March 1, 2024

Syllabus for Success: B2B Marketing Lessons in EdTech

EdTech marketers, this show is for you. Everyone else, this show is ALSO for you.  

Let’s examine the unique challenges EdTech marketers are facing right now:  

  • They effectively have to market to 50 local markets  
  • Due to the academic year, buying cycles are highly seasonal 
  • With budget constraints, customers are demanding efficacy data 

Scale, personalization, educating customers, proving ROI—there’s a lot to learn from how EdTech CMOs are approaching said challenges. In this episode, learn from EdTech marketing masters: Kevin Briody of Edmentum, Kay Moffett of Amplify, and Megan Rainbow of Allovue.  

Plus, get an inside look at how purpose-driven marketing can attract and retain top talent and the importance of empathy in understanding the educator’s perspective. 

Don’t miss this rich conversation filled with insights that transcend the EdTech space, providing valuable takeaways for marketing leaders in any sector. 

What You’ll Learn 

  • The top challenges for EdTech CMOs (and how they’re solving them) 
  • How to navigate localization challenges 
  • What’s working in EdTech marketing  

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 386 on YouTube 

Resources Mentioned


  • [3:27] Kevin Briody: Edmentum EdTech
  • [5:53] 3 Key K12 Challenges: Scale, Seasonality, Efficacy
  • [12:40] Kay Moffett: Amplify EdTech
  • [17:34] K12 Managing Localization and Personalization
  • [20:55] Megan Rainbow: Allovue EdTech
  • [22:05] Education FinTech Challenges
  • [25:30] Finding Customer Champions
  • [29:22] CMO Huddles: Peer Mentorship
  • [31:26] Navigating political nuances
  • [35:54] A tangible sense of purpose
  • [38:46] What’s working
  • [41:39] AI and EdTech
  • [45:59] Wisdom for EdTech CMOs 

Highlighted Quotes

“How do we take a campaign and blow it out as wide as possible to reach the maximum audience and have the biggest scale? That becomes incredibly challenging when you have to localize that in effect to 50 different messages.” —Kevin Briody, CMO of Edmentum  

“To be successful in marketing, you need to know your audience, to understand their needs, their daily lives, and what they care about. In EdTech, that means really understanding teachers.”—Kay Moffett, CMO of Amplify

“We share that vision and that concern for students and their outcomes with our customers. It really helps to form those partnerships when we’re all in it for the same reason.”—Megan Rainbow, Director of Marketing at Allouve

“We’re talking about a looming fiscal cliff, teacher shortages, privatization efforts. Showing up as a vendor who cares about those things and cares about educating the community at large is a powerful way to be present in the market at this time.”—Megan Rainbow, Director of Marketing at Allouve 

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Kevin Briody, Kay Moffett, Megan Rainbow


Drew: Hello, Renegade Marketers. I’m excited that you’re here to listen to another episode of Renegade Marketers Unite. This show is brought to you by CMO Huddles, the only marketing community dedicated to inspiring B2B greatness, and that donates 1% of revenue to the Global Penguin Society. Wait, what? Well, it turns out that B2B CMOs and penguins have more in common than you think. Both are highly curious and remarkable problem solvers. Both prevail in harsh environments by working together with peers. And just as a group of penguins is called the Huddle. Over 352 B2B CMOs come together and support each other via CMO Huddles. If you’re a B2B marketer who could share, care, and dare with the best of them, do yourself a favor and dive into CMO Huddles. We even have a free starter program and of course, our robust Leader Program, neither of which requires penguins hat. Thank goodness, join us. And before we get to the episode, let me do a quick shout-out to the professionals at Share Your Genius. We started working with them over a year ago to make this show even better and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at and tell her Drew sent you.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew: Hello, Renegade Marketers. Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite the top-rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals. You’re about to listen to a recording of CMO Huddles Studio, our live show featuring the CMOs of CMO Huddles, a community that’s sharing, caring, and daring each other to greatness every day of the week.

