There is a very common conversation in the EdTech space that schools are hard to ‘get into’. It’s become an unwritten agreement of public discourse, but is it actually true? Well, if you treat your channel to school customers as you would a channel to business customers, then probably yes. But schools are their own unique phenomenon, and you need to treat them as such. So, how do you get your product into schools?
1. Ensure your product is a painkiller.
First and foremost, your product actually needs to add value to the students and/or teachers. There are countless EdTech products on the market that have been developed without any input from the users, meaning they don’t actually solve a problem. The only way to ensure yours does is to involve your users from the outset. Know them intimately. Get into the classroom, spend time talking with teachers, hang out in the back of classes (it is possible to get permission for this if you develop good relationships with schools). Find out what the pain points are for your users and then solve them.
2. Remove the risk.
One of the challenges you may come up against, particularly in education where risk-taking is, well…risky, is the reality of that adage ‘Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM’. In this context, sticking to the same, traditional resources that 90% of other schools are using isn’t going to get you into hot water, but sticking your neck out to try something different just might.
The reality is schools are risk averse. So, what to do about it? Remove the risk for your users. Have your early stage users involved in the product from the beginning. Engage them in testing your assumptions, trialling your product. Ask them what they hate about it, and then go and fix that. Show them from the beginning that your product works and will provide similar or better outcomes than the traditional alternatives everyone else is using.
3. Appeal to the teachers.
The most common channel for EdTech products to get into classrooms is by being recommended by another teacher. So, you want to get teachers on board. How do you do that? Well, you can start with point 2, but there are many other channels. You need to establish relationships with teachers. Get creative. Think avenues like providing professional development for teachers, engage with the education community on social media, work with educational influencers – in Australia the likes of ACARA is a great start.
See more stats about usage patterns for digital technology in schools via The Gates Foundation Teacher Knows Best survey of over 3,000 teachers and 1,500 students.
4. Patience is a virtue.
Don’t expect EdTech to be a quick buck. Schools are part of a large, bureaucratic system so they will likely behave in a bureaucratic manner when they are selecting a product. Acknowledge this is the case and build it into your sales pipeline.