September 4, 2013

How to Implement Pilot Products to Drive Referral K-12 Sales

Introducing a product in the education market is a challenge, especially with tight budgets and changing landscape in the education industry. 

  • So, how do you ensure your pilot product is accepted? 
  • How do you ensure it is suitable for a school or district?
  • How do you ensure you achieve satisfaction, loyalty and referrals?

These challenges were discussed by Glen McCandless on BlogTalkRadio with Farimah Schuerman and Mitch Weisburgh, Partners in Academic Business Advisors.

1. What Preparations are required before launching a product?

  • The product has to be ready to use and implement. The company has to be confident that the product will work, is safe and effective.
  • A defined market penetration plan needs to be prepared. Before launching a product, a defined plan should be set as to which market you would like to target. Those schools need to be selected which will have a good impact from implementation of your product or service. You need to consider whether the school is stable and if the district is functional to avoid challenges in the future. Selection could also be done based on geography and profile of schools suitable to your products or service.

There are 2 types of pilot products:

a. A start up pilot product – This kind of product implementation s is usually in the early adoptive stage and is accepted by schools willing to take the risk of implementing a new product. When launching a product at such a stage, it is important to set expectations in the beginning and provide strong service and support. At this time, it’s not about profits, its more about gaining satisfaction, building loyalty and gaining referrals.

b. A trial product – Many schools / districts like to try out product before completely adopting or implementing it. At this stage it best to align product implementation with the school.

2. How is social media used to leverage successful pilot launches

In order for a product launch to be successful, what needs to be done is to:
  • Understand the problem
  • Identify the implications of the problem
  • Get to know what the school did before your product / service was introduced
  • How your product solved or will solve the problem
  • What were the results – whether in terms of student achievement, teacher performance or cost savings

Once you find this information, you can create a story that can be shared in the market place through social media channels. This will help in showcasing how your products / service benefited the school and the problem that it solved. This success story can be distributed across channels through your website, blog, twitter or through video testimonials.

An important aspect to consider is that social media activity in a company should not be considered as a marketing task. Instead it should be assigned to someone who need not necessarily be a marketing person, it could be someone who is just comfortable using social channels. This will help in making social media interaction natural and not as forced communication.

With too many pilot products being introduced and implemented, companies need to ensure they are prepared, that they have defined goals, set expectations, relevant selection criteria and reliable service and support. This will help them establish a strong relationship with schools and districts, and will help in creating loyalty, referrals and sales.

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