In this blog, I’m going to talk about something that many EdTech and Education Service companies can relate to – the dreaded plateau in growth. It’s a common tale I’ve heard from folks in all phases of education, whether it’s Nursery, Primary, Secondary, Further Education, Higher Education, or even Adult Learning.
Trust me, I’ve had some eye-opening conversations with technology and service suppliers in all these areas, and they all have stories of growth hitting a wall.
These companies have experienced some fantastic periods of growth, maybe even reaching new heights. But now, things have slowed down, and in some cases, come to a complete halt. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Well, fear not!
In this blog, I’m going to share the insights I’ve gathered from these conversations and tell you the tale of how my own EdTech business faced this very issue – and more importantly, how we overcame it.
I’ll delve into the problem, explore the solution, and bring you up to speed on where things stand today. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Summary of My Conversations
If you’re finding that your business’s growth has hit a snag or come to a screeching halt, there could be a few reasons for it. Let’s break it down:
- First off, the market might be getting more competitive in your sector. It happens, and it can put a damper on things.
- Secondly, budgets in schools, colleges, universities, and even adult learning programs might be getting slashed. It’s a tough reality, but it definitely affects the growth potential.
- And let’s not forget about the rising cost of living. Energy prices going up and many other issues can make it harder for education establishments and businesses to thrive.
Now, here’s the interesting part. I’ve been chatting with some folks lately, and these factors seem to be playing a pretty big role in slowing down their own growth. But you know what they keep telling me? “We just can’t seem to reach the right people anymore.” It seems that educational institutions have evolved into these business-savvy organisations that are super aware of sales pitches. They’ve moved with the times, and so should you!
When you start seeing your organic growth plateau, it’s time to take action. Plan, review, plan again and then implement changes to shake things up.
The root cause of this problem? It’s all about how you connect and maintain relationships with your customers and prospects. That’s the key to reaching the right people and getting your message across.
Now, full disclosure… my own EdTech business went through this. We went from good growth to plateauing, to shrinking, and then finally bouncing back with excellent growth. And I want to share our story with you.
It wasn’t easy. We made mistakes, faced some very tough decisions, and had to learn some hard lessons along the way.
But I want to save you from going through the same trial and error. I’ll spill all the details on how we fixed things so you can skip right to the solution that worked for us. Trust me, you’ll thank me later! 🙂
How To Fix Your Slowing Growth
Let me take you back to the mid-2000s when education vendors like us had a ‘trick’ up our sleeves. We used to send out mass email campaigns to schools and get some pretty decent results. We’d get 17 to 20 demo requests every time we ran a campaign. It was a win for us, and we were pretty happy about it. Things were looking good… for a while.
But then something happened in 2010. Primary schools got savvy. They realised they had options and they had easy access to research those options through a simple Google search. Suddenly, they didn’t just trust the words in our emails or instantly like our well-crafted marketing messages. Nope, they could easily find competitors, ask for demos, speak with other users and make their own decisions. The market was more accessible, and they were in the driver’s seat.
As if that wasn’t enough, the rise of cloud applications meant they could switch to a different vendor with ease. A double whammy! Ouch!
So, what did we do? We got social! These days that includes the use of social media platforms. But back then, we didn’t do that initially, we did later – circa 2017 – with even better success. But initially we ‘got social’ face-to-face.
We Got Social, Face to Face – Old Style
We tried everything under the sun to bring back our once-healthy growth. Those were the days, and we were desperate to get them back. So, we threw every possible strategy at the wall. We spruced up our emails, created fancy email flows, dabbled in Google ads, advertised in publications, spent a small fortune on events, and yep, we even resorted to cold calling. Ugh! I can’t believe I’m admitting to that one!
Out of all those attempts, which one actually worked? Building relationships! Why didn’t we think of it sooner?
Building relationships may sound like an overused cliché now, but back then, it wasn’t as buzzworthy. Even the term “Customer Success” wasn’t a thing yet. But looking back, it seems so obvious: Go out there and get to know the people who use your software!
So that’s exactly what we did. We booked meetings, hopped into our cars, and sat in headteachers’ offices. We met with teachers, observed how they used our software, and did everything in our power to truly understand what was happening in the schools we served.
And let me tell you, it paid off big time. We did it over and over and over again! We even braced ourselves to take a hit and budgeted for losses on some customers. We were based up in Yorkshire, but we had groups of customers in Coventry, London, and the South Coast who had the potential to be our biggest advocates. We knew the mileage on the road and the car costs would add up, but we went for it anyway.
Why? Because we figured out that if we invested the time and effort into building strong relationships, going above and beyond to ensure our customers were getting the most value from our products and services, and doing that consistently… guess what? They stuck around longer, AND they started recommending us to other schools.
Those initial losses on some customers in the first year paid off big time when we saw the growth they helped us achieve. It was a massive game-changer for us.
But, as amazing as it was, it wasn’t scalable. We could only reach a small fraction of our customer base. We knew we needed to scale it up. We needed to connect with ALL of our customers. So…
We Got Social, Online – ‘New’ Style
Social media platforms – as you know – have been around since the mid-2000s. At that time we had our company page on Twitter (as it was known back in the good ol’ days), Facebook and later, LinkedIn.
But here’s the thing, we were just posting like everyone else. Our marketing posts were all about touting the features and benefits of our product. Basically, it was the same old stuff we used to throw in those mass email campaigns back in the day, from 2005 to 2010. We kept doing it even when we were “getting social old style” (as mentioned earlier).
But then, around 2017, we had a light bulb moment. We decided to take things to the next level, scale up that “old style” approach, and make the most of social media. And it worked wonders!
We realised that these platforms were not just a place to send out marketing messages. No, they were perfect for sharing valuable info, free resources, and amazing tips and tricks. And the best part? Our individual salespeople and customer success people were building real, solid relationships with the people who used our software. And they were doing it all without having to jump in the car and spend hours driving to meet them face-to-face.
This was our big “Ah-ha!” moment. We went on a journey from those mass email days (which, let’s be honest, was a bit spammy in hindsight) to building relationships in person, and then taking it even further through the power of social media.
When those two things (face-to-face and social media) started working together, our growth skyrocketed. We were back in the happy zone, and our customers were loving it too.
How Education Vendors Use Social Platforms
A quick note: This doesn’t apply to all Education vendors. Some are doing an amazing job with their staff and business social media presence. But the majority of vendors aren’t quite hitting the mark. And it’s not just slowing the growth of their business, but it’s also impacting the schools, colleges, universities, and adult learning providers they serve. Ouch!
So, here’s where I come in. My mission is crystal clear: I want to change the buying experience for all those educational establishments. When we get that right, everyone wins – the vendor and the customer!
Here’s what I’ve noticed. A lot of businesses that supply tech and services to these educational institutions are still stuck in the old ways. OK, so they might have a social media presence now, but it’s often just a company page that churns out company posts. It’s like a fancy version of mass email campaigns, with well-crafted images or videos and catchy messages. Some of them are impressive, I must admit. But they end up with the same lacklustre results as those mass-email campaigns – not enough opportunities coming from it.
Now, if you really want to bring back the happy days of exciting growth, it’s time to get social.
Of course, keep posting from your company page on social media, but also make sure you empower your staff to create content, engage in conversations, and build relationships through those social media platforms. It’s modern-day Social Selling, and let me tell you, it has the power to skyrocket your growth.
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