It wasn't too long ago that I attended Edtech Week NYC for the first time. At the conference last year, the panels, pitches, and exhibiting startups thrilled me. I left thinking about how the edtech industry needs to know their worth.
This year, I saw the allure of celebrity, the power of problems, and irresistible narratives take center stage.
I left with a treasure trove of marketing insights to inspire you to continue to champion matching kids with life-changing solutions.
See how this mix of ambitious and practical insights that stole the show at the conference can challenge how you think about your own marketing strategies.
Consider endorsements that bring new eyes to your edtech
I didn't have NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal kicking off Edtech Week 2023 on my bingo card.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the room who perked up when he started talking through his latest partnership, during his virtual appearance.
His investment in AI reading assistant Edsoma is sure to catch the attention of educators and innovators looking to help young learners practice their pronunciation and enunciation skills.
I also wonder what Shaq's investment means to people outside of our industry.
A new edtech app might not have mainstream appeal. But a name like Shaquille O'Neal paired with a learning product might raise the eyebrows of people outside of our industry, who saw the partnership featured in recent articles in Essence and TechCrunch.
If you're questioning how realistic it is to secure a celeb like Shaq to lead a $2.5 million funding round by now, consider dreaming big but starting small by building relationships with up-and-coming thought leaders.
Still, if you're curious, here's how Kyle Wallgren, founder of Edsoma, was able to connect with the basketball legend.
He didn't ask for money. Wallgren only pitched wanting to use Shaq's likeness for product exposure. Lucky for him, this led to a monetary investment later on down the road.
Testing the product was paramount. Shaq put himself in a user's shoes, connecting his childhood experience as a striving reader to the tools Edsoma offers kids today.
As a kid, I knew celebrities for the talents that made them famous and their partnership with consumer goods.
To those who actively participate in social entrepreneurship, what better investment to make than in the futures of young kids?
Market the problem you solved, not the product you made
Some of the tech we're building can't be used, even if our buyers want it.
Dr. Steve Perry made this point at one of Edtech Week's panels. A product's success is much more than creating something that works.
Politics and regulations can greatly influence whether or not school buyers, for example, can even consider a partnership with an education company.
Trying to market with a more customer-centric approach, includes:
Empathizing with your buyers' pain points
Stressing the partnership and community you can offer, beyond the sale
Marketing a solution and not a product to meet their needs
To add more credibility to the problem you're positioning your solution for, consider what it would look like to work alongside a school or district on a regular basis.
For an example of a company that built their product from the ground up alongside their target population, check out STEMuli.
Position your solution as a must-have
Pandemic levels of edtech investment are gone. The industry YoY funding decline by 45% between 2021 and 2022 is one of several dismal stats pointed out at the conference.
The industry is oversaturated and products need more than a flashy song and dance to score with customers.
I wish I could ask my teachers how they selected the tools our classes used. Through the years I witnessed a consistent willingness to try out cool new gadgets. I can imagine how special each product's value prop needed to be.
Here are some reminders of ways to emphasize your value to customers:
Lead with a compelling usage story
Link your benefits to tech that customers are already using
Lean on your track record, efficacy, etc.
Invest in efficacy for your solution
Because in the words of a VC panelist,
We don't have the luxury to not measure impact anymore.
That's it. That's the insight.
All the insights in this post came from attending the Edtech Week conference. Learn more about how to attend next year, here.
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