How to survive Bett 2018: 5 tips to get you through the UK’s biggest education show

How to survive Bett 2017: 5 tips to get you through the UK's biggest education show

For many of you this week will be about one thing and one thing alone.  The stand will have been built and the first queue of visitors will soon be going through the doors. In can only be the Bett show.

The Bett show seems to get bigger and bigger each year with the exhibitors becoming more and more creative around how they attract the visitors to their stands, meaning it’s always an endurance contest for exhibitors and visitors alike!   Here are my 5 top tips to help you survive the Bett show:

 

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Nothing can prepare you for how long, hot and tiring the day at Bett can be. The canny exhibitors know how big a draw the promise of some refreshing water or a hot coffee and the opportunity for a sit-down can be and offer these free to visitors on their stands. Be prepared and take a water bottle or risk dehydration. (Ditto lip balm – it’s a hostile environment in there!)

 

2. Throat sweets

You’re about to spend the next four days talking to potential clients and suppliers and, what with 800+ companies exhibiting and god knows how many visitors attending, the noise will be deafening! I’ll give you until Thursday evening before you’re on the Soothers.

 

3. Comfy shoes

Don’t look at your lovely new shoes that go really well with your suit and think “they’ll be alright”. They won’t.  Excel is a huge venue – whether you’re a visitor or an exhibitor you are going to walk for miles and spend hours and hours on your feet. Choose the comfiest, oldest shoes you own – you’ll be glad you did.

 

4. Mints (and gum, etc.)

It may or may not be for you, but there are lots of people who really take advantage of the socialising and networking opportunities the Bett show offers. And by that, I mean lots of booze, restaurants and late nights. . . . which is a great thing to do but can often leave you and your colleagues feeling a little special in the morning. So do everyone a favour and have a good supply of mints and gum for anyone who needs it. And paracetamol for that matter.

 

5. Enjoy yourself

No matter how tiring you find it, Bett is a fantastic opportunity to network, find out what’s going on technology-wise in the education market and build relationships. Everyone who attends is there for a reason – they want to find out more. Everyone who exhibits is also there for a reason – they want to showcase their new stuff to schools and academies. Smile and enjoy it – it’s a fantastic opportunity to be made the most of (even if you can’t walk at the end of it!)

Best wishes to all exhibitors and visitors at #Bett2018 – hope you have a fantastic show!

Perfectionism is just Procrastination in disguise

Perfectionism is just Procrastination in disguise . . . and Procrastination will kill a product release stone dead.

You see this happen all the time in software, and unfortunately Edtech is no exception!   Companies aim to only release a 100% perfect product because they fall into one of these traps:

 

1. They honestly believe they can create an amazing solution through ‘thinking things up’ in their office/bedroom/ivory tower.

What they really need to do is get their solution out into the real world to see if it really meets the customers’ needs.

 

2.  They’re scared of messing up so spend a lot of time strategizing to try and ensure they don’t fail at all.

The truth is the only way anyone can create an amazing solution is by putting it in front of your customers, getting feedback and learning from it.

 

The problem is that all this Perfectionism is bad for business.  Waiting and waiting to release what you believe to be the perfect solution simply allows your competitors to gain feedback, make improvements and win your market.  All you need is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to take to market and an open mind – the customers will tell you exactly what you need to do to create a perfect solution!

 

 

 

 

Photo by Braydon Anderson on Unsplash

How to take a break

Hello Summer!  The school holidays are here at last and it’s a time when most of us get a well-earned break.  However, actually taking that break isn’t always as easy as it sounds when work is nagging at the back of your mind.  No amount of sun, sea and children telling you they’re bored can stop you from thinking about that proposal that needs to be submitted in the first week back or how you’re going to achieve next month’s financial targets.  So, to help you have the break you deserve, here are my top 5 tips for taking a break.