I’m your host, Drew Neisser. Live from my home studio in New York City. You may not know this, if you don’t have kids, you’re not seeing it in real time. But the EdTech industry is booming, fueled by advancements in technology and the increasing need for innovative educational tools. But how can CMOs ensure their products or services stand out in what has become a really crowded market? How do they effectively reach educators, administrators, decision makers in this famously cautious sector? Join me on this episode as we explore the strategies and best practices that successful CMOs employ in their EdTech marketing endeavors. From crafting compelling storytelling to showcasing the impact of their products through real-life examples, we’ll uncover the secrets to capturing the attention and trust of this hard-to-nail-down target audience and also what it means to be in a purpose-driven industry. Okay, with that, let’s bring on Kevin Briody, CMO of Edmentum. Hello, Kevin.

Kevin: How are you? Thanks for having me. 

Drew: Nice to see you. So how are you and where are you?

Kevin: I am doing well. I currently live in Greensboro, North Carolina. Our company is actually headquartered in Minneapolis. But we like many companies these days, we work primarily remote. So I’m down in the North Carolina region.  

Drew: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about Edmentum, you know, sort of educate us on Edmentum, on the platform and the services that you provide?

Kevin: We are a K12 learning technology company. So we work with millions of students and teachers across really thousands of districts and individual schools, primarily in the US, but also a number of schools worldwide, as well. We offer a pretty broad portfolio of digital curriculum, assessments, personalized learning tools, and a whole host of instructional services ranging from tutoring to teacher supports to full virtual high school options as well. So as a company, our big focus is really been about being an exceptional partner to the educator’s institutions, I know this conversation will probably touch on a lot of change and disruption in this industry. And that has been our focus, is really helping them understand and navigate that with a partner they can trust.

Drew: So K12, obviously, that’s broad in terms of spectrum. And then also when you add the worldwide aspect to it, I’m imagining that’s gotta create all sorts of wrinkles. I mean, is it hard for them to take what you developed in the US with the US education system in mind and exporting it?  

Kevin: Most of our international audience customer base is international schools who are interested in providing US-based curriculum to their students. And so very often we see, for example, students in international schools that teach the English language around the world who want to provide, for example, advanced placement courses to their students, or tap into some of our assessments and personalized learning tools that really accrue to a wider progression in the US curriculum. So it’s been a lot of the same content and tools and curriculum we do for the US market. It’s just adapting them to the particular needs of some of the international students  

Drew: And that makes sense because otherwise it would be just a completely different language, different other things. Okay, got it. So what are your specific challenges right now in terms of go to market and how are you approaching them?  

Kevin: When thinking about this question, three big ones come to mind. One is about scale. Next is about seasonality. And then third, is really about one of the key messages and key focus of the industry right now. The scale one is something you mentioned internationally and how do you adapt internationally but focusing on our core market in the US. I think a really fascinating part of K12 is there’s so many unique challenges in K12. And a lot of those are national in scale and very common across schools and districts across the country. And that’s, you know, whatever district administrators, school principal, or teachers wrestling with, things like learning loss, teacher shortage, and things like that. But what’s fascinating is the nuance at the local level. The way I look at it. And the way I talk to my team about it is, yes, we operate in the US, but we essentially have 50 unique local markets that we have to operate into. And it even gets more nuanced than that. But there’s just so many variations at a state level, that our message has to be adapted, we have to think about what their particular needs are, their state policies, and politics that come into play. And when you think about a strictly from a marketing perspective, and go to market, especially in B2B, there’s a big focus on investing a finite number of resources to scale and drive outsize impact. So how do we take a campaign, for example, and blow it out as wide as possible to reach the maximum audience at the biggest scale? That becomes incredibly challenging when you then have to localize that in effect to 50 different messages. You don’t have to do it too fine-grained, like I said, there’s some common themes. But when you get down into the nuances of what resonates, what teachers and administrators are really focused on, it’s very often what’s happening within the confines of their state. 

Drew: And maybe even in the school district, right? 

