you.


That is how you get teachers to associate a product or service with your company.  By writing informative, personable emails which feature a certain style of headline and subject line, and which within the text focus on the benefits.  And don’t forget, vary the text each time, and by leaving the pictures for the web site.

Then by sending out the ever-changing emails once a week, you blow the competition away.   Of course it doesn’t happen every time but it happens enough to make a very noticeable difference.  For when the teacher gets the same old features led advert from a rival, the teacher thinks not of them, but of you.

More on writing, lists and our services…

To take any aspect of this further please call 01604 880 927 or email

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