Thursday, 2 July 2015

Blogging, Sharing New Ideas... Or Selling?

In my previous post I questioned whether constantly sharing links to my blog were signs of me becoming a bad digital citizen through constant self promotion of my blog. 

I thought I would take a moment to detail my blogging experiences today and compare them with when I first opened my blog... and how any self promotion two years ago led to others getting a shout out at #ISTE2015.

Isn't it all Self Promotion?
The first question I would ask is: if you're on social media isn't it all self promotion?  If you're here then you want the world to hear what you have to say. 

Am I writing this because I don't want anyone to read it, or to share it? Of course not! That would just be a waste of my time. 

Am I Tweeting because I only want one person to see my random thoughts? If that were the case I'd send a text or pick up the phone! 

Why Are you Promoting. Then...
Something that I think might be a more pertinent question is why am I here? 

The answer to this question has changed since I opened my blog.The answer in 2011 was: I don't want to be here! 

And despite all the great connections I've made, there are occasions when I still don't! 

In 2011 I had no digital footprint at all, but was told by a senior executive at one of the "big 3" tech companies

"If you want to be involved in #EdTech then you need to be on social media, it comes with the job now" 

I explored the various channels and, reluctantly, got plugged in. So here I am! I got plugged in because I was told I had to... Ironically, I got connected so my skills would be relevant for a role that won't be here much longer. Doh! 

...And Now
Today it would appear that I'm blogging to sell people on the merits of some crazy ideas. Crazy ideas that are, in the main, inspired by EdTechChat (Many of which are from two years ago).

Some people are calling me a "blogger," elsewhere social media analytics data spew out feedback that suggest I'm "an influencer." Not only do I think there is a danger of these labels pandering to egotists... In my case they are ridiculous assessments!

I find this amusing as nothing has changed! The ideas have been in my blog from day one... Many of the projects that I've been involved with that have been a success, are part of some on-going exploration to see if some extremely ambitious plans from an early posts might be possible.

Any change in status is only in the eyes of others. The ideas remain the same. The only difference is because the ideas go by unnoticed I have started to sell them a bit more.

When I opened my blog I was a sales rep unhappy with the culture and products I was working with. Today I am an unemployed sales person because I refuse to make pointless sales calls or send spam to educators.

As for any "blogger" label I write very badly... It just so happens that in amongst some bad writing, there are some ideas that are worth exploring. 

But boy! Is it hard work getting educators attention with these ideas!! 

The only thing that has changed is that I am now using my bad writing with some good ideas and have added some sales into the mix. I use my blog to explore the kind of collaboration and co-creation that I believe to be the future of sales "What do you think of XYZ" and look for early adopters to test the concept and/or look for people to work with to develop the idea.

This is where I feel the nature and source of any comments about "promoting my own stuff" comes from...There's more self promotion on my blog is because I'm selling the ideas more than I had done in the past.

Blogging has allowed me to explore the ideas generated from the early days of EdTechchat and ISTE13. Blogging also appears to have made me better at the role I've been trying to escape too... Oh the irony!

I'll leave you with the argument below to determine the extent of the blatant self promotion Vs my argument that educators are hard to engage with regarding new ideas.

Unsubscribe! Then...
Hitting that "Publish" button on my first real post (erm more like mini-novel) was so scary! Did I have anything to say? Would anyone want to hear it? 

I'm a random sales person with no expertise and nothing to say! I was taking the advice I was given, as well as trying to make some sense of the escalation of hostility in my sales role;

"Stop calling me" would be the reply to a group who 3-4 years ago were quite receptive to these calls, and "Unsubscribe" messages in reply to my emails.

Not long after I started to Tweet and blog I received a curious email along the lines of;

"William, stop sending me emails during 9-5 because I don't like the corporate crap you send me... but please keep me subscribed to your reports and blog"

What happens when you take this kind of information to bosses who are incapable of listening? "Get on the phone and sell" is the reply you'll find that you get.

...And Now?
I won't make any of those stupid cold calls for anyone... not even for products that I like. It's just a drain on educators time. I do send the odd update but hope that the information is targeted and relevant.