Kevin: Certainly in the school district, I mean, most of our customers are public school districts. And so they answer to school boards, which in turn answers to local communities, and so there’s a lot of very nuanced local needs. So if we’re talking about teacher shortages, for example, that is always a national story. And we hear about that quite a lot. And it’s a big challenge in the profession right now. But at the same time, you know, it’s more pronounced in some areas based on cost of living and other issues. And so, yeah, it’s got local flavors to it. And so we can’t just go out with one broad message, one broad marketing campaign talking about we can help with their teacher shortages, we have to nuance that on a very local level. 

Drew: I’m just thinking about the notion of micro-targeting and I will want to talk about this when the four of us are all together because chances are the other two CMOs are going to face that same challenge. But then you talked about your two other challenges, so go ahead, keep going.  

Kevin: Yeah, real briefly, I think the second one, and this, again, will be shared by pretty much anyone in this industry. This is a highly seasonal buying cycle that we wrestle with, and it’s really driven by the academic year. So in very simple terms, if you think about it, in the fall, it’s not surprising that most teachers and administrators are very focused on back to school, so getting their students and classrooms set up for success, not necessarily the ideal time for them to be receptive to a marketing campaign, per se, they’re very heads down on let’s start the school year right, focus on implementation and training and things like that. As a result, there’s more of a traditional buying season, it tends to be late winter to spring. And that’s when a lot of these conversations around EdTech happen, along the RFPs, and things like that happen, which is a very focusing opportunity from a marketers perspective, but in the marketplace, it’s an insanely noisy period. Every vendor knows when the buying period is. So every vendor is going out there and trying to get those conversations started. So the seasonality is a challenge. And then the third one briefly, is more of a message. And I think that is there’s a big focus right now in K12, on understanding the efficacy of various EdTech learning tech solutions. So essentially, schools and districts spent a ton of money during the pandemic, really in an emergency response mode than even after the pandemic, on education tech in various ways, virtual and remote solutions, and a whole book in classroom tools. And so there’s a big focus right now. And I think it’s very justified of, did it work? Did this actually improve outcomes for any other students? Did it help make teachers’ lives easier and help them be more effective? And so they’re posing those questions to vendors. It’s been a big focus for us partnering with our local customers, to get the data to be able to prove that stuff out. But that really affects how we go to market the message we bring. It’s what a lot of our customers and prospective customers want to hear is not just what’s the promise, but can we prove it?  

Drew: Yeah, it’s so interesting because if I look at the challenges that you listed, and I think about it from a broader marketer standpoint, while you know, there are some things that are truly unique to the EdTech Market. I mean, the fact is, that personalization is really important in almost any category. And so but you’re forced to do it because of the structure of these 50 states and districts. Seasonality, you are unique in the sense that there is this window, but not unique in the sense that there’s a lot of noise. It’s just it’s so concentrated in a certain period of time. And from a business standpoint, though, it must put a lot of pressure just in that short period of time is gonna determine how well your year goes. And then the messaging about efficacy, what a fascinating period of time this must been because I would imagine that there was an acceleration of adoption of technology because they had no choice. 

Kevin: Yeah and it was also fueled by an infusion of federal dollars into helping schools and districts navigate the unique challenges that the pandemic brought in this big instant shift to remote which some schools were prepared for, many weren’t. And so there was a big shift and so there was a lot of funds and a lot of spending happened that was essentially emergency in nature. It was how do we cope with this right now? How do we get through the end of the 2020 school year? How do we start the 2021 school year? You know, a lot of those contracts are expiring that were signed, there’s a lot of focus now. And a lot of accountability. We mentioned before how public districts answer to their school boards, there’s a lot of push for accountability, like, we sign these big contracts, we spend a bunch of money on technology, is it working? And every industry asked that I think it’s just the pandemic had such an outsized impact on K12 education, that we’re really starting to see a doubling down on that level of accountability right now.  

Drew: Right. Well, we’re gonna move on and bring on Kay Moffett, but all the issues that you raised, I think we’re gonna hear again but let’s bring on Kay Moffett, CMO of Amplify. Hello, Kay, wonderful to see you again. Where are you this fine day?

Kay: I am in Brooklyn and our headquarters are in Brooklyn too. I go in about two days a week.

