Fueled by the massive shift to remote and hybrid learning during the pandemic, worldwide edtech venture capital investment has tripled in just two years, exploding from $7 billion in 2019 to nearly $21 billion in 2021.
While this exponential growth in edtech investment is good news for startups looking for capital, it also means an already crowded marketplace is becoming even more so.
During a CB&A Expert Series webinar in early February, Robert Martellacci, founder and president of MindShare Learning Technology and one of Canada’s foremost edtech thought leaders, provided insight into some of the key trends shaping the future of education. He also shared advice on how edtech companies can stand out from the crowd.
View the Webinar: Top EdTech Trends in North America
Martellacci noted there are now more than 4,000 edtech companies in North America, and he pointed to market research showing how global edtech investment has accelerated in a short period of time. “Who would have imagined $60 billion invested since 2010 and $20.8 billion in 2021 alone?” he said. The message for business-to-education (B2E) marketers is, “You need to differentiate yourself.”
According to Martellacci, here are five ways B2E marketers can do that.
Listen to your customers.
To succeed in any market—especially education—companies need to be hyper-focused on the needs of their customers and develop products around these needs.
Don’t make assumptions about what these needs are, Martellacci said. Instead, listen carefully to what your customers and prospects have to say. Also, be agile and willing to pivot quickly as these needs evolve.
“You can’t be married to your price list or your services without revisiting these and having deep conversations with your customers,” he noted. “It’s the customer conversations that should be driving your innovation.”
Solve a key need.
As you’re listening to customers and prospects, pay attention to their biggest pain points. This is where your opportunity lies. Educators face so many challenges today, and if you can help them overcome these challenges and do their jobs more effectively, this will be a key differentiator.
“You need to solve a real problem. It’s so vital,” Martellacci said. “This next generation [of edtech innovators] wants to make an impact. [They are] going to be all over you, and they’re going to build a better mousetrap. It’s just a reality.”
There are many avenues that B2E marketers can take to drive sales, Martellacci observed. For instance, companies that offer an instructional solution can take a top-down approach in which they target curriculum directors and other district-level buyers, or they can take a more grassroots approach by appealing to the teachers who will be using the solution in their classrooms. “Teachers are influencers,” he said. “Many districts will listen to what their teachers want, which is a great model.”
Regardless of what approach you take, closing sales always comes back to one thing: building relationships with people.
Help customers succeed.
“Did you know that 85 percent of edtech installs fail due to poor implementation planning?” Martellacci said. Companies can differentiate themselves by making sure they’re included in the 15 percent of successes. The relationship shouldn’t end once the sale is made; instead, companies must become true partners in their customers’ success.
“It’s incumbent on us as a community to really take hold of this and do it right, be thorough, and have a project plan,” he said. “We have weekly follow-ups with the customers we work with in edtech to make sure we’re on the same page. It’s no different than working with a school district. Constant communication [is key]. Make [implementation] easy for them, because they don’t have a lot of time.”
Tell your story.
Once you have some successes under your belt, make sure educators and administrators know about them. “The most successful [companies] I know are constantly out there telling their story,” Martellacci said.