Monday, December 30, 2013

Reaching home schoolers in 2014

Assuming the research is correct, by December 31, 2014 there will be 161,000 to 345,000 new students added to the home school population. Each one will spend $600-900 on educational needs making this new population alone a multi-million dollar opportunity.

Reaching them in 2014 will become increasingly difficult. The competition is increasing, the landscape is changing, and the "noise" is becoming deafening.

Still, they will be searching for solutions, and they may be willing to hear what you have to say.

Want to reach them? Tactically there are a myriad of possibilities to utilize effectively in your marketing strategy so I will not address those here. However, let me suggest three things to consider that have more to do with your philosophy than tactics:

1) Know your audience.

There are approximately 2.3+ million home schoolers in America right now. Will these new additions be similar to the existing population? Or will they be drastically different? Who will be the primary educator at home? Why will they choose to home school? What is their motivation?

Existing or new you must know who it is you are talking to, and more importantly, who might listen to you.

2) Be bold.

If your strategy depends primarily on price then you really do not have a strategy. If you want to reach them with a product that is similar to others already on the market, price will matter but do not make it your focal point. Rather, be bold in your strategy.

Whether it is "edgecrafting" as Seth Godin calls it, or jumping off the precipice, find an extreme and go there. Staying in the center with the others will only lead to more "noise" keeping you from standing out.

Ask yourself, "Is it safer to go to the edge or get lost in the crowd?" The decision is yours.

3) Be real.

Know who you are, accept who you are, and be who you are. Then find those customers of yours who will participate in the sharing of your story. Give them an exciting story to share and provide them with the tools to share it.

Be real, be authentic, even vulnerable.

Bonus Point

Take care of your existing customers. So many times companies offer great incentives to attract new customers and ignore those who are most loyal to them. Reverse this trend and watch your customers become your greatest asset in reaching new ones.

Figment Consulting

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Customers are like teeth.

You only need to take care of the ones you want to keep.

Be careful though because the ones you lose will create holes in your smile and others will notice.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The virtual school shelf space

Twelve years ago there was no path to follow, no road already taken. At K12, Inc. when I started there back in 2001, we were trailblazing because that was the only way to do what we were attempting -- virtual public schools.

Fast forward to today and now the virtual school shelf space is crowded and similar. More disconcerting is they are beginning to look more like their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

Where has the innovation gone? Why build another virtual school and place it on the same shelf with the others?

Why not build something unique and edgy? If you want to get lost in the crowd then build for the shelf space. If you want to offer a breakthrough product then be bold, even outrageous.

Start with the customer (the student, the parents) at the true center and see where it may lead you. Go to the edge, the precipice, then . . . jump.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The problem with Khan Academy

There is none really. Sure it has flaws and there is always room for improvement but overall there is no problem with it.

It is up to the virtual schools, the online providers, and even the regular brick and mortar schools (and charter schools) to learn how to exist with Khan Academy. And, in doing so, their offerings can become better - both academically and experiential.

There will even be some who incorporate Khan into the mix by embracing what it has to offer rather than try to simply overcome it. This is called cooperation.

Author and blogger Seth Godin says it much better than I could, "The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way."

The real problem therefore is not with Khan Academy, rather it is that too many see it as competition instead of opportunity. Change your perception and a world of potential is opened up to you.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A light shining in the darkness

One small light shining in the darkness can be the brightest object in the room, and it draws all of the attention.

If you want to be different from your competitors then find the darkness and let your light shine. If you do not then you will simply blend in, and go unnoticed.

It can be hard to see in the dark. That's why we need your light.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The value of sharing

In today's world sharing is one of the easiest things consumers can do. Not only can they share with their closest friends, but they can also tell the whole world about their experiences with a product they have purchased.

Therefore it begs the question - what are your customers sharing about you? The value of sharing is really found within the content of what your customers are saying. Remember, they are already telling others. The real question is what are they saying?

This leads to another question - how easy is it for them to share with others their experience using your product(s)? In other words, are you making it effortless for them to share their experience? Why not?

Put the value of sharing to work for you.

"When somebody shares, everybody wins." ~ Jim Rohn

Monday, December 2, 2013

Why home schoolers are not listening to you (part 2)

Several weeks ago I wrote a blog sharing with you why home schoolers are not listening to you. It generated some good questions from readers with many of them having a common thread. So, I thought I would do a little "Q and A" with one of the questions that was, by far, most popular in the emails coming to me.

Question: What is the most effective way to build trust with home schoolers?

Answer: Be trustworthy.

You must understand the world view of the niche within the home school market that aligns with yours, and be all you can be to them. Doing so will allow you to be authentic, which leads to trust. It takes time though so don't expect it overnight.

