Market size and distribution problems for education technology company turnarounds can cause significant headaches

The wrong distribution channel selected for an education technology company can be the fastest way that your product never gets to the end-user. A market test for education technology companies, or company launching a new product in a new market, sometimes reveals that the method of distribution selected for the company’s marketing program will not generate sales at a low marketing cost.

The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic proved to the education industry that it was unprepared for what would happen. From primary schools to universities were all impacted by the pandemic. However, some were more prepared than others because of organizations teaching methods and educational technology infrastructure.

I’ve been a student, a teacher, and a mentor. I was taught in the traditional teaching model. But as a technologist and managing a $350MM educational programs at Sun Microsystems Education for the Americas and as a college professor, I understand the power of self-paced, distance and blended teaching models and the role of technology in education.

CBT or computer-based training has mature the level where a motivated student can get a full custom-tailored education without stepping foot on a brick and mortar university. While some colleges have adopted the alternative learning models others are way behind. I hear from the students all the time. Education companies like Harvard, Stanford, and others started their online learning years and years ago.

Stanford Online

As a life long learner and industries we work in, you either innovate or die. It’s a harsh reality that many institutions have not come to grips with. The aim of any school is to provide the student with the best education possible. 

I argue today if you are not a life long learner your career might become extinct. I saw this while working at IBM. The people developing systems on mainframe computers that were slow and littered with problems during massive upgraded. Remember Windows95? You know what I mean.

With any crisis there are opportunities. Opportunities to learn and become better. There are some great education tech platforms available. But the organization and teacher need to learn how to leverage the technology and their teaching methods to adapt. They must provide the best possible learning environment for its student so that learning doesn’t end at graduation.

Educational technology is not a static teaching model. Artificial intelligence (AI) has made it more interactive and customized to the student. 

Have you sat through a semester of lecture bored to tears because you already know the subject? I have. But it need not be this way. The traditional model of teaching works for some but fails others.

So, the question here is how do you get these products into the hands to the people that need it most? 

In 2018, there were 14.53 million college students in the U.S. enrolled in public colleges and 5.12 million students enrolled in private colleges. These figures are expected to increase to 14.89 million and 5.22 million respectively by the year 2029 according to Statista.

For example, the education technology company may discover that selling its product through a network of dealers or distributors is a cumbersome, low-profit process when instead, its marketing effort could be far more effective if it’s sold its product directly to the end-users. Poor distribution partners can damage a brand with poorly implemented EdTech software.

I found K12.com, providing families and homeschooling parents an online option for a high-quality, personalized education experience. With innovative technology, K12 can inspire teachers and parents. It’s a dynamic, interactive curriculum where students can flourish, find their passion, and learn at the pace that’s right for them.

Virtual reality (VR) can be used to enhance student learning and engagement. VR education can transform the way educational content is delivered. It works on the premise of creating a virtual world, real or imagined, and allows the student not only to see it but also to interact with it. Edtech companies are leveraging and bringing VR into their product offerings.

We see this a lot with SaaS EdTech software with direct-to-consumer models starting with company’s like Khan Academy, Guild Education, Coursera, and other educational software. Add complexity to the channel of distribution and you may be looking at trouble with your end-users and customer loyalty metrics.

Education Technology
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Top customer loyalty metrics for measuring loyalty:

  • CLV – Customer Lifetime Value
  • RPR – Repeat Purchase Rate
  • NPS – Net Promoter Score
  • Churn
  • CAC – Customer Acquisition Cost 
  • CES – Customer Effort Score

Sometimes the exact opposite is true–especially in markets that are controlled by a few major EdTech software distributors or if your product has a high sales price and requires extensive support before, during, and after the sale.

Some products can only be sold through educational software distributors or resellers. This is an example that happened during COVID-19, where the N95 mask was in short supply. You could not buy directly through 3M, but you had to buy it through distribution. 

In a direct SaaS EdTech distribution model, a software vendor sells products directly to customers, through its website for example, like K12.com. In an indirect software distribution model, a software vendor distributes its products through third-party resellers who then sell them to customers. Companies like Impero, Academic Superstore, and others.

Your prospects will often tell you they only buy products such as yours only from a particular education software distributor, and they just don’t buy from individual education technology software vendors. For the prospect, this is a choice easy to justify.

Many company educational purchasing departments prefer the advantage of having just one vendor to order from, and they do. For certain types of products, and therefore will only deal with a single, exclusive distributor. If the education technology software is sold by the seat purchasing department can easily add additional users.