1. Write a To Do list

It sounds obvious but, if it looks like you’re not going to get everything done that you want, write a To Do list for when you’re back.  Not only will the act of writing down your tasks make you feel better on a mental level, it will give you a clear plan for what you need to crack on with when you get back to work and the holidays seem like a distant memory!

 

2.  Plan your social media

If you want to continue engaging via social media while you’re taking a break then there are a number of options available.  Social media management tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer are excellent and allow you to schedule tweets, etc. for while you’re away.  As an alternative, there are lots of companies who will do these updates for you while you’re away and keep you in touch with your friends and followers.

 

3. Let your customers know when you are due to go away and – more importantly – when you will be back

If possible let you key clients know when you’re due to be on leave and be sure to put your ‘Out of Office’ on in your email system and update your voicemail to let them know when you will be able to get back to them.  Everyone expects you to take a break, but what’s really important is setting the expectation with your clients so they know when they can expect to hear from you.

If you really don’t want to miss any calls or delay any email responses then there are other services you can use, which brings me on to:

 

4. Get some help to complete urgent tasks

There are lots of great independent companies offering virtual PA services that can be invaluable in helping you take a break.  Everything from writing and proofing important reports and getting expenses submitted to answering phones and emails as mentioned above can be outsourced.

 

5. If you want to check your phone/email then do so but only occasionally

I’m aware the generally accepted advice here is to turn off your phone and “don’t think about work until you’re back”.  However, it’s not always as simple as that – especially if it’s your own business or you are responsible for an ongoing large deal or key client.  Ignoring the phone and email can actually end up making you feel more anxious during your time off.  So if you do feel the need to check you messages then do so, but just make sure the phone only goes on occasionally.

 

I hope these tips help and everyone gets at least a little time off to relax over the Summer holidays

 

 

Why are schools so difficult to sell to?

UK schools spend around £85 billion EVERY YEAR!  The education market is a dynamic, innovative sector that loves new technology and ideas which have a genuine impact on young people’s lives.  So why are schools so difficult to sell to?   How many of these frustrations have you felt:

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  • If there are 30,000+ schools in the UK alone, why aren’t more of them buying my product?
  • The market’s completely saturated; there are tons of competitors with lower-priced products and the big companies take all the market share
  • If schools only knew about my company they’d definitely buy – the product sells itself
  • The schools who use my product think it’s good, why don’t the others understand?
  • Why am I not further ahead by now?  What am I missing?

My guess is you may have felt most of the above as almost everyone selling into education does!

 

The truth of it is, selling to schools is VERY different to business and consumer selling.  Schools are under enormous pressure to perform from the government and parents alike while, at the same time, managing a complex and usually dwindling budget.

Add to that the fact that they are being sold to by everyone and receive literally hundreds of pieces of sales literature (emails, letters, brochures, phone calls) every week.  Your message will really need to resonate to cut through all the noise.

To successfully sell to schools you need to have the following:

  • A value proposition which genuinely articulates what problem it is you’re going to help that school solve. No wishy-washy language here – get straight to the point.
  • A good idea of exactly which schools, and which people within those schools, are your ideal customers. Trying a scattergun approach such as a national telesales or email campaign is unlikely to work – you’re simply throwing money away.
  • A compelling reason for schools to talk to you. What are you providing them with which is of value to them?  Why should they give up their time to talk to you?

There are more tips in my blog 3 mistakes nearly everyone makes when selling to schools.  It’s not easy cracking the education market but it’s a genuinely innovative and rewarding market when you do  ?

 

 

Reaching the right person

Reaching the right person

This post is about the question I am undoubtedly asked the most by large and small businesses alike: how do I reach the right person?  Everyone wants to be able to get an audience with the elusive ‘decision maker’ and it still remains one of the most difficult challenges facing growing businesses.

The reality is that, within education, the actual name of whichever person you are trying to contact (be that an Assistant Head at the local secondary school or an Assistant Director of Children’s Services at a local authority) is usually quite easy to find.  The real question is not how to ‘reach’ them, but how to engage with them.  These are my top tips for engaging the right person to help drive your business.

