Articles Tagged with marketing

IMG_0052What could be nerdier than a huge ed-tech trade show? It has technology, teachers, curriculum, and lot of gee whiz bang products. I’m sure a couple of the hotels had mad D&D sessions going late into the night.

I’ll tell you what is nerdier – judging the marketing efforts at said trade show. Welcome to my world.

Most K12 education technology companies launch new products at ISTE. Companies go all out to put their best foot forward which means it is the fairest opportunity we have each year to pass judgement on the quality of their marketing.

Free RocksThe International Reading Association’s annual conference has been steadily declining in attendance (and thus importance to vendors) for several years now. From a draw of 20,000 attendees the show now attracts less than 8,000. From a content standpoint it remains a top drawer event. That isn’t the focus of this piece. I’m making a more mercenary assessment of the event from a marketing perspective.

Reading Language Arts remains the single biggest segment of instructional materials spending (over 60%). Exploring why the show at the heart of the education market is getting smaller should reveal some telling lessons for vendors evaluating how they go to market these days.

This year’s exhibit traffic was considerably better than last year’s, but the show floor was still a shadow of its former glory. Vendor booths barely filled 70% of the exhibit hall and other than a couple of the major publishers (notably Scholastic) most companies were taking less space than they did even 2-3 years ago.

This is genius. Someone carefully thought this through and executed well. I laughed out loud several times. You have to engage as you write the story.

And we know that stories are powerful learning tools

There is some cussing – but whether it is truly NSFW is up to you.

5493502Are trade shows rising from the dead? Last week at CEC and this week at IRA attendance was up dramatically from last year. CEC went from 5,200 attendees to over 6,500. IRA was somewhere north of 12,000 depending who you believe.

Activity on the show floors was strong and sessions were oversubscribed.

Vendors I spoke with said their lead flow exceeded their goals and that they were having productive and valuable conversations. One company even had to FeEx in catalogs after they ran out at end of the first day. Attendees were not tire kickers but buyers looking for solutions.

1135507_paletteHow is the marketing mix for companies that sell to K12 schools evolving? At a time when we are experiencing an explosion in the number and type of marketing programs we are also seeing rebalanced budgets and a consolidation among the large support organizations. The economic downturn has only accelerated these trends – it isn’t responsible for them.

The Paradigm is Shifting – Slowly

To begin with – maturing internet search and peer to peer social media networks are changing some of the underlying assumptions of what marketing does. Put simply, it is far more important to be found today when someone is searching than it is to interrupt them when they are not. A customer who has typed in relevant search terms and come upon your site or who reaches out to their network to help them solve a problem and been referred to you is the highest quality lead you can possess. They are actively seeking a solution that may include your products.

Humor and marketing have a tricky relationship. Many marketers use humor in ways that actually undercut their objectives – people remember the joke but forget the company or the product. Here is an example that caught my interest and which I thought did a nice job of making an impersonal situation feel a bit more genuine.

The breakfast bar in most hotels is a spread of slightly stale bagels, over processed cereal, and a mound of melon chunks. Personally I’m not aware of anyone who actually likes this experience for anything but the perceived savings of a “free” breakfast.

At the Fairfield Inn they have found a way to have a little fun with this routine – but one that produces a subtle chuckle and a feeling that “hey, there are real people behind this.”

In this second of a two part series, guest blogger James Mayfield Smith responds to my post on Storyline in Textbooks and Video Games. James is an educational consultant, sales executive, and trained applied mythologist.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 of 2: The Tactical Use of Story to Sell

In this first of a two part series, guest blogger James Mayfield Smith responds to my post on Storyline in Textbooks and Video Games. James has the coolest job title I think I’ve ever seen – Applied Mythologist. We worked together at Pearson several years ago, he speaks about Education Publishing from direct experience on the front lines of selling and authoring.

Part 1 of 2: The Strategic Use of Story to Sell

By James Mayfield Smith

Great marketing infuses a brand promise into everything a company does. It isn’t about the slogan – it is making the promise come alive for your customers in every small detail.


In honor of a Thanksgiving traipse down the tryptophan trail enjoy the images below from the Heart Attack Grill. They make a very simple promise and then drive it into every single thing the company does with quality and humor. They are also unabashedly politically incorrect.

They have done something remark-able – people will talk about it. TV news has covered it, blogs have been covering it, and radio is in on the act.

In education – where at least 50% of everyone’s sales come from referrals – this ability to be remark-able is essential. Yet we are saddled again and again with conservative copycat sample brochures and catalogs that could have been printed 15 or 20 years ago. What are you doing to make your products, services, and company remark-able?

I’m not suggesting that you mock 50 years of public health announcements – but just look at how they made a big promise and then delivered on it.

I don’t think this translates directly into the education publishing market – institutional sales have to be politically correct as anyone who has tangled with the California Legal and Social Compliance guidelines can attest to. The reason I’m highlighting it is that it is a stark example of driving the brand promise into the operations – taking messaging beyond empty slogans that no one believes or pays attention to.

First the menu:


When you are done get wheeled out to your car by a “nurse”


Follow below the fold for more hilarity.

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Another entry in our sporadic series on bad marketing.

This video is hilarious. I love the “my daughter didn’t get it” and “we’ve love it but have some minor tweaks.” I’ve been known to say the latter.

From the target market definition to the creative it skewers slack thinking and over-engineering.