By Derek Dallmann, Vice President of Sales
It’s official. We now live and work in the era of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). And something of utmost importance for vendors to provide in this new education landscape is proof that your products and services really work.
The New Standard
Moving forward, evidence of effectiveness is one of the key pieces of information educators will seek out when evaluating purchases. Reason being, ESSA has made it a priority to ensure that any federal dollars spent on educational programming are dollars that produce results. In some cases, evidence is a requirement for funding eligibility, particularly when it comes to Title I interventions.
Vendors who can provide evidence of effectiveness have a competitive edge. Agile survey data reveals that educators want vendors’ guidance on ESSA compliance and are interested in working with vendors who meet ESSA requirements, particularly when it comes to evidence of effectiveness.
If you can provide success metrics, and leverage those in your marketing messages and sales conversations, you have the potential to:
- Improve brand visibility
- Gain access to districts and schools with grant money to spend
- Increase sales and your bottom line
ESSA’s definition of “evidence” falls along a sliding scale. Evidence is filed into four categories. Category 1 offers the strongest evidence of effectiveness; category 4 offers the weakest.
- Strong evidence: requires “at least one well-designed and well-implemented experimental study”
- Moderate evidence: requires “at least one well-designed and well-implemented quasi-experimental study”
- Promising evidence: requires “at least one well-designed and well-implemented correlational study with statistical controls for selection bias”
- Rationale: quality research or positive evaluation indicates that an activity, strategy or intervention is likely to improve student or other relevant outcomes
For more in-depth details on ESSA’s definition of evidence, check out this guide from the Department of Education (DOE).
Simply put, if your product or service works, you need to prove it. Here’s how you can get started:
1. Conduct the research. There are two basic types of research that you can use to show evidence of effectiveness
a. Foundations research: This is a review of research around a specific topic — literacy for example — and expert opinion about what works, such as guided reading.
b. Efficacy research: Though this takes more time and analysis than foundations research, efficacy research is scientifically-based and establishes solid proof that a particular product or service produces desired outcomes.
2. Present your findings. Once you’ve gathered the data around evidence of effectiveness, package it into content educators can review, save, share, etc.
a. Whitepapers: This is a great platform for presenting foundations research. All whitepapers include three key elements: the claim; experiments, reviews or data analysis to support that claim; information about how your product ties into those findings. Cover these points, and you can provide evidence that your product or service is rooted in research.
b. Case studies: Fifty-six percent of educators who responded to an Agile survey said they want vendors to provide case studies from districts and schools similar to their own. While completing efficacy research, recruit existing clients to participate in short case studies that explain the challenge they were trying to solve, how they implemented the solution and the results of that implementation and use.
c. Research report: Once your efficacy research is complete, detail those results in a formal research report and an accompanying summary or brief. Sixty-two percent of educators desire these kinds of reports to learn about the impact products and services have had on student achievement across multiple schools and districts.
3. Disseminate the information. Once you can prove that your product or service is effective, promote that information on as many channels as possible, both print and digital. And don’t wait — 59 percent of educators say they want this information at the start of the purchasing process.
Post the content you’ve created around research on all of your owned channels, from your website to your social media accounts. Share it via press releases for earned media, and distribute it to prospective customers using email. Also think about ways to repurpose the data, for example weaving it into web articles or blog posts or breaking down results into approachable infographics.
Create print and digital versions that your sales reps can share during in-person meetings or events, or virtual conversations. Incorporate results into presentations, too. Efficacy results make great leave-behind pieces or takeaways at conference booths. You can even create entire conference breakout sessions around your research. Your goal should be to get as much traction from your research as possible.
Much of the content of this article was inspired by the Agile-sponsored webinar with Ellen Bialo and Dr. Jay Sivin-Kachala, Evidence-Based Marketing: Why You Need It, How to Do It, and How to Use It. Watch it on-demand for more advice for leveraging evidence of effectiveness in your marketing and sales.
Agile offers extensive tools and services to help you reach educators with the information they want and need most. Now you can even access timely information about school performance and accountability, including ESSA-reported school ratings, with our school performance data. Use these insights to create marketing campaigns and sales presentations that truly matter to your education prospects.
About the Author
Derek Dallmann is Director of Strategic Accounts at Agile Education Marketing. Throughout his 20 years in education marketing, Derek has worked with hundreds of organizations in the early childhood, K-12 and higher education markets. Derek’s expertise lies in helping organizations define their core audiences and develop targeted, multi-channel marketing strategies to reach educators and achieve sales and marketing objectives. Reach Derek at firstname.lastname@example.org.