 

Do your research

Due to the nature of the education landscape, contact names within schools, academies and local government can almost always be found either with a bit of online research or by putting in a phone call to the relevant organisation.  A lot of info can be gleaned from DfE lists (although I would double-check the details as this goes out of date quickly) and there are lots of companies who will provide data for you.  Spending time on getting the right contact details will not only increase your success rate, but also present a professional and credible image for your company.

 

Approach your contacts in the right way

Much as we would like it to, cold-calling and traditional telesales campaigns rarely work when it comes to reaching high-level decision makers in the education market.  Ultimately the people you are trying to contact are unlikely to ever be in a position to answer the phone to an unknown outside organisation.  They are more likely to be busy with teaching and pastoral duties, dealing with parents and working with the SLT.  However, our research shows that these decision makers do make time to go through their email and open their addressed post so it’s likely that first contact made in this way is likely to have a greater impact.

 

Say something that’s relevant to them

All too often I see letter and email campaigns based around how good a company’s product or service is which implores the decision maker to find out more.  In reality, the way in which your solution works is never going to create engagement with the high level contact you’re trying to reach as, while its important to you, it’s unlikely to be important to them.  Think about what is on their mind, what’s keeping them awake at night.  For example, a school may be having a particular issue with truancy; as a result the Assistant Head may be looking for something which helps ensure that school is safeguarding children.

Ultimately, if your campaign shows that you understand what’s important to them and, better still, articulates how your solution will help with the issue (the ‘value proposition’ which I will cover in another post) then you have a far better chance of engaging with the right person and creating a meaningful relationship.

Good luck and be patient; it is possible to reach the magical ‘decision makers’ but it takes a bit of planning and a lot of effort!

 

Sarah

 

3 mistakes nearly everyone makes when selling to schools

3 mistakes nearly everyone makes when selling to schools

So you’ve created a product, be it a piece of technology, clever software or an invaluable service, and you’re pretty sure it’s something schools need and would love to buy.  But when you start contacting schools to tell them about your fabulous product by post, phone and email you get no response.  Where are you going wrong?

Selling to schools is VERY different to business and consumer selling.  Schools are under enormous pressure to perform from the government and parents alike while, at the same time, managing a complex and usually dwindling budget.  Here are the top 3 mistakes nearly everyone makes when selling to schools:

 

1. Schools are buildings – they don’t buy.

Companies tend to try and sell to schools generically as if it is the actual school that’s going to buy.  But schools are buildings, bricks and mortar, it’s the people inside who will have a need for your product.  Have you thought about who it is you need to target?  Will your product support teaching and learning and, if so, do you know which teachers to try and contact?  Is your product designed to save time and money in the office and, if so, do you know who the business manager is?  Thinking about your end user will help you reach the right person.

 

2. Decisions take time because there are lots of people involved

Salespeople often wonder why a school hasn’t purchased because they don’t take into account the decision-making process for schools; they almost always forecast the sale to close way too soon (if at all!).  In schools, it’s not unusual for the vast majority of purchasing decisions to go to a Governors meeting for discussion and approval and this may only happen once a month.  In addition, if a purchase is over a certain threshold then they usually need to speak to other suppliers and get quotes to be absolutely sure they’re getting best value.  This means the sales cycle can be quite long and is very competitive – you need to make sure your product offers real value!   In the case of really large purchases a full competitive tender will be required which can take months so you need to forecast carefully.

 

3. Never underestimate the power of peer-to-peer recommendations

Teachers, school leaders and support staff respect the opinions of their peers within the education industry.  If you can build a relationship with a team at a school and prove the value of your product or service then the introductions they can make for you could be priceless.  However, it works both ways so not making good on a promise or delivering something of low quality could lead to a dent in your reputation.  Either way, never underestimate the power of peer-to-peer recommendations, education networks are vital when selling to schools.

 

These are my top 3 common mistakes but there are many, many more!  What’s your biggest challenge when selling to schools?

