If you don’t have relationships in place with a network of education decision makers, your attempts to reach out may very well go unanswered.
Due to the fact that EdTech is a fairly new industry and many EdTech entrepreneurs and founders come into it from other industries, they often have a weak network of relationships. It can be a fatal mistake to not make building that education decision maker and thought leader network a top priority. To think your product or service is somehow so revolutionary in education that all you have to do is build it and they will come is not in line with the reality of the education industry. In education, relationships rule.
Education Decision Makers and the Bulk Delete
At a recent trade show a room full of hundreds of EdTech entrepreneurs, founders and investors filled a room to see a panel of education decision makers—mostly district superintendents—answer one simple question: Why won’t you answer my emails? All of the superintendents agreed that they don’t answer the email you sent because they never read it. They get so much unsolicited email that anything from someone they don’t recognize gets included in their daily bulk delete.
This came as a sobering dose of reality to many in the audience. The fact is, as an up-and-coming EdTech company, you’re not competing against the handful of similar companies in your specific space, you’re competing with the entire world of education vendors who are trying to get a minute of time or even a simple acknowledgement from education decision makers.
To Get Attention, Have a Relationship
Decision makers in education are certainly responding to emails and calls. In fact, they respond to so many, they have no choice but to ignore yours. So how do you get on the list of vendors who will receive a response? You have to have a relationship.
Superintendents will respond to people with whom they have relationships or have been introduced to by a trusted and known connection. So it is imperative for new EdTech CEOs and other leaders in the company to make a concerted effort to build those relationships.
You’ll need to do a “relationship audit” and ask yourself and your team a few questions. How powerful are your relationships? Do you focus enough on building relationships? Are you attending conferences and events that offer opportunity to generate opportunities? Are you reaching out to thought leaders and decision makers on a peer-to-peer basis and not just making a series of sales calls?
Most people have room for improvement to the answers to all those questions. You need to have a deliberate relationship building strategy and you need to nurture those relationships after they are formed. You can’t just wait for industry relationships to happen, you need to make them happen. You never know when a superintendent who wasn’t interested in your product or service moves on to a larger district and is ready to talk business because she remembers you from a friendly chat and an email follow-up at a trade show.