EIA is evolving and adapting to new market conditions and opportunities–just as many of you are as successful entrepreneurs! In a post-SES environment that calls for new business models and approaches, EIA has sought out constructive working relationships with school districts, their leadership and their local boards to cultivate a climate that is more welcoming to the private sector.
We believe that mutually respectful relationships between EIA and national associations of local education stakeholders will translate into positive business opportunities for EIA members as you engage with districts and principals to help all students achieve their very best.
This does not mean we will not have policy differences at the federal and local levels; I am sure there will be such instances, but EIA will remain on the moral high-ground and fulfill the values embodied in our campaign’s tag line: private ventures for the public good.
Here are some examples in action today.
We have launched a long-term Procurement Initiative to fix a system that is virtually broken or dysfunctional in many school districts across the country. We see no justifiable reason for bids-to-contracts-to-implementation to span 12-18 months! Teaming up with AASA-The School Superintendents Association, the League of Innovative Schools (Digital Promise) and The Parthenon Group, EIA is about to launch a national survey of districts across the country that will identify common chokepoints and promising solutions to streamline the purchasing process.
This same initiative will highlight effective selling practices that vendors should use. I realize that many of you consider yourselves experienced and successful K-12 sales professionals, and that’s great. But, are you satisfied with your current results? And I am sure there are other readers of this column that have a great educational tool, product, or service but lack real knowledge concerning how to sell into the public school market.
EIA’s Procurement Initiative will produce practical solutions useful to both buyers and sellers. We are aiming high. And we are working in full partnership with school district leadership.
Building upon the success at the last Education Industry Days Summit that featured presentations from leading school superintendents who discussed changes in their systems, EIA will continue our focus at the upcoming EDVentures Conference and beyond. It is critical that our conversations about education reform and best practices to support students and schools include our customers–our partners. In Dallas, we will ask representatives of large urban and suburban districts to describe their buying priorities and best practices for interacting with vendors. This format will continue as we report out the results of the national procurement study.
For those of you with an annual marketing budget of at least $12,000, we recommend that you consider applying to the AASA’s School Solutions Center. This brand-building and advertising strategy essentially promotes your solution to more than 9,000 superintendents, and includes an implicit endorsement from their national association. It’s is not for everyone but it can be a powerful complement to an organization’s sales campaign. To listen to a recent conference call held with AASA officials discussing the opportunities of marketing through the SSC, click here.
One of the solutions to local purchasing woes is through local purchasing cooperatives that connect neighboring districts to issue a common RFP. EIA is taking this solution to the national level through a new partnership with the National Joint Powers Alliance (NNJPA) that is described in detail in another article in this newsletter. This is most beneficial for companies with a national sales strategy. Just imagine competing in a single RFP at the national level for a host of curricula, ed-tech, and instructional services desired by schools. And if you are awarded a national contract by NJPA, your sales team simply conducts business development with local districts using the national contract, obviating the requirement of local RFPs.
We will continue to identify pragmatic and high-value and –return services to EIA members whether you sell to schools or to private-pay families. Look for an upcoming announcement of a benchmarking study of learning center business metrics. We will also continue to convene operators of schools (proprietary and charters) to share best practices. And for emerging companies, EIA will re-double its support using mentoring, evaluation services from Johns Hopkins University, and assistance from accelerators.
I encourage all of you to let me know what you think of these new EIA initiatives. One thing’s for sure: this is not your “grand-father’s” EIA!