 

 

 

How to take a break

Christmas is nearly upon us and it’s a time when most of us get a well-earned break, if not through to the New Year then hopefully for a day or two at least.  However, actually taking that break isn’t always as easy as it sounds when work is nagging at the back of your mind.  No amount of sprouts, monopoly and Strictly specials can stop you from thinking about that proposal that needs to be submitted in the first week back or how you’re going to achieve next year’s financial targets.  So, to help you have the break you deserve, here are my top 5 tips for taking a break.

 

1.Write a To Do list

It sounds obvious but, if it looks like you’re not going to get everything done that you want, write a To Do list for the New Year.  Not only will the act of writing down your tasks make you feel better on a mental level, it will give you a clear plan for what you need to crack on with when you get back to work in the New Year and December seems like a distant memory!

 

2. Plan your social media

If you want to continue engaging via social media while you’re taking a break then there are a number of options available.  Social media management tools such as Buffer are excellent and allow you to schedule tweets, facebook updates, etc. for while you’re away.  As an alternative, there are lots of companies who will do these updates for you while you’re away and keep you in touch with your friends and followers.

 

3. Let your customers know when you are due to go away and – more importantly – when you will be back

If possible let you key clients know when you’re due to be on leave and be sure to put your ‘Out of Office’ on in your email system and update your voicemail to let them know when you will be able to get back to them.  Everyone expects you to take a break, but what’s really important is setting the expectation with the client so they know when they can expect to hear from you.

If you really don’t want to miss any calls or delay any email responses then there are other services you can use, which brings me on to:

 

4. Get some help to complete urgent tasks

There are lots of great independent companies offering virtual PA services that can be invaluable in helping you take a break.  Everything from writing and proofing important reports and getting expenses submitted to answering phones and emails as mentioned above can be outsourced.

 

5. If you want to check your phone/email then do so but only occasionally

I’m aware the generally accepted advice here is to turn off your phone and “don’t think about work until you’re back”.  However, it’s not always as simple as that – especially if it’s your own business or you are responsible for an ongoing large deal or key client.  Ignoring the phone and email can actually end up making you feel more anxious during your time off.  So if you do feel the need to check you messages then do so, but just make sure the phone only goes on occasionally.

 

I hope these tips help and everyone gets at least a little time off to relax this Christmas.

 

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

 

 

 

How to turn your blog readers into customers

How to turn your blog readers into customers

If you’re reading this then I’m guessing you have a blog and are creating lots of content designed to interest and attract your target market over to your website.

 

However, it’s hard work coming up with ideas, and takes time to write a decent blog and share it across the relevant platforms.  It makes it all the more frustrating when, after all the blood, sweat and tears, no-one seems to be reacting to your blog.  It’s like nobody cares.

 

So what’s the one simple thing you can to generate more business from your blog?  Add a visual Call To Action.

 

A Call To Action is a clickable image which drives the reader to take additional action once they’ve read your blog.  They’re most traditionally associated with e-commerce (think the ‘buy now’ button you find on websites) but they should be used with all content marketing to drive the type of behaviour you want.

 

It’s important to think about what it is you’d like your readers to do after reading your blog post and this will depend on your type of business.  If your business offers services and consultancy then your Call To Action should encourage the reader to get in contact to discuss their requirements so you can make some recommendations on how to help.  If you sell software or solutions then perhaps your Call To Action could offer a free trial.

 

Once you’ve decided on your Call To Action all you need to do is create a nice visual image which clearly states your desired action and include it with every blog post.  Easy peasy eh??  Actually it is.  I created the Call To Action image below for my education consultancy using a powerpoint slide and a free stock photograph (if you’d like the template just get in touch and I’ll make it available).

Fancy a free 30-minute phone consultation?
Fancy a free 30-minute phone consultation?

 

The vast majority of my clients offer products and services, but visual Calls To Action such as the one above sound obvious but are often over-looked as a marketing tool.  The key is to make them clear, simple and highly visible; they’re fantastic for creating deeper engagement and make it easier for your potential customers to come to you.

