In part one of this three-part series on the homeschool market, you learned about the typical characteristics of homeschoolers. Now, it’s time to explore activities in the homeschooling community, specifically support groups, and find out how to tap into these groups as an integral part of your plan.
As described in part one, homeschoolers are a diverse population, and the same can be said for the composition of the groups that support them. They range from social groups, with an aim toward socialization, to academic groups, with an eye toward enriching a child’s curriculum, to activity groups, designed to provide planned activities and field trips, to online-only groups, with the goal of sharing information, but it's more likely that any group will be a combination of any of these.
Homeschool groups may be inclusive, with few or no conditions, or very structured, with specific membership requirements, such as a certain religion, curriculum, location focus, and perhaps a certain age range of its homeschooled children. Larger groups may be comprised of hundreds of families and will have homeschool conventions and conferences, while small groups may start with a handful of families and have curriculum fairs or show-and-tell events.
Within a homeschooling family, a support group has many functions. Knowing about these seven functions of a support group will enable you to tailor your networking plan. Pay attention to a group’s identity so you can find the best fit for your service or product.
Co-op Learning. Sharing resources with other homeschooling families to facilitate learning in a group setting; buying in bulk
Parental Support. Allowing homeschooling parents to share ideas, resources, camaraderie; communicating online and in person
Group Outings. Enabling discounts and group interaction more typical to a school
Socializing for Adults and Youth. Supplying time with others aside from family, typically at a park
Resource Centers. Providing families with a centralized location for classes, testing, forms, information, or even bookstores
Special Events. Creating school-like events such as dances and graduation ceremonies
Clubs. Granting a platform for individual interests within a larger group
Outreach strategies should always be in place when working with any homeschool support group. Some of the following strategies will be familiar to those of you who sell to teachers:
Be approachable. Let the group know that you want to share your knowledge and detailed information about your product.
Join the chat. Ask for an invitation to have open discussions and chat about your products.
Ask to be a guest speaker. Offer to present at planning meetings, conventions, and homeschool-specific events.
Sponsor a newsletter. Local support groups may have newsletters you can sponsor to feature your product. Group discounts are a good incentive to homeschool families.
It’s important to be aware that either through a group’s website or during support group meetings it’s common for parents to ask questions and share experiences with services and products. The best marketing tool in the homeschool community comes from parents’ making recommendations because of a positive experience with a product or service.
Remember to be patient. It takes time to build trust and brand recognition in the homeschool community. With this understanding of the identities and functions of homeschool support groups, as well as approaches to take, you can successfully utilize support group outreach as part of your homeschool marketing plan. In the third and final article in the series, I'll give you the inside scoop on homeschool networks and address how to integrate homeschool conventions and curriculum fairs into your plans.