The realities of the digital divide present a dilemma for EdTech marketers looking to tell their innovation stories to media and reach buyers. With nearly 12 million U.S. K-12 students still lacking access to devices and high-speed internet at home, the disparity between the haves and have-nots cannot be ignored. This “elephant in the room” must be addressed in a smart way if you want your messages to resonate with school boards, administrators, curriculum developers, IT staff and teachers.
Here are four key steps to help you navigate your marketing and communications strategies in this environment. With the right approach, you can capitalize on a booming EdTech market while still remaining sensitive to macro social and economic challenges.
1. Start With Why in Your Storytelling to Align Your Brand With Solutions
Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek says in his book, Start With Why, that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Consider your mission and value proposition when building your marketing messaging. Why does your EdTech company exist? Maybe it’s to inspire the next generation of leaders. Or to challenge the traditional model of education. Empathy also goes a long way when communicating and building trust with potential customers, especially in a people-first market like education. Demonstrate that you understand customers and their needs through authentic storytelling — whether it be through case studies or in-depth interviews. Get your executives on board and have them continue this narrative thread across their thought leadership efforts.
2. Do Your Homework to Hone in With Data-Driven Strategies
Research trends and statistics relating to the digital divide that can help your EdTech organization tell its story, using them as proof points for how and why your solution is the best option. As one example, rural Americans are 12% less likely to have home broadband, according to Pew Research. States like Mississippi, Arkansas, and New Mexico are hit the hardest in terms of students who don’t have the technology for remote learning. Data like this can help you hone your go-to-market strategy and even focus on key regions where your solution may fill the greatest need. You could even incorporate geo-fenced or locally-targeted campaigns into your overall strategy to ensure you’re getting ahead of the right opportunities in the right places.
3. Identify Potential Partnerships to Bridge Solution and Messaging Gaps
We accomplish more when we work together. This is especially true in the education space where partnerships are a great way to not only broaden your portfolio to fill in any accessibility gaps, but also tell a more holistic story to the market. For example, partnering with a solution provider that can enable asynchronous learning where connectivity can be spotty shows that your company is about building solutions, not just products. EdTech startups with smaller networks can deploy strategies to attract complementary solution providers, such as building out a partner marketing program that provides incentives, resources and customizable marketing materials to demonstrate the value of your solution and ease-of-business when pursuing joint opportunities together.
4. Be a Brand That’s a Part of the Solution and Community
Marketing can play a valuable role in helping lead the organization in driving a broader company corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative. As an EdTech provider, donating your solutions to your local school districts can be a win-win. It helps not only create goodwill in the community but also could help generate some positive case study examples for your sales team, especially if your company is in its early stages. If you’re not in a position to provide discounts or free products, having your employees volunteer their time to help get more students online can be just as valuable and rewarding. As a marketer, you can help keep the organization excited and accountable to the cause. The key is authenticity in your communications and follow-through as a company when it comes to living and breathing your brand values.