I sent an update to ISTE exhibitors when Kharima Richards asked me to when she was looking for support for her #Get2ISTE cause. I didn't get much of a response, but one memorable message that accompanied the "Unsubscribe" message was;

"Your content is boring and of no interest to us" 

Today I realise that you don't need to be making phone calls or email blasts in order to sell good ideas... But the ideas sure do need to be sold before they become good ones! 

This is why I feel the role of the sales person needs to change, and part of the reason for this post. Based on Google's research I might have re-skilled just in time "Google Research shows Word of Mouth Fuels EdTech Decisions"

Strategic Leadership. Then...
I completed a Belbin report in 2010 when I was one of those unfortunate sales reps trampling the exhibition hall hoping to attract educators attention. The profile report said;

"Your operating style is closest to that of strategic leadership, which is usually available only at senior positions. However, before such an opportunity could present itself, you are likely to need credibility at the operational level… The good news is that the longer you survive, the more likely you are to become a valued contribution and to gain the greatest sense of personal fulfilment"

Boy! How I laughed when I first read about these "strategic leadership" qualities... What nonsense! Although the rest of the report was extremely accurate. 

The report went on to recommend I should work in some sort of "Think Tank," quite ironic when you're sitting making pointless sales calls...the "longer you can survive" comment was the most relevant one at the time.

...And Now?
There are a number random ideas from my blog that have been implemented and the feedback from this Belbin report is making more sense to me now.

I will highlight more ideas that have gone from random idea to implementation in the next post, but today I want to focus two examples as they were mentioned at ISTE: Nurph and #Get2ISTE.

Since I started blogging I have posted ideas that I felt were worth exploring... Most of these ideas go by unnoticed the first time they are presented. The are also projects that will all link up in the hope of bringing ideas from an early posts to life 

If there are any ideas that demonstrate any kind of "strategic leadership" or creative ideas... There are two reasons for this 1) Listening to Educators and 2) EdTechChat

For anyone who feels this is "look at me, look at me" promoting my own stuff you may find this useful;

1) I am detailing my experiences in the hope that it helps others to figure the complexities that exist with selling in education.

2) I've been in traditional sales, and I've been through redundancy because of my employers refusal to listen. Both are horrible!

The actions I have taken were not easy choices to make. Neither have they been the easiest to live with. But they are starting to prove to be of value. I hope this helps other sales people to discuss the companies strategy with their employers, or maybe even for educators to share these examples with sales people when they call.

3) Not a single thing below was my idea, they come from listening to educators... Many of which come from EdTechChat.I've simply taken the time to explore them.

EdTechChat Sales. Then...
Through following EdTechChat in the first 6 weeks of it being established I got a number of key insights, including confirmation of the fact that sales would be dead soon.

Many of the points and topics in this post are a repetition of those that followed ISTE13 and ISTE14, but with evidence that the concept is workable.

...And Now
Today I feel the only way to develop good products is to stay as small as possible for as long as possible and co-creating with educators.

You shouldn't hire sales people until you know your product has value in education, even then the goal is to find the early adopters like Steve Isaacs and Nikki Robertson, as they did with Nurph and Get2ISTE.

It is my view that sales people should see themselves as fired within a few months of starting... because they have sold themselves out of a job. Sales will become a part time temporary gig. (See Where Do You see Yourself in a Year).

Once these early customers are found, a good community manager will take care of customers needs, which will be the engine for scaling the business and growth.

EdTechChat Data. Then...
As I've mentioned a number of times in this blog, in the first 6 weeks of EdTechChat 40 companies were mentioned 400 times.

I wanted to know if this was typical and see which companies were consistently being talked about, so attempted to curate 6 weeks worth of data from the 200+ EdChats that I was aware of in April/June 2013. During ISTE13 I tried to curate this data too.

The data was all in spreadsheats over 200,000 rows and was too big for me to do anything with. In April 2014 I heard about Nurph

EdTechChat Data... And Now
At ISTE 2014 I tried again, after contacting Nurph I put a great deal of time into developing this EdChat Resource Plan and putting almost 400 chats into their Chat Salad platform.(See ISTE2013 Record, Rewind and Replay)
Curious that Nurph didn't mention my contribution during #ISTE2015

Fast forward to ISTE 2015 and through the evangelising of Nikki Robertson and Steve Isaacs, Nurph is being mentioned by a number of Connected Educators, and not a single sales call has been made.