Remember, your product, your service will not appeal to all home schoolers. In fact, it probably will not appeal to the majority of them. Rather than spend your time trying to convince them otherwise, invest your time finding those home schoolers who want to hear what you have to say. They are the ones willing to give you a chance to earn their trust.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What is the common core for homeschoolers?

In a recent blog I discussed the diversity that exists within the home school market. Diversity such as this brings with it a mosaic of reasons for choosing this form of education. And, as you can imagine, the reasons families have chosen this form of education are as varied as the overall multiplicity within this market.

What then is the thread that binds this divergent group together? The most consistent one, ideologically speaking, is the conviction among home school parents that they should play a large role (solely responsible or partially responsible) in the education of their children.

This conviction is the common core for homeschoolers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What does the fox say?

As of this morning the unlikely hit song "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)" had over 236 million views. According to a New York Times article, the song actually began as a joke. Three months after its video release, the world is still wondering what the fox says? Ellen DeGeneres, Morgan Freeman, Jimmy Fallon, and even Jack Hanna have chimed in on this viral hit from the two Norwegian brothers.

So, what does the fox say?

1) Don't listen to those who claim to have all the answers.

No one could have predicted the popularity that has ensued since this song was released. 236,000,000 views -- there was no marketing plan that had this goal in mind.

2) You cannot control viral.

By sheer definition, something goes viral when it is shared. It is difficult to manipulate this process because it moves from being shared to simply being marketed.

3) Build in a layer of flexibility, and be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances.

The Ylvisaker brothers, originators of this song, have now been seen on Ellen, Late Night, and a host of others. What started as a joke has continued to grow because they were flexible enough to see the wave, and then ride it. Malcolm Gladwell has a great book on this topic called Tipping Point. Gladwell describes it as that "magic moment when an idea, a trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire."

Be flexible in your marketing plans. You cannot account for all variables but you can be ready to alter course for more favorable winds should your idea or plan reach a tipping point.

4) Understand the life cycle of what you offer.

At some point the novelty of this will wear off and one of two things will happen. One, the Ylvis brothers will make another song similar to this one in hopes of replicating the success of what they have experienced. Or, there will be copycats trying to accomplish what just happened with the Ylvis brothers. In all likelihood both will occur.

Wisdom would suggest that the Norwegian duo leave a sequel to this song on the shelves and take their collective ability and channel it into something different, something that might become the next viral hit. As for the copycats, not sure wisdom plays a role in the thought process anyway so look for other songs asking us what other animals say very soon (if not already).

Now, if someone could tell me who put the "o" in coyote, then I would really be thankful.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Get real

Gone are the days when a photographer could turn a White House into Camelot. The tools we have today (internet, social media, etc.) allow us all to peel back the curtain and discover what is real, what is authentic, and share our opinions with others across the globe.

Today's society and more importantly today's consumer desires for authenticity. If what you have to offer them is perceived as unreal, you will be labeled as inauthentic, or worse a fake! -- and that word will spread, quickly.

However, companies such as Disney understand the dramatic opportunity that exists here too. Disney's mission is to "create happiness" -- that is it's authenticity. The parks, the movies, the games, the television shows, they are simply the means by which they create this happiness. In doing so, trust is built among their customers, which in turn leads to loyalty.

Recently I read Pour Your Heart Into It by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz in which he stated, "Authenticity is what we stand for. It's part of who we are. If we compromise who we are to achieve higher profits, what have we accomplished? Eventually all our customers would figure (it) out . . ."

Customers, your customers, are longing for you to get real. They know when you are, and they know when you are beginning to compromise.

Remember, they are already sharing their feelings about you with others. The real question is what are they sharing? You have the potential to influence it. Loyalty cannot be bought but it does come with a price.

Are you willing to pay the price?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Home school v Home schooler

I recently conducted some training around the difference between "home school" and "home schooler" in order to help educate the client so they could better target the customer they wanted to reach.

If you have a desire to penetrate the home school market, it is imperative you understand this difference.


1) Your return on investment will jump because you are targeting the overall crowd that more closely aligns with your worldview

2) Your message, your story, will better resonate with the crowd you truly intend to serve because you are targeting the right crowd

3) Your advertising (search, display, and banner) will be displayed in the appropriate places, at the appropriate times, and will allow you to forgo other advertising opportunities that appear beneficial but are actually a waste of dollars

4) Your time and energy will be spent attracting those customers who want to hear from you, and are willing to listen to what you have to say

"Home school" or "Home schooler"? Do you know the difference? If you do it could dramatically impact your marketing strategy.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Marketing to Home School Moms

Estimates indicate that 90%+ of the primary educators at home are Moms - which is a code word for female. In today's world, women are the most powerful consumers - in the realm of home schooling this is even more accurate. Home school Moms lead the educational purchasing decisions, are radically engaged in their children's education, and they are female.

I keep bringing up the female aspect because their reasons for buying are quite different from men. Their decision process is not the same.

