Part of what makes K-12 such a challenging market is the nature of this mostly public sector. School budget processes differ dramatically from business budgeting, plus there are added concerns about using taxpayer dollars wisely and protecting student privacy. Many school systems also have procurement rules that restrict the suppliers they can use, sometimes excluding newer startups.
None of this is likely to change; brand-new providers face a steep learning curve.
“The ones doing it successfully are those starting from the pedagogy side,” says Pikar.
He suggests partnering as the best way to break in, by expanding a more experienced provider’s existing catalog of services, for example. Or if you’re a smaller MSP with experience in specific product categories that could be applied to education, a larger vendor may be interested in a partnership or even an acquisition. For example, Leger says, large hardware vendors will bring in a partner or acquire a company that’s good at data management or analytics if its own capabilities aren’t very robust.
Channel pros already working in K-12 will have to make deeper investments in their expertise and offerings too. Roshan says they’ll be most successful by helping teachers wade through the sea of options or make sense of what they already have.
“It takes hours and hours of research, trying and failing and trying another tool,” she says. A little bit of well-informed guidance from tech experts can jump-start sales and lasting relationships.
“Just a one-hour webinar can make all the difference for a teacher,” Roshan says.