You can’t think like your customers until you know your customers.
In an earlier post, I talked about how an EdTech CEOs should learn to think like investors from the day they decide their idea is robust enough to create an actual company. This thinking isn’t necessarily to attract buyers for a quick and successful exit, it is about having a realistic grasp of what they are doing with their products or services, why they are doing it, and how it fits in with the ever-changing landscape of the competitive education market.
In addition to thinking like an investor, a CEO needs to also think in parallel like a customer. Because EdTech CEOs and founders often come from outside the education industry, they tend to have blinders on regarding anything other than building the product or service they think is going to take education by storm because of its fantastic innovations and features.
Find the Value Proposition
There are far too many EdTech failures that had a leader who loves their product so much from a technical point of view, they couldn’t quickly and confidently answer the most basic question any startup needs to answer, “What is the value proposition from the customer’s point of view, whether that is a teacher, principal or district administrator?”
This “thinking like a customer” means getting out and talking to people in education, especially for CEOs and leaders who come into EdTech from a different industry. There are many differences in how the education marketplace operates from other markets. Some of these differences are subtle nuances, and some of them are huge differences in the way things work elsewhere. In order to think like your potential customers, you need to ask them how they think.
To Think Like Your Customer, You Must Know Your Customer
Related to this is knowing who the actual customer is versus who the consumer is. In other words, who is actually going to sign the contract with you to use your product or service? Are you using this information to inform the development of your marketing and business development efforts? What about outreach? Who are you talking to and why? You can’t just say, “It’s the district that buys it.” You need to know who in the district is buying it, and what it is going to take for you to get the attention of different buyers within districts effectively.
This knowledge of the layers of potential customers in the inherent state > district > school > classroom > teacher hierarchy of education can provide valuable insights when thinking about strategy for your company moving forward.