Colin Bramm’s company, Showbie, is starting to ride what looks set to become a huge wave: Classrooms using iPads.
They started designing desktop software that would make it easier for teachers and students to communicate online. But soon they realized that their early adopters were sending them a message. Listening to that message and acting on it is leading to phenomenal growth and venture funding for this Edmonton-based start-up.
Listen to Your Early Adopters
What was the message? Forget desktops; we want an iPad app! And it had better be super-easy to use.
So they developed an app that makes it easy for students of any age to create videos and multi-media presenations on their iPads and submit them to their teachers. And it makes it easy for even the most tech-phobic of teachers to grade and give feedback on those assignments.
Solve a Problem and They Will Beat a Path To Your Door
A few years ago our local school board implemented a system called SchoolZone, that was intended to make it easier for parents and students to keep track of what was going on, their schedules, their homework assignments, their grades and so on.
I was frustrated by how reluctant many of the teachers were to use the system. A big part of the reason is that it just wasn’t easy enough for many of them to learn. They are busy people, and even teachers hate large learning curves.
I was shocked when Colin told me that the process of moving from paper tracking and marking of student assignments to digital dramatically increased the amount of time teachers had to spend to get the job done. From six to eight hours a week to about 20!
So the Showbie team made their software so easy to use that demand for it is coming from the teachers themselves. The students love it too, and with a magic combination like that, the school administrators have to start looking at it seriously.
Add Timing To The Mix
There is a huge upsurge in schools starting to use iPads in the classroom. Initially it has been mostly private and charter schools leading the way, but we are almost at that tipping point where it will be going mainstream in public school classrooms too.
Ask for User Feedback, and Act On It!
When they first looked at their data they saw that lots of people were downloading the app but not using it. So they have focused their efforts on making it easier to go from signing up to getting the whole classroom using it.
They did such a good job of listening and acting on what their early adopters were telling them that those early adopters have become a very effective global sales force. Result? This tiny start-up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, with almost no budget for travel or promotion, now has 45% of its thousands of users in the United States, 40% in the United Kingdom and the rest all over the world.
What Should You Do Now?
- Get some people who are not familiar with your company, your website, or your products, to test them out and give you feedback. Better still, have someone other than you watch them work and ask them what they are experiencing, because if it is you they won’t want to hurt your feelings and you won’t get the info you need.
- If you’ve got a new product, reach out regularly to your early adopters. Ask them what they like about it and what could be done better. Ask them about features that are missing or difficult to use. If your product or service has already been out there for a while, ask your heaviest users for their feedback.
- Also ask folks who’ve signed up or bought from you but who don’t seem to be using what they bought (or coming back to buy more). You need to know why!
Do you like the new “What Should You Do Now” idea for the podcast? Give me your feedback, below, OK? Thanks!