Drew: Fill us in on all things Amplify. 

Kay: So Amplify has been around almost 25 years. We started off in the early reading assessment space, there was a lot of federal reading legislation at the time. And a real awareness about, the need for kids to learn to read by third grade. And so we developed an assessment that helps schools give kids the instruction they needed. So we started off doing a lot of state sales. Then we moved into curriculum, core curriculum, which is the bulk of our business now. That is the main thing that teachers and kids use all day in their academic classes. And we do core curriculum, K12 in literacy, math, and science. And we made that move, because it’s really the main thing that they use to teach. And so we felt like it was really the place to have the biggest impact on instruction. We’re now you know, in all 50 states, we serve over 15 million kids. I think we’re in a quarter to a third of all classrooms in the US. So we have a big impact. And that’s exciting. And it’s also daunting at times.

Drew: So you heard Kevin talk about the challenges, as he said, of scale, and seasonality and just messaging slash noise. How did those sort of align with the challenges that you have at Amplify? 

Kay: I mean, I just wanted to say like plus one, how nice it is through CMO Huddles to be able to talk to other CMOs, about grappling with the same kinds of issues. Yeah, K12, is incredibly local. Every state has different standards, although a lot of them are pretty similar. So that helps. But it’s a local sale. And so that has a lot of implications, at least at the core, for core curriculum, it’s a local thing. So it means you need a pretty big distribution channel and then also building products takes a lot of investment. So there’s like big barriers of entry to get into core curriculum. There’s a lot of Ed Tech, that is not core, that is more supplemental and it’s easier than what we do, it has to be based on the state standards, and that kind of thing. So it takes a lot of product development work and customization for different areas. And then it also takes a big distribution channel, because people still really buy at the district level.

Drew: And so I’m just imagining from a product standpoint, if you essentially have a nuanced version of the product in each of these markets, that the development costs are higher, this is not SaaS, where, you know, it’s one size fits all. You download Outlook, period, end of story. So there’s scale and it means that these things have to be by definition, more expensive, yet, you’re dealing with a with a target group that may or may not have as much money as other entities. So that’s gotta be tough from an organizational standpoint. 

Kay: It is except that there’s always federal money coming to districts every year based on title monies, Title One and Title Two. Some of the big states like California, Texas, Florida have moments when they give districts money to buy curriculum. And so it’s a constant, ongoing need, just have to have materials to give the teachers and the kids. And so we are in a part of the market that is sort of evergreen and has ongoing budget attached to it. So that is a good part of the market to be in. That doesn’t mean we have fluctuations based on government. So for instance, Kevin was talking about all this money that came into K12 during COVID. A lot of that money is going away. So that is making all of us have to think hard about how to still make ourselves relevant as budgets tighten. How do we help people continue all the work? They started.  

Drew: Yeah, as you were talking about California, Texas, Florida. We had a Huddle earlier today and ICP came up. And I’m thinking that, boy, if you get some big deals with those states, I mean, the magnitude, right.  

Kay: They have a lot of influence on the product. They have sort of a California edition, a Texas edition, and Florida edition. But then those often get repurposed for different states, because one of those will end better for one state or another.  

Drew: Yeah, and again, I’m just relating this back to other marketers, what you all have to do from a marketing standpoint, is ahead of the curve in terms of that level of personalization that you have to provide, right, both from a product standpoint and a messaging standpoint. And I think there’s a lot of things that folks can learn. You know, Kevin talked about the 50 states in the messaging and each of those. How do you manage the national versus local when you go to market, with campaigns, if you will, for Amplify?  

Kay: There’s a couple of ways we do it. One is that we actually have a national marketing team and a field marketing team. So the Field Marketing Team often takes a lot of stuff that the national marketing team does and customizes it for their local markets. That’s one way to do it is to have people who actually then really know those markets well, and can use the exact messaging that people care about in Tennessee or Texas or wherever. We also segment, they have lists, we obviously do a lot of segmentation, you know, tweak messaging based on that. And things are literally called different things in different states, the standards are different. And so you have to refer to those standards whenever you’re talking to educators in that state, they all have different names. And so we do a lot of segmentation, even when we’re doing national marketing because some things just don’t work in certain places, or set people off, or whatever it is. So we have to be really careful about that. So we sort of do it two ways. We do it through technology, like real segmentation. And then we have a field marketing team, who also does local events and things like that. 

