“We have an awesome literacy curriculum program. What do you think?”
“We’re developing a groundbreaking new digital platform. What do you think?”
“I want to write a book about my expertise or unique approach in social-emotional learning. What do you think?”
“We’ve launched a new advisory service. What do you think?”
At first glance, these K-12 products and services may seem very different. Curriculum, digital platform, professional book, consultative services…sitting in different corners of the industry, yes?
I’ve reviewed thousands of K-12 education products and services. Some were fully developed and on the market. Some were at various stages of development. Some were just the seed of an idea sketched on a whiteboard.
And, while many of those who’ve asked this question want to dive right in to show what it is or what it does, that’s not where the best answers come from.
For any K-12 education product or service, my answer to “What do you think?” starts with 3 questions.
What market trends make your product a “need”?
Products and services can be fine. Good. Interesting. Without a deep understanding of what’s happening in the market, you risk developing a “good” idea into a “so-so” performing product or service. Let the needs of the market guide you to the right products to develop or the right changes to make to existing products.
First, we can look broadly at the market.
Know major funding, such as ESSR.
Understand instructional trends such as the growing shift toward Science of Reading.
Recognize challenges such as teacher recruitment and retention.
Secondly, we can focus in on key states and regions where we sell.
Follow updates to state standards and/or frameworks.
Understand key state legislation.
What do educators and students say about your product?
Products and services are only as good as the feedback and input gained. We cannot develop something new–or improve something already on the market–in a vacuum. Kids are brutally honest. They’ll tell you what they like and don’t like. Teachers love to teach, and they’re usually happy to show you how to do something better. Administrators will share their perspective as a decision-maker.
Make feedback and input part of your strategic planning and development processes:
Get feedback early. It’s never too early! (Do it before you spend 7 figures on product development only to realize you’ve missed the mark.)
Get feedback often in development.
Continue to ask for feedback during implementation.
Be willing to listen and make changes that matter.
What do you as a company or organization bring to education?
Education is a mission-driven industry. If you ask educators what they love most about being in education, chances are you’ll hear some kind of “lightbulb moment” story. Learning to read. Believing in themselves. Doing something that makes them proud.
So, who you are as a company or organization and what you’re about in education, matters. These will either pave the way to the right and best products and stronger partnerships. Or, they will create friction and confusion for decision makers.
Education companies and organizations that want to be great partners in this work must be truly be part of the transformation in education:
Do everything though the lens of a your “why” (your mission and vision).
Tell the story of your “why” (your origin story).
Know and show what makes you different from competitors (your value proposition).
Put your products and services at the center of a shared story between you and your customers.
These three questions can make a big difference in creating (or improving) K-12 education products and services. How will you put these questions into action?