If you’re moving from B2B or B2C into the world of B2E, you’re going to be amazed at the word of mouth effect in this sector. The education community, as fragmented as it is, is powered by the sharing of best practices and efficacy data. When educators come together, which they do often, the subject matter is always, “What works?”
Leveraging the powerful educator word of mouth effect (WOM) is fundamentally therefore being “what works.” But without a university to do the heavy lifting, how do you get started proving that? For now, recognize that your customer’s internal review will have to do. Even though this type of data collection is not going to hold up to the highest scrutiny for “research-based evidence,” it will give you a mechanism through which you can mushroom out to nearby districts. Educators will be most comfortable trusting their neighbors’ opinions and results. Once you start little brushfires in K-12, it only takes a slight breeze to turn them into a blazing inferno of support. When you pull back and look at the entire national map, you’ll realize that by leveraging the contagious effect of connecting to one neighboring district for every customer you have, this is the only marketing strategy you’ll ever need.
1. Define success with each of your early customers
A case study doesn’t just happen. You need to guide it and make it as easy and painless as possible to collect and share the results. As always, planning ahead is a best practice. At launch, or better yet, during the sales process, grab a white board and ask your client, “How will we define success for this implementation?” Make a list of 3-5 Key Performance Indicators or KPI’s. Remember to use measurable goals for specific outcomes. When a subjective goal is on the board, such as parent engagement, plan to use a pre- and post-implementation survey to turn a numberless goal into something tangible. Thinking small in terms of time and numbers of students is actually preferred to a big sample.
2. Drive the success of those KPI’s
Smother your initial customers with support, training and observation, then report back to your contact on progress. Don’t sweat the lack of scalability of this type of nurturing—this is an investment in your future success. You’ll be able to identify the most effective supports you provided and scale only those for future customers.
3. Hold a wrap up meeting where both you and the customer present your findings on the agreed upon KPI’s
Document your findings and graph them. Confirm that you have permission to publish these results without student specifics.
4. Start by presenting your results internally
Take your findings up the ladder to district personnel taking great care to be highly complimentary to the teachers and specialists that made the implementation a success. Your champions will be very enthused to do this internal presentation, which are the best circumstances in which to recruit them to help with a template you can use later for external presentations. You’ll secure growth or renewal funding within this district, but you’ll also widen your WOM champions circle to higher level contacts.
5. Radiate out to your client’s county or nearby “like” districts
Systematically work like a stone dropped in a pond, with larger and larger circles around your implementation. The closer the proximity the more impactful the news of success will be. I remember getting three district sales at once because a district that had been fourth in county test scores leapfrogged to the top and credited my product. Formerly numbers one, two, and three districts all got on board to catch up. Prioritize “like” districts to share a case study with: urban:urban, rural:rural, high performing:high performing.
6. Overlap a variety of techniques to release your findings
- Ask your champion district to host a site visit for admins in the closest geographical circle. Start the event with refreshments and a brief overview, tour students and teachers in action, then bring the group back to a follow up using your results presentation.
- Post the case study on your website, ideally with a video testimonial.
- Write a pitch email including links to testimonials or webinar invites that is very easy for your champion to forward to their contacts. You send it to them and all they need to do is hit “forward.” You’ll dodge SPAM blocks and get the endorsement with little work on your client’s part — pure gold.
- Request meetings to discuss the implementation plan and results. When your plan involves a bigger technology rollout, be sure to offer to discuss those lessons learned as well. This is excellent value for the prospect, and a home run appointment-setting technique.
- Use your social media and PR outlets, but also ask the school to consider publishing the results.
- Look for opportunities to present the findings at an upcoming educational conference. You will be far more successful if the speaker application comes from your client. You should offer to pay for all expenses incurred in attending the conference.
- Host a webinar with one or a panel of clients where they do the majority of the presentation about their implementations. Remember, you’re just the moderator.
Asking for one favor too many may cool your champion’s enthusiasm, so pick your battles carefully and consider offering pilot pricing or a free renewal for all the work that your client is putting in. Do bear in mind that the education trade thrives on sharing WOM advice and what works. Making it easy for happy customers to document and share their successes is simply the catalyst for their natural reaction to spread the good news!