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Education Technology (EdTech) and Inbound Marketing“Educational technology holds the promise of substantially improving outcomes for K-12 students, but there are significant challenges in bringing new educational technology products for this population to market.” (Source: Unleashing the Potential of Educational Technology from the U.S. Executive Office Of the President - Council Of Economic Advisers)

Wikipedia and R.C. Richey define education technology (EdTech) as the “study and ethical practice of facilitating e-learning, which is the learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.” Or more simply put, education technology is all about tools that help students learn.

Most experts on technology in education broadly distinguish between:

  • K-12

  • Higher education

As reported in American Public Media, venture capital has been flowing freely into education technology startups -- to the tune of $452 million.

Even loftier investment numbers are being discussed by Kevin Ducoff in The Huffington Post: “It's a great time to be in the education technology industry: venture capitalists have dropped a whopping $1.37 billion into the industry.”

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) did a research study on U.S. Education Technology Market: PreK-12 and discovered a $7.5 billion market for educational software and digital content.

The Center for Digital Education (e.Republic), in its Educational Technology Marketwatch, consolidated data from the U.S. Census and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to define the market size. Some of the highlights include: 

  • 672 public four-year higher education schools with an estimated 7.8 million students

  • 1,000 public two-year higher education schools with an estimated 12.4 million students

  • 2,102 private four-year higher education schools with an estimated 5.2 million students

  • 14,000+ public school districts with 98,706 public schools and an estimated 49.4 million students

  • 33,740 private K-12 schools with an estimated 6.0 million students

  • 7.9 million K-12 employees

  • 3.1 million higher education employees 

From the Center for Digital Education and a Fall Fiscal State Survey, the same Marketwatch slide deck listed:

  • $9.5 billion in U.S. K-12 IT spending

  • $10.3 billion in U.S. higher education IT spending

adding up to an approximately $19.8 billion industry (U.S. education technology spending).

Pain Points Commonly Addressed by Education Technology

“Educational technology is intended to improve education over what it would be without technology.” (Source: Wikipedia) Some of the benefits commonly advertised include:

  • Learning can become less dependent on time and location

  • Immediate feedback from computer-based training motivates students

  • Writing electronically leads to higher-quality written work, compared to writing on paper

  • Education technology makes learning easier to measure and improve

  • Differentiated instruction allows for more individualized and personalized learning plans 

But education technology has its critics too that focus on problems such as:

  • A digital divide that’s primarily a function of the socio-economic status of a school

  • Teachers schooled in using traditional teaching methods often lack proper training on education technology

  • Emphasis on standardized testing results interferes with fully implementing education technology 

As a subset of education technology, mobile learning (m-learning) has its own technical challenges:

  • Bandwidth requirements for streaming content (similar to what an IT solution provider might address in the context of BYOD and mobile device management)

  • Content security and copyright issues

  • Need for updating traditional e-learning materials to be mobile device compatible

  • Rapid obsolescence

  • Varying mobile OS standards and versions 

The Open Educational Data movement is all about using education technology to improve educational outcomes. 

IT solution providers in the U.S. that specialize in education technology should also review a copy of the National Education Technology Plan (NETP), published by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology.  

Other big issues impacting the education technology market, as explained by the Education Technology Market Watch presentation, include:

High Demand Education Technology Needs for IT Solution Providers

Some of the more popular high demand education technology needs include:

  • Authoring tools for e-learning

  • BYOD

  • Class websites, blogs, and wikis

  • Classroom-safe educational games

  • Classroom management systems

  • Cloud computing

  • Digital cameras

  • Digital content

  • Document cameras

  • Interactive whiteboards/smart boards

  • Learning content management systems (LCMS)

  • Learning management systems (LMS)

  • Mobile devices: clickers, smartphones, and tablets

  • Mobile learning (M-learning)

  • Online study tools

  • Projectors

  • Smart classrooms

  • Storage

  • Student management

  • Unified communications

  • Virtual learning

  • Video on demand

  • Video cameras

  • Wireless network infrastructure

  • Wireless microphones

Why Traditional Marketing Channels for Education Technology Are No Longer Effective

As recently as five years ago, marketing to education technology decision makers was quite different than today. Traditional marketing channels included:

  • Exhibiting and speaking at trade shows and educational conventions

  • Advertising in trade publications and journals

  • Cold calling major educational technology decision makers

  • Sending direct mail to major educational technology decision makers 

But along came mobile devices, search engines, and social media to drastically change how people go about making purchase decisions.

It’s quite simple. People got tired of tolerating traditional, “old school,” interruption-based marketing. Let’s face it. People have wanted to revolt against obnoxious marketing for a long time. The technology just finally caught up to people’s desires.

Think about:

  • How many trade shows or conventions you’ve attended during the past 12 months? And how many online conferences or webinars you’ve attended during this same time period?

  • How many printed newspapers or magazines do you still subscribe to? Or do you get a much better version of this same information, with near real time access, from your smartphone or tablet?

  • When was the last time you answered a phone call without first looking at a caller ID?

  • When was the last time you hoped that a pushy salesperson would call and interrupt your day?

  • When watching a TV show that you’ve recorded on your DVR, how often do you watch commercials?

  • How many friends or family members do you know that have completely opted out of listening to traditional radio advertising by subscribing to a satellite music service, streaming music service, or series of relevant podcasts?

  • When was the last time you made a major purchase from a direct mail advertisement -- without first consulting search engine results or the opinions of your social media contacts?

Purchasing behaviors have changed. Your company’s marketing for education technology needs to catch up.

Did you know that 57% of the typical B2B sales cycle is over before a potential client contacts any vendor? (Source: CEB on “Why Solution Selling No Longer Works”) 

Now granted the decision makers for EdTech aren’t the same decision makers as B2B. 

But think about everything you know about the lengthy sales cycles for education technology. 

Other things being equal, is it reasonable to expect an EdTech sales cycle to be faster or easier than a B2B sales cycle? Not even close! It’s the exact opposite. 

So, if your company isn’t in that consideration set that happens way before a decision maker contacts any vendor, your company is either:

(a) not considered at all, or

(b) only contacted at the last minute for a time-wasting “bid” -- because your company is merely seen as an easily interchangeable commodity broker

Of course, with education technology, decision makers are many times legally obligated to accept the lowest qualified bid. But the political games and behind-the-screens drafting of RFP specs don’t always put every vendor on equal footing.

How to Reach the Right Education Technology Decision Maker at the Right Moment By Using Inbound Marketing

So what’s the answer? 

The message is simple: With almost 60% of the typical sales cycle over before a potential client even reaches out to any vendor's sales department, your firm has to reach education technology leads much earlier on in the sales process. 

To do this most effectively, inbound marketing is the way to go, so your firm can:

  • Attract the right visitors to its website

  • Convert visitors to leads

  • Close sales with new clients

  • Delight clients for long-term retention

Learn more about how your education technology company can use proven inbound marketing services to find clients, retain clients, and grow.

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