It has been over four years to the day when we stumbled across the metaphorical pot of gold at the end of the business rainbow and if you know what that means, we thought we had it made! Ending my poetic rhetoric here, we worked our way up the skill ladder and chanced upon a market opportunity which was just waiting to be taken. I mean, in an industry (education) which markets exclusively to students, everyone’s guess would be that it spends most of its marketing dollar on digital platforms. But that was far from the truth and in that knowledge we found our niche and the beginnings to our entrepreneurial journey of providing digital marketing solutions to the education industry.
Like every new venture, ours has seen its fair share of cloudy days although a robust business model and the right niche we chose made sure a silver lining was never far away. Now if I told you that it wasn’t the easiest thing to setup and run a technology enabled start up, I would only be one among the 19000 Indians saying so, not adding much to what you already knew. But what’s more important than the challenges is what your own venture teaches you, especially when it involves dealing with a niche market that is just waking up to what you do.
So here are the 5 things that my digital marketing start up for the education industry have taught me:
#1 Know before you show!
The way in which revenue is calculated in the education sector is very different from the corporate world and trusts work very differently from corporate investors. Why I am saying this is, because it is imperative to you know your client’s business model and how they function before you take your offering to them. We all put in a lot of effort into a common business problem and plugging it with a solution, but getting the client’s context right is more than critical. There is a high likelihood that you end up miscalculating where you fit into their scheme of things and lose out on a great opportunity.
#2 Improve your coffee skills, products and services will shape up eventually!
As an entrepreneur servicing the education sector and someone who is extremely passionate about his service offering, this is one lesson I have learnt the hard way. Be prepared to get your morning and evening coffees with your clients. Now I am not asking you to show up at their door every morning with a cup in your hand, but meeting your clients very frequently will not only keep you in their partner list for the coming times, it will help you shape up your offering portfolio with the feedback coming straight from where you need it the most.
#3 Don’t wait for a wave, create one!
The education industry is an ocean of opportunities, but someone inadvertently forgot to add waves to it. What I mean is, opportunities exist but they usually lack the push, and here is where the go getters succeed. For many of our clients we have actually stitched together a campaign with all the bells and whistles before even getting a first meeting with them, and if I am to be believed at all, this increases your chances at closing a deal by over 50%. Try it and you’ll be positively surprised.
#4 Ask where you don’t know; where you know ask nonetheless!
What surprises me is that most marketers actually miss the agenda for which they exist! Clients do know their audiences very well and they will always have more interaction with them than agencies ever will. So if you think you might hit a roadblock, ask questions before it is too late, and if you think you know where you are headed, ask nonetheless. After all we are in it for their benefit, aren’t we?
#5 Don’t teach the teacher!
This is literally true for digital marketers catering to the education industry and metaphorically implies to other industries as well. In my experience working with educators, they turn out the brightest of young minds every year and when they are on the receiving end of knowledge, they expect you to be as thorough as they are. But isn’t that true about all your clients no matter which industry they come from? Absolutely! It is always the best practice to keep clients informed about even the most minor snags in a campaign, even if that means stretching an hourly meeting to a half day affair with an extra few cups of coffee.
We live in exciting times where the start up space in India is seeing an unprecedented spurt of growth and our entrepreneurial mettle is taking the global stage by storm. While there are many statistics that show a lot of start ups doomed for failure, a few important lessons as an entrepreneur might just help you get through the storm where your product or idea might not be enough for you to sail through.