So, if you want to reach them you have to understand them -- why they buy, what resonates with them (and what does not), what messages stir their emotions, what ways do they employ logic (how does logic and emotion work together), and what inspires them to share with others.

If 90%+ of your market is female, does your message (content and visual) align with their worldview? A quick tour of the web says the answer is a resounding "no."

The good news: there is a fantastic opportunity waiting for a company, school, organization who authentically desires to serve this billion-dollar market.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Diversity of Home

In my previous post I answered the question as to why home schoolers are not listening to you. Today I want to discuss the diversity of who you are trying to talk to.

So, you have developed a product, or an online course offering and you want to target home schoolers (at least that is what you believe). The real question though is whose worldview best aligns with what you have to offer: home schoolers, unschoolers, eclectic, secular, Christian, traditional, school-at-home, etc.? And, keep in mind we have not even tapped into methodology: Charlotte Mason, Classical (Trivium, Quadrivium), Montessori, Unit Study, Waldorf, and many more.

Oh wait I almost forgot. We must also explore their reasons for choosing to educate at home.

* Provide a better education for my children
* Religious/moral reasons
* Concerned about issues at public/private schools
* Socialization issues
* Medical reasons
* Family issues
* and many more

Too many companies, organizations, and schools view home schoolers through one lens and they fail to recognize the mosaic of families who have chosen to educate their children at home. In order to build relationships with these families, you must first begin to understand them, and their reasons for choosing this option.

Yes, there are over 2.3 million families educating their children at home and that does equate to a billion dollar industry annually. However, it doesn't mean you should or even could serve all of them. Instead, let's find your niche within this market and craft your message to reach those who align with you. Serve them well and they will share you with others and help you grow.

Remember, home school is a market. Within that market lies communities of families who want to hear what you have to say.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why home schoolers are not listening to you.

Recent estimates place the home school community in America over 2.3 million -- and growing 7-15% annually.

So, why are they not listening to you? You have a great product for them. You have invested thousands, even millions of dollars into the development of your learning platform and course offerings, even hiring the best teachers you could find. Yet, the home school families have turned a deaf ear to you. Why?

Three reasons really:

1) They do not trust you.

They have either ignored you completely because there is no relationship with them due to any and all lack of trust in you. Or, they have given you a moment of their time and turned aside, again because the trust level in you is not there. If you cannot climb this hurdle then all other reasons do not matter.

2) They do not like what you have to say.

Perhaps they are indifferent to you but "lack of trust" is not an issue with this group. Yet, they still are not committed to hearing what you have to say. You may believe they are not listening when in reality they have heard what you have said. They simply do not like what you are saying. Perhaps it is product related or communication related -- either way, you have lost an opportunity to converse with them.

3) You cost too much.

"Wait!" You say, "our program is free!" I am not talking about just financial costs here. Many home school families are not listening to you because they believe it will cost them their freedom, their ability to influence, their role as parents, and so forth, if they join you.

You see, what you believe is an asset may indeed be a liability.

And, if you think that any of this is the fault of the home school family, then you have missed a golden opportunity to engage in a conversation with them that will allow you to serve them.

Friday, November 8, 2013

What are you worth?

Are you worth more than you are being paid? Or, are you being paid exactly what you are worth?

What if I told you that you are being paid exactly what you believe you should be paid. "No way." "I'm worth far more than what they pay me." "If they only knew what I could do they would pay me more." "You're crazy, you have no idea what you are talking about."

Those are just some of the typical responses I get when I mention this idea that you, me, we are all being paid exactly what we believe we are worth.

So, if you want to change your income or your revenue, where do you begin? You could change jobs and perhaps be paid a little more than you are now. However, if you really want to see your income or revenue soar, you must first change your belief system -- what you believe and tell yourself.

Start first with yourself, increase the value you have in yourself and then the results will follow. You cannot truly alter the external until you change the internal.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Authenticity and vulnerability

Seth Godin, Gilmore & Pine, Malcolm Gladwell, Bridget Brennan, and a host of other authors are sounding the clarion for companies and organizations to be authentic and even vulnerable when it comes to engaging with their customers.

In today's world, and more importantly in tomorrow's world, consumers have the ability to bypass the "corporate speak" and uncover the truth behind the message.

Yesterday's marketing techniques cannot build into consumers what all companies truly desire from them: loyalty -- a loyalty, as Seth Godin describes it, of "identity and satisfaction".

Companies who understand this are at the forefront of having their ideas spread because they comprehend the landscape in which they operate. We are now in the consumer-driven world -- consumers who want an authentic, even vulnerable story from a company. In return they are willing to give that company their trust which leads to loyalty.

Those who fail to recognize this will continue to invest dollars in outdated media and wonder why their costs continue to rise, and their customers continue to leave.

Figment Consulting wants to help you understand your customer, then craft campaigns that establish, foster, and nurture loyalty within them.