Companies are consolidating. Publishers are re-strategizing and re-reorganizing. Developers of educational products and services are selling to districts with historically tight budgets. And the districts themselves are rethinking the way they buy given the various pressures and uncertainties in government. All these elements are beyond the control of leaders who are being held accountable for their companies' success. So what can your company do about its core "go-to-market" sales and marketing strategies in order to stay relevant in a changing school market?
This is the second article in the Education Market Leadership Series. Before you read on, I suggest you quickly review the introduction to the series and the exercise I proposed in article #1.
In my previous article I discussed a simple but critical step of company leadership: acknowledging what they can’t control. In that article I also bluntly stated that people who work for companies that serve the education market love their products more than their customers do. I say this because I see it often. A big part of my job as an objective advisor is to help identify blind spots and denial issues. These can come from legacy attitudes or company identity narratives that aren’t as true as they used to be, yet still drive the organization’s overall thinking and behavior.
The way your employees see your company determines the stories they tell about the company (consciously or unconsciously), and therefore, determine what everyone in the organization believes. That overriding belief, manifest in the organization’s collective mind, is what determines which issues, problems, solutions, or market forces the company’s leadership team and employees will or will not consider, and how they will consider them. Further, these stories and beliefs affect a company’s processes. It’s important to understand this causal link between the company narrative and the company processes, because once we establish processes, we have a tendency to make them habits. In other words, after a time, our processes go unexamined. When a market is in flux, as it is in the education industry, unexamined processes may lead to less than stellar outcomes.
In order to maintain, reestablish, or even create continuing relevance with the school market, I developed a sequential process that helps leaders reexamine their processes so they can stay as relevant and connected as possible in a changing market. I call it the Quintessential Process because it helps uncover less than ideal processes and reveals what type of process will yield optimum results. This process has four steps:
The Quintessential Process™ not only uncovers and identifies core debilitating issues, it also reveals the most effective way for you and your leadership team to change processes in order to create optimal outcomes and fully optimize your business. The process is also key to uncovering big new opportunities.
Leaders of companies that serve the education market will find value in looking outside our industry for examples of how important it is to reassess. A good example of this is when Apple stopped defining the company as the enemy of Microsoft and began defining itself as a company that introduces technology that is so disruptive that it redefines entire industries. A bad example is what Kodak did when it invented the digital camera. The company that was defined as inventors, innovators, and, largely, film developers, failed to find a way to take advantage of a technology that would eventually render film irrelevant.
It's funny how most of the business world missed the irony of Thursday, January 19, 2012. That day Apple, once a struggling computer company, announced a new technology that promises to revolutionize the textbook industry. It was also the day that Kodak—a company that once owned 85% of camera sales and 90% of film sales announced it was filing for Chapter 11. The company that owned the film processing business failed to uncover blind spots and denial issues that led to nearly fatal business processes. When markets change, processes need to be reexamined. In closing—it's a simple statement of fact that, like Kodak, too many leaders of businesses that serve the education market ignore, to their own detriment, the need for reexamination.
For the next article in this series, we’ll dive a bit into the sales process and discuss The Four Rules of Engagement, as well as whether to throw out your current product demonstration.