Know from a Real Expert on How to Market an Edtech Startup

Jeenal Jain Jeenal Jain
Apr 7, 2021 10 min read
Know from a Real Expert on How to Market an Edtech Startup

Edtech startups are emerging as a major business industry in India. In the next 5 Years, the Edtech market is estimated to grow 3.7x from $2.8 Bn (2020) to $10.4 Bn in 2025 (source: inc42). The global pandemic has substantially increased the adoption of Edtech services and products and is expected to reach an addressable base of over 37 million users by 2025. Edtech startups have grabbed this opportunity by its core and are providing unmatchable study experiences to the learners. On this note, it has become important to know how Edtech startups market in this competitive industry and stand-out from the crowd.

Know from an industry expert about the Marketing of Edtech Startups, Edtech Industry, Go-to marketing strategies of Edtech startups, 5 common marketing mistakes & more in this post ahead. StartupTalky interviewed Mr. Mahadev Srivatsa (VP - Marketing & Brand Strategy, Practically) to get insights about Marketing in Edtech Industry.

And here's what Mr. Mahadev Srivatsa has got to say -

Practically’s first brand campaign - Effectivness & Challenges Faced
Is offering something for free, a good marketing strategy to attract users for an EdTech startup?
Practically’s Marketing Strategy 2021 & Business Expansion Plans
Go-to Marketing Strategies of an EdTech startup?
How marketing in EdTech sector differ from other Industries?
Role of Affiliate & Influence Marketing Strategies in EdTech Industry
Aggressive marketing as a method used by Edtech startups?
5 Common Marketing Mistakes done by EdTech startups
Edtech Marketing Startegy based on Target Market
EdTech startups marketing strategies in the pre & post Covid era

1.What was Practically’s first brand campaign? How effective was it? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

Practically, India’s first experiential learning app, designed to make learning immersive and increase retention in STEM learning among students of class 6 to 12, launched its first-ever brand campaign around the theme - ‘Bring Learning Alive’ in December 2020. The campaign has garnered 3x growth and the app has successfully crossed 330,000 downloads till date. The TVCs (TV commercials) have generated over 32 million+ views combined on YouTube and seen above average and consistent view rates, even after two months of launch, indicating relevance and popularity of the campaign amongst the target audience. This has been one of the highest by an EdTech company in India, without celebrity endorsement, so far.

The campaign included ATL (TV & Print) targeted at Andhra Pradesh and Telangana while the digital and social media marketing leg had a pan-India focus. The rationale behind this dual pronged strategy was to drive awareness and consideration in the home market and test markets at a pan-India level to gauge the brand traction and guide future expansion strategy. The brand also signed a two-week Associate Sponsorship deal with Bigg Boss Telegu Season 4.The entire communication was seamlessly woven to deliver the brand proposition of ‘Bring Learning Alive’. The campaign was also amplified using relevant PR activities.

Consumers and customers are different in EdTech, so the marketing challenge was to create a communication campaign that appealed to both set of audiences. The other was to optimize the budget available to create a maximum impact.

Mahadev Srivatsa, VP - Marketing & Brand Strategy, Practically
Mahadev Srivatsa, VP - Marketing & Brand Strategy, Practically

However the biggest challenge was to create an impact in a cluttered market, given the amount of SOV by competition in this space off late. Hence the strategy was to develop a communication that breaks the clutter and gets us noticed. Considering most brands at that juncture were indulging in dialogue-based communication, we zeroed in on a fresh, jingle format with stunning visuals to craft our communication. And the result was just amazing. Besides ticking off all KPIs that we had set to achieve, the first campaign has given us the correct dose of inspiration to go further. Besides downloads achieved, all our social media and in app metrics have also been impacted positively and this has set the ball rolling for more engagement in future.

2. Is offering something for free, a good marketing strategy to attract users for an EdTech startup?

A free trial works when the objective is to give people a taste of the offering. It also helps gain visibility and test out the product. So that the learnings, if any, can be applied to better it. When it comes to EdTech, it is important to draw a fine line as quality education, like on Practically, requires several teams and resources to work together to create the unique kind of experiential content and services that we have. With an objective to serve the length and breadth of this country, we have kept our pricing strategy Value For Money (VFM) and competitive. It is advisable to have a pricing strategy that sustains quality than compromise on it by offering it for free.

3.What is Practically’s Marketing Strategy 2021? Any business expansion plans?

We have had a great start for the brand in 2021 with the success of the first marketing campaign. We were able to pull off the entire TV campaign only with a production partner, without a brand agency. This is a dream role for any brand manager, especially when you are launching a brand and we managed to get it right at the start of our journey. Personally, it was a very satisfying experience to devise the brand proposition and work with the production house and ultimately see the vision come alive. And to have achieved our objectives through this campaign was the icing on the cake!

The success in our home/pilot market has given us confidence that we can replicate the same nationally. The plans for 2021 are aggressive as this is the hot sector and rapidly growing. The brand objective is to bring learning alive and make Practically a household name in India this year. And eventually achieve the goal of being the most loved and trusted e-learning brand.