Common education technology software distributor problems

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Your education technology software company may have organized a handful of education software distributors, dealers, or an independent sales rep firm for your initial market test or new product launch, and it experiences inadequate sales response.

Often, the problem is that the dealer, distributor, or the sales rep firm is not devoting sufficient time and effort to promote in your company’s product.

Here are some of the other major reasons for poor EdTech software distributor performance.

Product depth: your distributor may carry thousands of products, many of which, unlike your EdTech company’s new product, are proven, sellers. Distributors, dealers, and resellers will spend the most amount of time selling the products that are easiest to sell or had the biggest profit margins or sales commission.

Account size: as an education technology software firm or a new customer of the distributor, the distributor sees you as a small account relative to the others, more well-established accounts generating most of his or her sales volume. While professing an interest to work with your small education technology software business, distributors will off and push the products of their large, more influential, suppliers.

Product inertia: this is often the most challenging problem to address. Even though the distributor’s reps asking about your product, it’s apparent that they are not working hard enough to sell it. Your product becomes just another item in the distributor’s catalog. 

Some distributors, especially for well-established distributors in mature Industries, have become glorified order takers for their accounts.  

These kinds of distributors won’t push a product by themselves. You must generate demand on your own through advertising and other marketing methods to stimulate sales leads at their accounts to buy from your education software distributor.

I think a lot of institutions and parents are rethinking the educational delivery system today.

Solving education technology software distributor problems

If you believe you have no other option but to sell your company’s product through an education technology software dealer, distributor, or reseller network, you can often improve sales by improving and intensifying, the sales training and support you provide your product to the on-the-ground education software sales reps at your distributors. 

This is accomplished by applying more time and effort to improving the distributor’s reps awareness of your product and its benefits, and by showing them the best way to present and sell your product.

Here are some steps you can take to heighten awareness of your company’s product and create a sense of enthusiasm around your product in the minds of your distributor sales reps.

Education technology software distributor sales meetings

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Most distributors offer many opportunities for marketing and sales managers at the companies they represent their products to their sales reps at sales meetings held during the year. You should never pass up an opportunity to get in front of the distributor sales team at these meetings.

However, some education technology software distributors, especially those in mature markets, will try to limit contact between their accounts and sales reps. It’s because they are concerned that these presentations take selling time away from the sales representatives.

But this is not your problem, however, and if you feel that the distributor’s sales representatives need more and better sales training to boost your product sales response. You need to take charge.

You should insist that your distributor make special arrangements to allow you to stage your presentation with sales reps. And take the opportunity to reinforce your education technology software product’s story, features, and benefits.

If you’re experiencing inadequate sales response in the EdTech software company, this may be your last opportunity to pull your product out of a slump. The opportunities here are enormous.

 At the sales meeting, you want to highlight the following:

  • Make your education technology software product’s benefits, advantages, and positioning crystal clear. You want to highlight the customer pain points and how you relieve them, and you want to highlight the gains that they can achieve for their end-users or students. Explain to the education technology software distributors the essential feature and benefits that make a product different from and better than similar products or methods in the same class. Use a point-by-point comparison of key product features to make these distinctions crystal clear, to position your product against competitive products, in the minds of the sales reps.
  • Go beyond your product sales pitch. Don’t stop at giving reps your product’s standard sales presentation. Equip them to handle what comes next from their prospects. Discuss the common sales questions and objections that prospects have on your education technology software product, and describe the best method for responding to a countering each of these questions, and the prospects most common objections.
  • Tell the rap what your company is doing to help them move your product. Every distributor sales rep will push a product harder if they know that your company is helping to make their selling job easier. Detail the marketing programs your company is making to promote the education technology software product. Things like trade print advertising campaigns, direct mail programs, email campaigns, trade show appearance and more if your company cannot afford to spend money on a significant marketing campaign. You can at least execute public relations and generate media awareness at a very low cost to get the word out of your product and mention this during your presentation. How did you find this article?
  • Your door is always open. Let the distributors know that you and your company’s management team are at their disposal, they help them with any problems or issues with your company’s product. Distributor sales reps respond well to greater attention and involvement by marketing staff in their product line companies, so prove it to them by responding to the request from education software reseller sales representatives.
  • Debrief the distributor’s reps. After the meeting, try to gather additional, informal prospect feedback on your product from the distributor sales reps, on a one-to-one basis. You want to hear anything, and everything the sales reps account says about your product. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. 