 

 

 

3 reasons why your spooky CV is scaring potential employers

3 reasons why your spooky CV is scaring potential employers

Is there something on your CV scaring potential employers away?  I asked my clients what puts them off when they’re hiring – their top 3 reasons are below.

 

You sound like a zombie

Is your CV full of corporate clichés such as “good team player with the ability to work well alone” or “tenacious new business hunter”?  These statements could well be true but sound incredibly generic and come up time and time again, making your CV blend in with the rest of the drone.  Try to find ways to describe your skills and achievements using your own voice as opposed to the standard spiel.

 

It’s covered in cobwebs

Lots of people, on deciding they’d like to apply for a new job, simply get out their old CV from god-knows-how many years ago and add an extra bit at the top to describe their current role.  That’s it.  What you should be doing is looking at your CV as a whole and re-shaping it to truly reflect the person you are now.  A lot will have changed since you last wrote your CV and it can end up reading like a CV written by two different people.  Dust the cobwebs off the document as a whole, because employers will certainly be looking at it as a whole.

 

It’s all Tricks and no Treats

Everyone wants to be able to ‘talk up’ their achievements on their CV in order to impress and this is absolutely fine.  However, when you do so you need to make sure you have a decent story to substantiate it or you risk looking daft.  Saying that you were “Central to the delivery of £45m revenue in pumpkin sales in October for a large supermarket chain” is fine, and is something your potential employer is likely to ask you about.  If they then find out that this was when you had a holiday job shelf-stacking in 2002 they’re probably going to be less than impressed and start to question all the genuinely great stuff on your CV too!

 

 

 

 

6 essential ingredients every website needs

6 essential ingredients every website needs

Everyone knows that to look credible and professional your business should have a website.  However, when you’re first starting out it’s difficult to know what to include so I’ve created the list below of website essentials – things you MUST include from the beginning to get your business going:

 

 1. Overview of the product/service itself – this is an obvious one but it needs to be really clear from the outset what it is your product or service does and the benefits users can expect.  There also needs to be a very clear and easy way to make a purchase.

 

2. Contact details – how many times have you been on a website but can’t find a number to call them on for love nor money? You’ll need to include a company phone number and company email address to field any enquiries and make is as easy as possible for your customers to engage with you.  People prefer to call landline numbers but if you don’t have a business landline there are lots of companies who provide virtual landline numbers for a few quid per month.  You should also make sure that your website has links to your social media platforms so people can easily follow you; be sure to include your Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other details across the website.

 

3. Customer stories/case studies – any feedback you get from the people using your product or experiencing your service is hugely valuable.  Try to capture as much in writing (or video/voice recording) as possible and request permission to use it on the website and marketing.  Peer recommendations are so important so you will want to use positive feedback as much as you can.

 

4. About Us – you use an area like this to provide some reassurance around the fact that this company knows what it’s doing!  It’s here where you can talk about your background and experience and position yourself as a leader in the field.  You can also add links to press and publications if you wish.

 

5. Blog – this is an area you should use to write about topics which are interesting to your target market, and then post links on social media and in email newsletters.  The objective here is to drive extra visitors to your website who may then buy.

 

6. A way of collecting contact information – once you’ve encouraged visitors to your site, you need to find a way of capturing their data so you can build a list of leads. You should include a sign up box for a newsletter and maybe offer a free resource such as an ebook in exchange for contact details.  There are all sorts of options using pop-up boxes so you should explore and find the one which works best for you.

 

There are lots of free website building resources out there so you can have a practise run on a variety of platforms; the main thing is to make sure the website gets across exactly what your customers need to hear.

Creating your first business and first website can be intimidating but if you follow the guidelines above you’ll include everything you need to launch.  Your website is a key element of your overall marketing strategy as it’s your shop window for potential customers – it’s worth spending time getting the content right.