Monday, April 28, 2014

It's also how you say it.

In my previous blog I made the argument that it really does matter what you say. Having established that, we can move on to the next point and understand it also matters how you say it.

Taking time to choose your words carefully could make all the difference in how you make your customers feel.

What are your "signs" saying to your customers?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's not what you say . . .

. . . actually, it is.

Telling a student she can move at her own pace when the reality is far different.

Promoting an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) designed for each child to ensure a customized program that fits each child's unique strengths, weaknesses, learning styles and aptitudes -- when the reality is far more generalized.

Telling parents the program is flexible when mandatory requirements apart from courses are increasing each year -- class connects, teacher office hours, test prep sessions, diagnostic tests, and more.

We first have to focus on what we say long before we address how we say it. Want to stand out from the crowded field? First, be authentic.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The trust investment

Trust cannot be purchased but it does come with a price.

Are you willing to pay it?

If not, you will neither earn it, or worse, you will break it. Once broken, it is difficult to restore.

However, if you invest in earning the trust of your customers you will understand that the value in doing so far outweighs any price you must pay.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The culture of service

Companies looking for a competitive advantage will struggle to develop a reputation for excellence in customer service. Instead, those that are recognized as stalwarts in this area (Amazon, Disney, Marriott, Tom's, and others) understand it must be ingrained within the culture.

Putting customers first, putting students first, putting guests first, must be more than a headline supported by a strategy. It requires authenticity, commitment, and treating each one differently.

Develop a culture of service and the competitive advantage emerges all on its own.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Proctor & Gamble Problem of Virtual Schools

Proctor & Gamble creates products for the masses. As stated in their "Purpose & People" -- We will provide branded products and services of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world's consumers, now and for generations to come.

P&G has no desire to innovate, alter the paradigm, challenge the status quo, or transform the market. They simply want more market share -- more consumers. As a result, consumers will reward us with leadership sales, profit and value creation, allowing our people, our shareholders and the communities in which we live and work to prosper.

One would argue that it is working for them. However, for their purpose to continue, they will constantly have to spend their way to have more shelf space, invest in advertising, interrupt more people, attempt to grab more attention, offer steeper discounts, and tout the features and benefits of their products with the hope that more people will buy. Perhaps, when it comes to consumer products, this strategy will sustain them for some time.

The problem though is that too many virtual school providers carry this same mentality, and their playing field is education, not consumer products. Let's create mediocre products and services for the masses, interrupt as many people as possible, invest in more advertising, and hope that more of them are still there at the bottom of the sales funnel.

A quick glance at under "Who We Help" indicates they want to help everyone. Peek under "What is K12" and they tout their desire to "fulfill the promise of an education for every child." The same is true for Connections Academy, and others.

Notable pursuits no doubt. However, not only can it not be accomplished, one could argue they would be more effective if they limited who they want to serve, and serve them exceptionally well.

Instead of being a Proctor & Gamble (which in reality is much like traditional public schools), why not be an Apple? Create a product and service that changes lives, and let marketing amplify that story.

In the world of education we do not need more mediocre products and services. What we need are paradigm-altering learning experiences that challenge the status quo.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

". . . we must not lose this sense of possibility . . ."

I borrowed that part of the quote from a new book The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. Marina was only 22 years old and five days removed from graduating magna cum laude from Yale University when she was killed in a car accident on her way to her dad's birthday in Cape Cod.

Her future had "bright" written all over it. A job lined up with the New Yorker, and a play she had written about to be produced at a theater festival, gave her reason to be excited about what lay ahead. Tragically though, her life was cut short by that accident.

Fortunately for us, we are able to glimpse into what might have been for her through her collection of essays and short stories that make up her new book. And while there are many interesting insights, and wisdom from one so young, her thoughts on the ability to do anything resonate most with me.

Though she is primarily speaking to college-age peers, her words --  " . . . we must not lose this sense of possibility, because in the end it's all we have." -- can speak to all of us.

The power of possibilities is what inspires us to achieve beyond what we can imagine. If we lose this sense, then creativity quickly diminishes, and mediocre sets in -- a mediocre life, mediocre service, mediocre thoughts, mediocre actions, mediocre behaviors. However, as Marina says, "What we have to remember is we can still do anything. We can change our minds."

