Edtech blog

What’s the point of your product?

Author: Terry Freedman

Terry freedman is a freelance ed tech writer and consultant. He blogs at ICT & Computing in Education, and tweets as @terryfreedman.

A few years ago I read a review of a new product in a popular technology magazine, and by the end of the article, I had a pretty good idea of whether or not the product was any good.

The only thing I hadn’t managed to find out was what it actually did.

It was a classic case of the reviewer knowing what the product was for, but there seemed to be the implicit assumption that the rest of us did too.

Another way of thinking about this type of thing is to approach it through the lens of features vs benefits. Those in the know might rave about the features, but the features are ultimately only any good insofar as they confer benefits.

There are a couple of very useful techniques for ensuring that your marketing emphasises benefits rather than features.

The very first one is to assume that the people who are making purchasing decisions in schools are probably not going to be technically-minded. Even if they are, at some point they are likely to be asked by a non-techie to justify their spending decisions. You should make it easy for them to do so in your materials.

The other useful technique is to ask – and then answer – a very simple question: what is your product actually for? In other words, what problem does it solve? Because, frankly, if it does not solve a problem, or you have to think about it for a while, then what’s the point of its existence?

The follow-up question, then, is: how? And that is where the features come in.

For example, a problem at the moment is what a recent study at Stanford University refers to as “Zoom fatigue”. Also, kids learning from home may not be getting the amount of physical exercise they should.

Another study showed that walking on a treadmill enhances creative thinking. Now, there are quite a few apps and programs that interrupt your work every so often to say “Time for a break or a stretch”, and perhaps your online learning materials have a similar feature. If your marketing material states that there are built-in breaks, some people might interpret that as a negative thing: the kids are supposed to be learning, not having a stretch.

A likely more effective approach is:

  1. state the problem: kids lose concentration after sitting in online lessons for hours on end;
  2. show how your product solves the problem: not only does it make the kids get up, but the act of getting up actually improves their learning.

I don’t think this is rocket science, but it’s very easy when you know a product really well and you are excited by its many “cool” features, to forget that most of the people you’re targeting probably couldn’t care less – at least, not initially. They have a problem, and they need something that will solve it in as simple and as cost-effective a way as possible.

Terry Freedman

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant and writer, having had a long career in Education, including teaching, advising schools and inspecting. He publishes the ICT and Computing in Education website at www.ictineducation.org, and the Digital Education newsletter at www.ictineducation.org/diged. You can follow Terry on Twitter @terryfreedman.

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