EdTech startups, want to build awareness? Build an authentic brand

Edtech brand

What is a brand?

It’s not a logo, it’s not a marketing campaign, and it’s not your mission statement. It’s the soul of your company – what makes you, YOU. Think of your company purpose, mission, vision, values, and personality.

We've worked together on a number of startup projects where branding never failed to improve customer perceptions, and even employee morale. 

Building an authentic brand is the key to compelling communication that generates awareness and to building meaningful relationships with all stakeholders, including your customers.  

In the EdTech Market today, there is so much competition and feature parity that it’s critical to showcase who you are and what you stand for through your brand.

Again, achieving this is not as simple as creating a logo and pretty packaging. You've got to dig deep into the psyche of your organization and tell your story.

The heavier the competition you face and the deeper your need to create awareness, the more you need to invest in telling your story, so that you can leverage your brand to beat out your competitors in reaching your audience.

There are so many well-known examples of strong brands winning the market over that I hope I don’t have to make this case for you here. Take your pick

Edtech companies struggle to differentiate their brands

When it comes to the education technology industry brands struggle to differentiate. This was incredibly apparent walking the exhibition hall floor at ISTE this year.

Walking the floor we read “improve outcomes”, “save teachers time”, and  “engage students” over and over again.

We get it. Everyone’s done the research and these are the boxes that decision-makers and influencers need to check. So, the market is saturated with brands making the same promises the same way.

The good news is that this makes it a great time to stand out. It’s time to dig deep and develop an authentic voice to communicate to your story and attract an audience thirsty for something authentic – something that "gets" them.

Instead of focusing entirely on product benefits, share why you are in the market in the first place. What is your purpose? Today's emotional consumers want to know.

Brand mistakes you can’t afford to make

As you do the work to develop your brand, don't make these mistakes. They'll cost you in the long run.

Assuming Educators Are One Big Homogenous Group

Don’t treat educators, administrators, and students as homogenous groups of consumers. To do so is to commit the marketing fallacy we call ‘casting the widest net’. This is what companies that don’t know their audience do.

Instead, invest in finding out who your customers and end-users really are. Take the time to refine their personas. Focus groups, surveys, and interviews may not be enough... you might just need to make friends.

Once your personas are created you'll know who your brand will speak to most. Develop your communication with them in mind, while staying true to who you are. Target this persona to get early adopters, to conduct pilots, to develop case studies

Not Conducting Your Own Research.

Only you can get to know your customers. Stop relying on shallow research conducted by large firms asking unimaginative and predictable questions. This research is designed to produce a high-level report that can appeal to as many clients as possible. It's not enough to develop a clear and precise understanding of your customers or their culture.

Your brand, is who you are. Use it as the lens through which you conduct your research. Focus on how to frame and get the most out of your conversations, surveys, or interviews. 

Don’t try to be the “next big thing”. The next big thing didn’t.

'Fake 'til you make it' is some of the most common advice startup CEOs get. Don't get us wrong, projecting confidence and believing in your product is essential.

But sometimes, startups trying so hard to be "the next big thing" over-embellish, over promise, and speak too soon. To. Their. Detriment.   

If you spend your precious startup dollars keeping up appearances you'll miss out on great opportunities to work your brand journey. Every great business started somewhere. Be open about where you're really at, share your story, and people who believe in you will want to help.

Not Owning Your Voice

Decide who you are and what you stand for independent of what you think people want from you. Stop telling customers what you think they want to hear and start saying something you believe in. That honesty is more compelling and refreshing than anything.

It’s true, showing personality can be risky. Saying the wrong thing can really get you into trouble. Do we even need to bring up last year's Pepsi commercial fiasco? On the flip side, if you have the courage to say what needs to be said, to hear your stakeholders and express the shared values between you, then you have everything to gain.

If your company is struggling with positioning, awareness, or buy-in (building stronger relationships) we can help and it all starts with your company's brand. 

Roxanne Desforges