My suggestion is we do not have to be a recent college graduate to feel this way. No matter where we are in life, no matter what we have done up to now, we still have the potential, the possibility, of doing anything we want.

Let's keep within us this "sense of possibility" and focus on doing the work that matters. Thanks Marina for reminding us.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How to reach homeschoolers, and other questions from readers.

Since launching this blog I have received a variety of questions via email related to my posts, and have answered each one directly. However, I thought some of them that are broader in scope might be of interest to others - whether my answers are also of interest is to be determined.

Below are just a few of the recent ones I have received.

1. How can we reach homeschoolers?

I have written about this in several of my blogs already:

Why homeschoolers are not listening to you
Marketing to homeschool moms
What is the common core to homeschoolers?
Why homeschoolers are not listening to you (Part 2)
Reaching homeschoolers in 2014

I won't rehash all of those blogs here, but the main item to keep in mind here is that this is really such a vague question. "Reaching homeschoolers" carries with it the assumption they are all the same, and they all think alike. Just because you carry the title "Mom" doesn't mean you think and act like all other women who also happen to be mothers.

So, the first thought here is to understand what homeschoolers you are wanting to talk to, because you cannot reach all of them due to their diversity of thought.

2. Are all homeschoolers conservative?

Short answer is No. There is a homeschool spectrum that exists with conservative ones on one side, and liberal ones on the other side. Between the two lies the full array of thoughts and beliefs that mirror the overall population. There are secular homeschoolers, Muslim homeschoolers, and so on that make this community a true mosaic.

Even within the "conservative" side of the spectrum lies diversity -- young-Earth Creationists and old-Earth Creationists. There are some who believe the Bible instructs them to homeschool while others homeschool by choice, not mandate.

3. Why do all homeschoolers distrust the government?

First of all, not all homeschoolers do. (see the answer to #2 above) Just because a group is loud does not mean they are a majority, it just means they are vocal.

However, for those that do distrust the government, it is a very emotional issue that cannot be addressed satisfactorily with logic or reason.

4. Do homeschoolers really perform better on standardized tests than their public school counterparts do?

Research indicates that those homeschoolers who take the standardized tests do perform better on average than their public school counterparts. However, it could have as much to do with selectivity as it does with performance because not all homeschoolers take these tests.

5. Do you believe the Common Core will lead to further growth in alternative education such as homeschooling?

Fear is a great motivator (election cycles remind us of this all the time), and change breeds fear many times. An issue as galvanizing as the Common Core could actually lead to an increase in homeschoolers because parents will move toward safety -- when homeschool becomes safer than Common Core in the minds of families, it could lead to greater movement to the former.

6. What do you mean when you say "mainstream homeschoolers"?

My use of the word "mainstream" has more to do with the reasons behind their choice and the way they interact in the world than it does with any philosophical, spiritual, or political bent. In my view you can be mainstream and Christian, mainstream and Muslim, mainstream and agnostic or atheist.

There are over 2.4 million homeschoolers in America, and growing. My contention is the majority of them are quietly educating their children at home because they believe that is best for their situation. For them, education is the primary motivator in the decision though faith and values are also important to them -- whatever their faith may be.

And, they engage with the world in manners similar to what we find across all other target markets -- they shop online; they visit local zoos/aquariums; they go to movies; they shop at Target, Macy's, or even Wal Mart; they participate in sports, activities, and clubs; they own multiple computers (even iPads) and carry Directv or DISH -- in essence they do what everyone else does, they just happen to homeschool rather than private school or public school.

More questions to come in the future. Now back to our regularly-scheduled blog post.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Yes, if . . .

Harrison (Buzz) Price, who led the economic feasibility and site-location studies for Walt Disney that allowed for the development of Disneyland and Walt Disney World, utilized the "Yes, if . . ." approach as a basis for reasoning when he reported his research findings to Walt.

In his book Walt's Revolution! By the Numbers (Ripley Entertainment, Inc., 2003), which I had the pleasure of reading last month, Buzz states, "Walt liked this language. 'No, because' is the language of a deal killer. 'Yes, if . . .' is the approach of a deal maker. Creative people thrive on 'Yes, if . . .'"

Try the 'Yes, if . . .' approach for this month and see what changes occur.