Adding and improving distributor sales and marketing deliverables

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Besides the sales meeting with education software distributor sales representatives, you will need to re-evaluate the sales marketing deliverables you provide to your distributor sales reps for the prospects they call on your behalf. Often in the wake of poor marketing results, you can identify improvements to sales copy and presentation of existing marketing deliverables. 

You will need to supply these to improve sales materials to your distributor’s sales reps. Here it’s an excellent idea if you have a website to create an education tech software distributor portal under a subdomain where they can log in and get all of the latest information that way you control the content.

As you plan for your sales meeting with distributors, you should assess the marketing deliverables and sales training The sales training material they will need to keep their selling skills sharp and your product in mind when they talk to their customers. 

Here are some examples for education technology companies on sales training aids and marketing deliverables produce for a distributor sales rep force:

  • Explainer videos
  • Prospect sales deliverables
  • Sales training aids
  • FAQ’s
  • Demos

Videos can be very elaborate and expensive. Still, simpler, less costly versions can also be useful. Keep in mind that the sales reps have little time for training because it takes away selling time. However, training is necessary. Today, you can make a video on your iPhone, it’s that simple.

Often, all you need is a well-written, professionally narrated audio track accompanied by simple images and a few live video shots of your education tech software product in action. This type of video can be produced for less than $5,000 in duplicated for distribution by a simple download from your website.

Greater involvement, training, and communication involve distributor sales performance

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Underperforming distributor sales relationships can be improved just by showing your distributor and his sales reps that you want to be more involved in helping the distributor increase sales of your company’s product, and sales revenue for the distributor.

The two goals you must meet when working with education technology software distributors in any sales turnaround situation:

  • Are to keep your product for most in the mind of your distributor’s sales reps
  • To do everything you can to help the sales representatives properly present and sell your company’s product to their prospects. 

More involvement on your part, with skilled sales training and open communications with the distributor’s reps, improves the product sales response and sales success.

Wrap-up on education technology software distribution problems and Edtech turnarounds

Technology is changing the future of education. Labs test artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other innovations that could improve learning and lower costs for Generation Z and beyond. Great target markets are the education company that might be lagging in the latest educational technology.

The antidote to any adverse major marketing factor you can’t control is action. Never give up. There is always something you can do.

When you are operating inside a negative environment that’s resistant to your marketing program, and, after thoughtful assessment, you’re convinced that there’s nothing wrong with either your product or its marketing program. Change the environment. COVID-19 forced teachers to learn about ZOOM and Google hangouts. 

So how do you access the people that could use your technology best? Sure you can build up a salesforce or leverage a distribution channel that you might not have know existed. 

Think about how and where your product could be sold. Do this by trying new options–keep testing new markets, keep making changes to your product or service that you and your team think we’ll make it more attractive to your target buyers, and keep working all the options available to you.

Taking action always creates more options for education technology companies. Options will often lead you to more effective ways of selling your product or service. A new test email workflow in a new market or industry that generates sizeable interest in response. 

A cheaper spin-off of your product that makes its price point more affordable. This could triple your sales volume in a few months. An overnight change in your education technology software pricing or distribution methods that removes key sales barriers to buying your education software product could be the answer. 

You must understand the customers buying cycle and map your internal processes and content delivery to each stage. That when you can begin to add metrics and attributions for continuous improvement.

Shaking up the perception of your product in the minds of your education software prospects, or putting your product in front of a whole new set of opportunities in a new market are two examples of activities that create new options.

The time as never been better and watch the Edtech jobs show strong growth over the next year or two. textbook companies and textbook publishers have moved to more interactive content and textbooks right on the iPad. You can listen rather than read a chapter of information to boost your knowledge.

Technology has opened up so many opportunities, is our educational system ready?

We’re listening.

Have something to say about your thoughts on distribution problems for education technology companies turnarounds? 

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General FAQ’s

What is Edtech?

EdTech refers to software designed to enhance teacher-led learning in classrooms and improve students’ education outcomes.  EdTech is a portmanteau of “education” and “technology.”


What is the definition of education technology?

Educational technology is the use of both physical hardware, software, and educational theoretic to aid learning and to improve performance by creating, using, and managing relevant technological processes and resources. Educational technology is the theory and practice of pedagogical approaches to learning.


How does technology help in education?

Teachers can use technology to find resources and attend virtual professional development seminars and conferences (most are free). Technology can give teachers and students great resources, new opportunities for learning, ways to collaborate and create, and save money. Technology is a potent tool for education.


What is the role of a distributor?

Distributors play a vital role in keeping the lines between an educational software company and users operating smoothly. They can expedite response times, enhance a company’s reach, and even create value-added packages.

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