Sharing your Story: Marketing to the Fragmented K12 World
In consulting with several education related startups, I often get asked the best way to approach marketing to the fragmented K12 space. While there is no easy way to get the attention of massive numbers of teachers & parents at the same time, here are the key strategies I’ve found that successful (read fast-growing) edtech startups leverage to tell their story. Expert marketer and blogger Neil Patel outlines tips for low-budget storytelling through his post on 21 Big Marketing Ideas for Small Marketing Budgets. Pulling from these strategies, I’ve highlighted the Top 5 ways to start with a lens from the edtech perspective.
- Comment on blogs
Edutopia and Mindshift are great places to start as they already have vibrant communities that contribute posts and comments. Join the conversation by following a few key authors and establish your own voice through consistent commenting.
- Start blogging yourself
Use your own blog as a platform to share information about your product and progress, as well as general trends in a specific aspect of edtech. Choose 1-2 key areas (ex. STEM, Blended Learning, Mobile Learning, PD, etc…) and provide useful updates/tips on what’s going on in that space. There are many great blogging platforms (Tumblr, Posterous) but teachers love WordPress and if your blog takes off a bit, this is another way to build community with educators through WP following and commenting. Invite your early-adopters to guest blog. This deepens their engagement, provides an authentic voice (educators love hearing from other educators rather than product folks) and offers fresh content.
- Leverage social networks: Engagement > Size/Reach
If your startup has been around for more than 5 minutes, then it’s likely that you already have a FB page and a Twitter handle. Social Media Marketing, specifically to teachers, can be it’s own massive post but for now the top tip is engagement matters more than the size of your community. On FB, this means looking at the number of people ‘talking about your page’ rather than just the total likes. On Twitter, follow the Top Edu Tweeters and join the weekly chats to share updates and get a sense of what educators are talking about. Lastly, Edmodo, striving to be FB for schools, also has a feature where you can create a community around specific content areas or tools/services and engage with the teacher and students who are on their site. With over 6 million users (as of March 2012 and is gearing up international expansion) this is the largest centralized community of educators anywhere on the web and it’s growing fast!
- Craft some Case Studies
Another benefit that comes from early adopters are enthusiastic testimonials. Take time to develop these into case studies, even a couple 1-pgrs can be useful to spread the word about your effectiveness and build your brand. Remember, educators love hearing from other educators and case studies can help you capture the enthusiasm and results from your initial users. Want examples? Check out how LearnBoost has captured early user stories.
- Speak at Events & Schools
The edtech scene is heating up and with that comes an increase of events and speaking engagements. Meredith Ely runs the monthly EdTech Meetup (Thurs evenings in SF) and often seeks to shine the spotlight on members, giving startups a chance to share their story. This is great practice for more formal speaking events and even pitching to investors. EdSurge, the weekly edtech newsletter, always highlights upcoming events (it’s long so scroll all the way down) and reach out to the organizers to see if you can join a panel or even give a quick pitch. Reach out to local schools and see if you can stop by a staff or department meeting to talk about your work. This requires some cold outreach and can be particularly challenging, but if successful, will lead to some very valuable relationship building and customer development opportunities.
Overall, just remember that utility drives adoption and community drives retention, and the challenge is figuring out the best way to tell your story. If you’re delighting your users, especially teachers and parents, they will be drawn into the community and will happily evangelize your product on your behalf.