Saturday, 2 November 2013

Disconnected, Disengaged...Or Dispossessed?

This week a report that I've been involved with over the last 10 months was finally published. I am really pleased with this research and extremely proud to be associated with it. 

This is the 5th report like this that I have worked on in the last 3 years, and there is always a great deal of anticipation about how each one will be received within the FE community.

I wasn't quite prepared for the reaction I got from some people and am left wondering if it is an issue of disconnectedness, disengagement of dispossession... and was hoping that some FE people might be able to provide some insight.

I started working on this project last December, which I anticipated would take 3-4 months to complete. I thought this was ready in April and sought the critical input from my Fantastic PLN, but got something of a mixed response... some felt the work was really good; others felt the main points could be drawn out a bit and/or structured a little better.

Six months and 2 complete restructures later, I sent the updated draft to my PLN and to some well respected tech experts. I was delighted at how positive the feedback was for the revised version, and looked forward to circulating it.

This report went out this week and there has been some great praise from people that have read it. Thank you! I am extremely grateful for all your comments and feedback... It truly does make all the work well worthwhile.

However sharing this report has highlighted an aspect of FE that I would like to explore.

This report advocates the importance of focusing in a niche target market. For me this is the UK Further Education sector.

While I do engage with a lot of US educators on Twitter, but this is because I find it useful to connect to discuss what they are doing, as it helps to generate some new ideas and develop some "slow hunches." 

For example, this new report took on an added dimention in April when I joined #EdTechChat, and saw the kind of relationships that US educators had with some of their suppliers.  

FE is a somewhat "Disconnected" area of education compared to the US, but was surprised to see that the traffic to my blog is, with more and more frequency, coming from the US and, on occasion, clicks from the UK is relegated to 3rd behind Russia, Indonesia and other countries (which I am extremely grateful for, thank you - and hello - Russian and Indonesian educators).

However, this international traffic is all from Twitter and I email updates & newsletters with links to my blog directly to my FE subscribers, so it does make me wonder if my posts are making a connection... maybe they are, but it is just that US educators are more connected. If this is the case, that's fine. However, if this is an issue of engagement, then this is more of a concern.  

When the report went out I was really surprised to see people unsubscribe from my newsletter and updates.

I'm by no means arrogant enough to think that my content is so compelling that everyone must read them. Nor am I suggesting that people should not unsubscribe from updates that are not relevant (although I was confused when people who are connected via LinkedIn unsubscribed from Mail Chimp... I may be a digital immigrant trying to figure stuff out, but I'm sure LinkedIn connections are not just for decoration?)

What is concerning with this particular project is that it has been put together with input from so many people, both within FE, and from some extremely experienced tech experts.

Indeed, I don't even feel this is my work, All I did was gather advice and practices from people at MIT, Google, Silicon Valley Tech experts & VC's and attempted to pull it together to highlight some ideas that FE might consider exploring to benefit from the advice and recommendation of these tech startup experts.

This is my 5th report, which is an attempt to produce useful content based on "In Bound Marketing" principles. I would have no problem putting any recent unsubscribers down to the fact that the content simply is not good enough and say to myself that I "Must do better" - Wonder where I have heard that before from a group of educators?

This has been my view and attitude with my other reports, but not with this one. The source material for this report came from people with a vast about of knowledge about technology and start ups. The final draft was also reviewed by people who are involved with companies that turn out GREAT EdTech... so poor content is not a factor this time.

But when I circulate this great piece of work that I am so privileged to be involved with I find that; 
  • People who are connected on one platform request not to receive my updates via on anther social media channel?
  • FE based enterprise orgs who are contacted decide, for whatever reason, not to engage.
  • It can be a challenge to get some FE organisations to even re-tweet an update any time such a request is made  
So where does this leave things? 

The sector didn't seem to appreciate tired old "out bound" cold-calls... but attempts at Community Engagement appears to have its challenges as well. 

I know that people with sales experience are renowned for their persistence and ability to take rejection, but this is bordering on the ridiculous... Anyone who didn't have the thick skin of a "recovering salesman" might start to take it personally.

As I detail in my latest report, experienced tech entrepreneurs can tend to stay away from education, if they have the choice of entering other niche target markets with their products. I've always been a bit of a slow learner but, after 13 years, I'm starting to see what they mean. The irony here is that this new report suggests that, with a little effort and planning, FE could be a fantastic niche target market. 

I have been known to be persistent with my projects, and am life long learner who is not afraid of critical input in the name of self improvement. 

So I'll try a more direct approach to cold calls and exploring inbound marketing... to simply ask the sector what its looking for. Therefore, if you are involved in UK Further Education I would be extremely grateful if you could take a moment to let me know;
  • What kind of engagement the sector is looking for from their suppliers
  • Which suppliers are producing the best services in terms of their sales team, product quality, customer service, user friendliness
  • Any individual sales people or account managers who are exceptional at what they do, so I can see if they might be willing to give me some tips and advice about their techniques and practices.
I see some fantastic EdTech coming out of the US as a result of collaborative approaches and a lot of companies looking for inbound marketing techniques, and thought that they would be well received in FE too... and maybe they will be. But, for now at least, there sure is a feeling of being dispossessed.

Makes you wonder if maybe it's time to move on... 

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