Get2 ISTE Then...
The concept of educators expenses being covered was not well recieved in 2014 (See EdChat Moderator: ISTE or Bust). The idea was re-presented in March, but still had some challenges to overcome. It was through discussing the idea with critical friends and blogging about it that removed the various objections to the idea.

Get2 ISTE ...Now
Kharima Richards was on the big screen with her Get2ISTE T-shirt and I have two fantastic blog posts to treasure... Not mine, but Nikki's and Kharima's

Tech Stories ...Then
Plenty of sales effort has gone into these ideas. Plenty of self promotion with my blog. I'm exploring ideas that I have been advocating for over the same 2 year period... Ideas that first appeared in my "Death of an EdTech Salesman" post after ISTE2013.

I hardly mention Nurph in my blog or Tweets anymore and will be doing so even less after this post. The same goes for Get2ISTE. The selling, as I see it in the future, has been done... So it's time to move on.

Although Get2ISTE being any kind of big success is most certainly not a foregone conclusion (See Get2ISTE2016 for more info) and I'd be happy to help any educators out in any way I can. Just ask.

... And Now
If an idea has merit, it will roll out with the early adopters through word of mouth. Sales is still vital! But the hustle is done through doing enough to convince people to give a new product or idea a go and then selling educators being pioneers and investing their time with you Vs the thousands of other companies.

So going forward the nature of my self promotion will be talking about 3D Hubs and Declara. I'm by no means saying that these are definitive solutions to data curation or educators crowd funding... but there's enough promise and synergy to warrant a bit of exploration.

If educators gravitate towards these services because of my blatant self promotion, and they find it saves them time looking for great resources and assists with the procurement of 3D Printers... I can live with any title anyone chooses to give me.

And Finally. Blogging Or Selling New Ideas
I have gone out of my way to explore the sales process and to find out what works and what doesn't. What's successful and what isn't. What is needed at the start of a new idea is to get a bit of momentum going and to find the early adopters. This takes a bit of hustle.

Once a connected educator gets hold of an idea there is nothing I can do that will rival this. Nikki Robertson, Steve Isaacs and Adam Bellow talking about Nurph will have way more impact than anything I could ever do.

However... exploring the merit in a product before others are either aware of it and/or building a case to demonstrate value is vital!

Sometimes this is a quick Tweet, sometimes its a few months of research that is required... Regardless the message needs to be put out there.

A lot of synergy with 3D Hubs and Edu Crowdfunding for 3D Printers

So I'll continue to Tweet out to people like @ISTEConnects as I did in 2014 with Nurph and before ISTE 2015 to try and get some momentum going for #Get2ISTE and after the conference with the Declara collection that I'm curating. Or to ask have you heard of Voxer? Who Sells Voxer in Edu?

I have no doubt that these messages will go largely ignored until the right amount of research has been done, and a compelling enough case has been put forward. This might take 6 weeks as it did with EdShelf, or two years and counting as it has done with curating big data.

Self Promotion and Previous Projects
I can and do mention my involvement with some of these projects from time to time. Again is this blatent self promotion? I would like to think that I use them in the hope of

1) Generating interest in the latest crazy idea, or

2) To let others know that the practices of the vendor hall are so outdated...

Search "#ISTE2015" and "vendors" on twitter and ask yourself how much longer is this model going to be sustainable for? I've already blogged about what I would do if I was the organisers.

Nurph and Get2ISTE both getting shout outs at #ISTE2015... and not a sales call made and no sales people in education (as far as I am aware).

And as for those greedy EdTech companies and sales people who are only in it for the money... I have not made a penny from any of this work. The reason for all this? Here's my motivation Sales People in Edu - The Fox of EdTech

Maybe this post will generate interest from two years ago about traditional sales dying... Ideas that again are the result of EdTechChat.

One final point on "promoting my own stuff" is that if and when any of these ideas do work out and/or I mention the role I played... I would like to think that I give credit where it's due. As almost every idea has it's source in this fantastic EdTechChat I hope that one day I might be in the position to prove how serious I am about my second Tweet below!!

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