I used to work for a company that sold credit recovery courses.
In other words, students fail Math. Schools say, you can take summer school or you can buy this online course. And the school lets them pass if they get a good grade in the course.
But I soon realized, the sales team drove the whole company. The folks like me, working the customer support phones and grading assignments, knew very little about what schools and parents were promised. The schools knew very little about what the students’ courses actually looked like, yet still awarded credit. And the parents and kids only knew that they could pay this money, do this work, and apparently move up to the 8th grade.
The whole thing was run by a guy who was successful in other industries and did nothing with day to day operations. Never saw him once.
They paid very well, allowed for remote work, but it just didn’t feel good. I quit and worked hard to replace that extra income doing copywriting and marketing work for education companies I believe in.
Fortunately, this is not something I see often. When people succeed in one industry and then move to education, they often bring a fresh perspective, great technical know-how, and a genuine desire to make things better.
However, even when people enter the education market with the best of intentions, there’s a problem.
A problem you might have experienced yourself.
What happens, on a phone call, or at a conference, when a teacher or school administrator asks you about an aspect of education you’re just not familiar with?
How do you answer their questions?
How do you keep credibility?
What if your prepared one-pager, website, or the notes you have for your phone call don’t cover all the objections this person has (especially with the infinite use cases, demographic differences, and special needs in the education world)?
And what if someone asks “when are you going to start charging me?” or “who are you working for?” or “are you going to start bombing my email inbox?” <- All things I’ve heard teachers or admins say.
It’s as if some educators think you are Jeff Bezos, out to become a titan of industry at any cost. Not realizing the frustration, slow pace of innovation and sales, and general goodwill it takes to build a business in the education market.
Conversations like those, while uncomfortable, are actually extremely valuable. They teach you about how skeptical some folks in education are of being sold to, and they reveal the common objections and specific needs of your market.
That’s why, when I work with companies, one of the most useful questions I answer for founders and consultants is “does this sound right?” or “is this actually something a teacher or principal wants to hear?” And more often than not, I have a clear answer. If it’s a “no,” then I can tell you exactly what to change to make sure you put your best foot forward in your marketing messages.
If you’re doing this on your own, then there are a few ways you can address the skepticism of educators, either right up front, or as part of an ongoing process in your marketing.
Here are a few suggestions on how to do it, based on examples from my own experience and companies I’ve worked with:
- Build educator/parent relationships early: When you have the slightest twinge of an idea for your product or service, find some teachers, parents, or school leaders to share it with. Reach out to these people at local events like Edcamps, Meetups, or through your own personal and professional network. For these early connections, in-person meetings are far more valuable than online-only connections, in my experience.
- Get testimonials and use cases as early as possible: Educators want to know right away: will this work for my school? My teachers? My student population? Parents want to know right away: will this help my kid with their very specific needs? The sooner you begin to collect testimonials, use cases for specific demographics, and case studies, the sooner folks will drop their guard and listen to your message.
- Find an educator to accompany you to events. Ideally, you can hire this person for an appropriate early role, even if it is something small and contract-based like producing social media content. Then you can receive feedback on all the in-person conversations you have, and this educator can help you address questions and objections as they come up during live conversations.
Education entrepreneurs and consultants: how else do you establish credibility with educators?