TEDx Talk by netTrekker Founder Randy Wilhelm – Igniting the Hope of Knowing

Photo of Randy Wilhelm, netTrekker founderAt TEDx event at Xavier University in May, netTrekker (now Knovation) founder Randy Wilhelm described children's innate curiosity as "living in the question." Kids think they can do anything – even fly. Their imaginations are free to explore any idea that is interesting to them.

However, in public education Wilhelm muses, we have lost our way as "the currency of education is no longer in the question – education currency is in the answer." In fact, we have organized ourselves around a system where success is defined as the highest total of correct answers.

In his talk, Wilhelm explores the idea that we, as adults, are asking the wrong question of our children. Instead of asking, "how intelligent are you?," we should be asking, "how are you intelligent?"

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Does the New 80/20 Content Rule Apply to Educational Publishers?

solving problemsYesterday I read that companies should plan to give up to 80% of their content away for free and generate sales and profits from the remaining 20%. As publishers, that seems an unrealistic metric.

Content is our stock and trade. We've invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in developing the best-of-category, and now we should give it away for free?

How is that a viable business model?

Yet more and more companies are allocating larger amounts of their resources each year to this effort as reported by the Content Marketing Institute.

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Interruption v Invitation Marketing for K-12 Publishers

The seismic shift that has occurred in marketing is that we have moved from an interruption model to an invitational model in marketing our company messages.

For years, the interruption model was effective in using broadcast and advertising media to inform prospects of a company's goods and services. Now, despite the channel, prospects are experts at dodging and ignoring broadcast and print ads.

The new effective method of marketing is through an invitation model where a company builds relationships with its community and freely shares content that is important to that community. Companies accomplish this through outbound communications such as newsletters, white papers, videos and social media while letting prospects know they are ready to serve when the prospect is ready to buy. This is called content marketing.

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Why Educational Publishers Should Use RSS Feeds

First published March 7, 2008

To remain competitive in the educational publishing business, you need to have a great deal of information at your disposal.  Emerging developments from industry associations, news releases from competitors and relevant conversations from teachers, educators and standard setters – all this is information you need, and the landscape of data changes daily.

In the past, keeping current required an enormous investment in research.  But with the advent of RSS feeds on the Internet, you can have all the legwork done for you – absolutely free.

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Why Company Blogs Are Important to Today’s Educational Publisher

First published March 27, 2008

As an educational publisher, your mission is to create engaging content to improve the learning of students in this country. You already create the products to do so – but in today’s busy world, traditional marketing methods often fail to attract attention from those who influence (and make) the buying decisions. 

Fortunately, there is a way to take advantage of new technology and social trends to build more interest in your product. You can add additional context and increased value through launching a corporate blog.

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Are you an observer or a participant?

First published June 4, 2008

It seems this time of the year finds me frequently boarding planes, and this spring has been no exception. This year, it has been a bit different as I've been both an attendee and a presenter. Both the K-12 publishing industry and the independent publisher industry are experiencing tremendous change. Both industries can look to evolving business models, changing consumer patterns, and the effect of the Internet for much of the cause and solution to their current challenges.

Recently, I attended SOBCon 08 in Chicago which was billed as biz school for bloggers. SOBCon is the moniker for "Successful Outstanding Bloggers Conference" co-founded by Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker.  It was a tremendous learning experience with a group of people who had similar personal qualities but worked in a array of industries. The thing we all had in common was that we were bloggers.

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The 3 Big Questions in Sales and Marketing

future exitFirst published July 28, 2008

In most small companies sales and marketing is the responsibility of the same person. Often the person in charge has been with the company for some time and what they know about sales and marketing has been learned on the job. Sales and marketing are joined at the hip. In fact your strategic sales plan should be an outgrowth of your strategic marketing plan. Although there are multiple marketing objectives such as investing in customer relationships, building community, establishing your company as content expert in your field, etc., the fundamental purpose of marketing is (drum roll, please) to create sales opportunities.

It is amazing to me how many companies operate without full understanding of the answers to the following questions. So what are the key questions that should be answered for successful sales and marketing to occur?

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4 Guiding Principles for Navigating Uncertain Times


First published October 16, 2008

Even the financial pundits have admitted they do not know when the market lurching will end and national and international markets will settle down. With the intercession of the government, there is a general belief that things will settle down at some point. It is the consensus view, however, that we will end somewhere higher than we are now, but nowhere near where we began this unprecedented fall.

The general advice financial managers have been giving their clients for the last two weeks is good advice for everyone – hold steady. For business people, it is an opportunity to reexamine your core business, re-identify your strengths, your unique selling proposition, and your key messages. Going back to the basics is smart business in any economy but certainly in a challenged one.

Here are some things to consider:
1. Be strategic – Review goals and objectives, budgets, and staff resources with a critical eye. Companies sometimes cut marketing and promotion budgets in a knee jerk reaction to market downturns, and it’s easy to see these line items as “expendable.” But they’re usually not. Marketing and promotion expenditures are investments in your long-term health as a company. Examine what is working; what is not working, and what can be postponed; but understand the long-term consequences of these decisions.

2. Be clear – Once you have made realistic adjustments to your goals and objectives, make sure that you are communicating this to all your constituencies inside and outside the company. In challenging times, it is even more critical that your entire team work together to minimize wasted time and effort. Remember that communicating your key messages inside your company is equally important to communicating them externally.

3. Be strong – As the business owner or manager, it is your job to make the tough decisions. You have an obligation to the company that supersedes any obligation to individuals. It is unlikely that you will now have all the resources you had planned, so weigh your decisions carefully and re-read #1.

4. Be available – You need to be visible and available to customers and employees. Everyone is rattled. Many of us have never seen volatile fluctuations like this before. The causes are complex and the solutions are multi-faceted. Do not trivialize concerns or respond with facile reassurances. Be direct and authentic.

This is an opportunity to have full, rich conversations with your team about your mission and how to accomplish it. Revisit the basics of your business, particularly sales and marketing. Listen to your customers.  Find and read business blogs by people who may have a wider market view than you do like Lee Wilson who weighs in on how this financial crisis affects K-12 publishing. Challenge your thinking by reading people like Seth Godin , Chris Brogan, and Joe Wikert. There are many experienced pros sharing their perspectives online. Sort through what is meaningful to you and what isn't. Come back and share what you've found.

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