Districts spend billions of dollars annually on edtech for their schools. As more and more places go 1:1, that number will continue to rise. Because of this, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of companies trying capitalize on schools spending money. I don’t have numbers to back it up, but I would guess that most of these companies fail or don’t deliver on the promise of the product they create.
There are lots of reasons for companies not succeeding including poor leadership or half-baked products. But I believe that even completely realized products that have sold to schools in the edtech world can fail and these are some of the reasons why. This post is mostly anecdotal, but it is derived from pitches I hear from these companies that may have a dedicated sales staff.
- They design for the wrong person. So many of these companies that try to sell something are now building “teacher tools” that are really for admin. What do I mean by this? Your teacher dashboard doesn’t help teachers. Instead, it gives insights to admin on how teachers are using the teacher dashboard. Since the person with actual buying power is the administrator, this is a good strategy to sell. It is NOT a good strategy to maintain a relationship with a district. The admin will buy, then require teachers to use, but then teachers won’t like it because there is very little benefit to the teacher. Teachers will complain or not use it, then the purchase won’t be made again and referrals won’t be given.
- Keep it simple! Teachers barely have enough hours in the day to do their jobs, how can I take away that time to train them on every single edtech product we use? The answer: make your product easier to use. I shouldn’t have to watch a demo to understand what it does or go to a full day training to learn how to login. Make it simple to use, develop a clean front-end design, and make the benefits of using it obvious and plentiful.
- The pricing model is out of whack. This could be several things contributing to a poor pricing model. It may just be too expensive, but it can also be too confusing or antiquated. If I cannot accurately predict what an invoice will be because the model is too complicated, I’m not going to buy your product.
- Refusal to integrate with other systems. So you want us to only buy products and solutions from you? (Ahem, Apple, I’m looking at you.) I understand that, but it is not realistic. Schools buy products from a lot of different vendors. Please do your best to allow your product to integrate with some of those other tools. I know that you cannot code your app to work with everyone, but at least start with the big ones like Google or Microsoft or Twitter. These are actual selling points for your product….use them that way!
- Your sales people don’t understand education. I know that sales is a hard job. I know that hiring a salesperson who has been close to education in the past is even harder, but please teach them more about the education sector than simply government buying rules. Encourage them to learn a little bit about current trends or the time demands on teachers.
If you have taken care of all of these things, then congratulations, now all you have to do is make a great product. Edtech is a tough business to get into. Make sure when you start, you do the most important thing you can do. Think about how your product can improve teachers’ lives or students’ performance. Those are your end users and although they don’t make the decision on what is purchased, they ultimately dictate what is used.