Marketing an Edtech Startup (on a student budget)
Louis Havriliuc // 02.09.2012
Simbound is the world's first e-Marketing simulation game. Our mission is to provide a relevant and entertaining internet marketing learning experience
Being a startup that promotes Internet Marketing skills development we gain credibility and establish brand awareness by executing quality e-Marketing strategies. As many other emerging edtech technologies we have to grow out from a frugal resource base and innovate in order to obtain reach, adoption and eventually funding. This creates an interesting experiment condition that provides opportunities for innovation. Over the last 3-4 months we have presented our early game version to various interested parties: University professors from Alaska down to the Philippines, content publishers, VC Investors, possible partners and of course end-users. We achieved this with a minimum cash investment. So how did we do it ?
Marketing is in the product so a lot of the work was done by the idea itself: a simulation of commercial advertising platforms built for educational purposes. We're starting to see the initial vision take shape -to offer interesting marketing case studies whether they are related to Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing, E-mail Marketing or Rich scenarios of multiple dimensions that require brainy insight to work on.
Next we'll go through some of the internet marketing channels that we consider important for our concept. We've also ranked the different operations in terms of costs, time requirements, difficulty of executing and return on investment (such as leads, customers etc) on a three star rating system.
Inbound Marketing Strategy Cost ** Time *** Difficulty ** Return ***
Inbound Marketing Strategy is mainly executed through our website and our blog which are unique sources of content inside the business/marketing simulations game world. Exploiting our content assets with the purpose of attracting prospects to our web property is an encompassing approach that incapsulates all other web outreach tactics. Our website is an easy to navigate webfront and is built using an in-house CMS system that allows us to collect, manage and reach out to leads collected from various landing pages (demo sign-up, newsletter sign-up etc). The blog is updated constantly with quality written articles that stand at the forefront of promoting experiential marketing education through simulations.
SEM Strategy Cost * Time *** Difficulty *** Return ***
When it comes to Search Engine Marketing, due to budget limitations we focused on enhancing search engine rankings on Google as we saw long-term value in being ranked high in natural results pages as opposed to paid ad inclusion. One initial objective was to reach top 3 Google search results on low and medium competitive search terms such as "marketing simulation games" or "online marketing games". Considering these are low-volume search keyphrases we are helped in some cases (geographies, users) by spread rank presence across 1st,2nd and even 3rd position as shown below
According to econsultancy top 3 Google positions drive anywhere between 30 to 50% of all clickthroughs. Getting ranked high involves a content creation and distribution strategy that includes on-site optimization as well as off-site efforts. When it comes to off-site factors we have managed to feature our startup in various edtech sources such as the Edtech Times, Serious Games Market,and Emerging Edtech.
As soon as ranking objectives were met we began thinking of adjacent search behaviors and started to position for terms such as "business simulation games" and the like, which have a higher monthly average search volume but are also more competitive due to many companies that have been active in this space for many years.
Regarding Paid Search - we'll start Adwords campaigns in September - once the new university year begins. We would have started earlier, thus avoiding the increased competition from other simulation companies and the inherent higher cost per click prices but we simply didn’t have funds at our disposal. We'll be looking mostly to build our customer bases in geographies that have shown interest in our product - namely the U.S.A. and the UK.
SMM Strategy Cost * Time *** Difficulty * Return *
We focused our very limited resources and time on what we identified as being the two mediums most embraced by our prospects: Twitter and LinkedIn. Most of our connections on the two social networks are marketing professors or online advertising trainers or specialists.
The initial objective was to identify and connect with as many quality prospects as possible in order to test out different engagement strategies - something which is still unfolding. The next step would be to establish leadership inside the industry by devising a roadmap for creating quality, research-informed content that provides unique and applicable insight to our connections.
Social Media outreach is at the heart of our product - with an integrated social media share button included in the footer of every page of the simulation. This allows us to connect to the user's personal networks and enable new connections through a quality (trusted) interaction.
We are still to develop our unique ROI calculation system to figure out how we can better measure and extract value from SocMed Marketing activities but so far we have managed to get exposure and some valuable contacts.
E-Mail Marketing Cost * Time* Difficulty * Return **
We've sent out a few newsletters up until now with an open rate of over 25% - higher than the education industry average, as we learned from Mailchimp (thanks Zsuzsa Jakab from Cesim Finland for recommending Mailchimp). We're still learning about this interaction method which appears to be great for lead-nurturing. Main concern here is to obtain quality leads and prospects - which can come either from the website or from a service that allows you to export e-mail addresses of current contacts (such as LinkedIn).
Phone + Skype Support Cost * Time ** Difficulty ** Return ***
Although this method does not belong to the sphere of e-Marketing per se but rather complements it we must mention it as a great way to establish a real and trusted connection with your prospects. People are reaching out for people not products. To establish credibility by actually talking to potential customers is an enjoyable way to communicate your proposition and collect valuable, initial product feedback. This way you're coming across as a business with personality, not a load of automated web forms and e-mails. Think about this and apply it across all other mediums for increased engagement and ultimately results.
How are you innovating marketing resources allocation in your company ? What have you learned up until now ? Add your input by commenting below