From a business POV, while our focus so far has been on Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states in India, Practically is working on expanding pan-India in 2021, beginning with the south and west markets. And you will see the developments very soon.

With the Series B fundraise that we are working towards, we will penetrate deeper into all major cities in India and begin expansion to one international market by the end of 2021.

Our dedicated school offering- The Practically School Solution, which is absolutely FREE of cost to schools, has been a mega hit with teachers. Given the pandemic challenges, this solution has served a perfect need of the hour for schools wanting to enable quality online learning for their students. So far we have 200+ schools and 18,000 teachers who are benefitting from it. This solution will also be available now in the above markets in line with business expansion.

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4. What are the go-to marketing strategies of an EdTech startup?

Marketing mediums of ATL, BTL and digital remain common. What makes the difference in strategy is the weightage that you want to invest in each of these mediums. That primarily differs from industry to industry and obviously TG (target group). Given the unusual circumstances that we are in today, across brands, TV and digital are proving to be the best and safest bet, till normalcy is restored.

5. How marketing in the EdTech sector differ from other industries?

Marketing strategies are always centred around the TG. More focussed the TG, the better the targeting. In Ed-tech K-12 segment, the consumer is the student while the customer is the parent. This presents a unique marketing challenge since the aspiration and appeal is different for both these groups.

Hence one needs to be clear at the start on what the objective of the communication is and craft the same accordingly. There could be certain topical communication targeted separately to both groups too, but then there needs to be a common brand theme. As far as brand communication goes, it makes sense to craft a strategy and communication that cuts across both. How one does that, is the trick!

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6. What is the role of affiliate & influence marketing strategies in the EdTech industry?

Celebrity or Influencer Marketing is a strategy that is widely prevalent across industries and brands. Presenting a well-known face adds instant recall and is also one of the fastest and instant ways to generate brand awareness. When a famous person who is also loved and respected in his/her area of expertise associates as a brand ambassador, it also tends to add credibility to the brand.

The explosion of Edtech as a category and the investments made in it, has seen most of the incumbents adopt this strategy. A general observation is when the dominant player in a segment does this, others mostly follow suit.

Personally, I believe that need for an association depends on the stage at which a brand is and whether the ambassador is indeed a good fit with the brand values. Without both the above boxes getting checked, this is an avoidable strategy and can even backfire at times.

7. Is aggressive marketing, a method used by EdTech startups like used by other companies across industries?

The answer is actually the other way around. Traditionally FMCG and Automobile sectors used to invest heavily in marketing, especially media. Then came the telecom and ecommerce era and now media spends are heavily dominated by EdTech. Top sponsorships and premium partnerships are also being lapped up. In fact the rush for GRPs (gross rating points) and visibility amongst the incumbents in this sector, has started to look like what was prevalent in telecom, around 5 years ago.

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8. What are some common marketing mistakes done by EdTech startups?

  • Spray and pray approach – India is the second largest eLearning market with an online EdTech user base to the tune of 10 Mn. Hence a targeted approach is important to resonate with audiences
  • Following a ‘me too’ approach- Not every product needs a celebrity or an influencer to establish themselves as a brand
  • Not defining/highlighting USPs – There have been over 3000 EdTech start-ups that have mushroomed in the last year alone. The best way to stand out of the crowd is to showcase why students/parents should pick you out of the host of others who do the same thing.
  • Applying the same marketing strategy and mix every time will not always work. As the industry and your product roadmap evolve, different mediums may be required to achieve results.
  • Focusing on customer acquisition alone is a short term play. Driving brand awareness which will eventually drive consideration and intent is the correct approach and will yield long term benefits. In a cluttered space like EdTech in India, at the end of the day, Brand will be the lone differentiator. Hence the effort needs to be set right, from the start.

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9. How does the marketing strategy differ based on the target market of an EdTech startup?

Targeted marketing allows marketing teams to tailor their message to a specific group of customers. The targeting strategy is the point at which the marketing mix comes together to establish the best offer and marketing strategy for each target market.

Whether it is EdTech or any other sector, following the identification of target groups, one chooses the appropriate targeting approach. When it comes to grad and post grad students your customer and consumer are mostly the same which is unlikely in the K-12 segment. So the communication & strategy in both the above cases will be different.

Another aspect is geography. However in EdTech, every parent irrespective of geography, wants their child to succeed and have the best means to do so. So the disposable income, access to quality education, regional/cultural influences and content consumption are some key differentiators that one needs to be conscious about, while marketing a product.

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10.Based on your experience & insights, what is the growth trajectory you witnessed in the way EdTech startups adopt marketing strategies in the pre & post Covid era?

Practically was launched in April 2020. So for us the learnings were different compared to the incumbents. One of the biggest challenges for EdTech as an industry, pre-Covid was adaptability to online learning and acceptance of the benefits it bestows. There were concerns as to how effective it is for kids. The pandemic was a watershed moment for this category and it removed the main barrier to online learning, since it became a norm. The growth witnessed in this category only reemphasizes the fact that when we visualize and learn through the power of EdTech, the comprehension is better. Without EdTech, education during the pandemic would have greatly suffered. And with the TG now experiencing and benefitting from EdTech, it is only here to stay and grow with a blended learning approach.

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