Drew: Yeah, a couple of things come to mind, I’m thinking that the impact of generative AI was really a sort of combination of machine learning and generative AI will be huge on your guys’ industry, because you can put all those rules in devices and in theory could help – I need the Texas iteration of this story and it could just do that, in theory. So interesting. Okay. Is there anything that you have from whether it’s on a national scale or a local scale that you could point to, that’s worked particularly well, for you to sort of engage this ever elusive and cautious target audience?

Kay: Well, one of the things we did during COVID was we started to do these big sort of virtual symposia that brought together thought leaders in the field with an almost all-day or half-day event, because obviously we couldn’t meet in person and we had done webinars before but this is sort of like a marquee event with people that know names in the field and we got a great platform, Crowdcast, to hold these events. And they are so productive for us from a demand gen standpoint and a nurture standpoint, and actually a customer retention, customer marketing standpoint, literally all of those, we get a lot of new contacts because we promote them for months and months ahead of time, we nurture people who are already in our funnel and then we get a lot of existing customers who join and it helps build this brand of thought leader, a thought partner in literacy or in math and science. And so we started these during the pandemic. And now we do them once or twice, and we’re thinking even more because they are so generative in terms of all the good metrics. And we do fewer in-person conferences. And we also are going to do fewer, just one-off webinars just to do the sort of big marquee events.

Drew: I’m going to put a punctuation point on the notion of thought partner versus thought leader what an interesting way of thinking about programs like this. All right. And with that, let’s bring on Megan Rainbow, who is the Director of Marketing at Aloe View. Hello, Megan, how are you today? And where are you?  

Megan: Hi, there. I’m great. I’m glad to be here today. And I’m joining you from my home office in the Northwestern part of Pennsylvania in Erie. 

Drew: Let’s start with Allovue and where you fit in into the Ed Tech ecosystem.  

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. So I fit in in a different way from what we just heard from Kay and Kevin. And that’s because Allovue is an Ed Fintech solution. So we’re bringing together education, finance, and technology and providing a solution on the administrative side of the house. So this is not an instructional tool that is getting to educators and students, but rather a back-of-house finance platform that helps administrators in their work to manage the money of school districts.  

Drew: Interesting. So in one hand, you have a smaller group of people who are both the users as well as the buyers, which is a distinction between what Kay and Kevin have because they have this complicated, you got students, you’ve got teachers, and you’ve got school districts who actually fund it. Interesting. So where you heard Kay and Kevin talk about challenges in the market. What did you hear that was similar and what was very different for you all?

Megan: So I would say in general, most of what they had to share really resonated with me. But I can offer two other challenges that I think are unique, or perhaps they’ll find that they resonate with them as well. But the first is that education finance is not a glamorous topic. I’ve actually heard what we do, liken to plumbing in a house, right? Nobody wants to talk about plumbing. But you certainly don’t want to buy a house without a functioning sink or toilet. And so it can be really hard when we’re talking about education finance to build an emotional connection and to do it in a way that doesn’t fan the flames of contentious issues, and you know, some of the problems that are going on. So one of the ways that we try to do that is to introduce whimsy and a playful energy that’s really sort of unexpected in this discipline. And we find that that just helps soften the edges all around and helps our brand be memorable. And also, I think it signals to our prospects that we understand what they’re doing is really complicated. And we don’t claim to have a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, and that we’re just sort of here on the trenches with them. 

The second piece that I’ll offer, which I’m willing to bet is something that we’re all feeling, is the challenge of dealing with change. So change in school districts, especially in school finance can be slow and very hard. And we sell a product that essentially requires transformative change of technology and process. And so oftentimes, when deals get stuck in our pipeline, it’s not necessarily about product features or about price, but about that very real fear of navigating change. That’s really hard. And so a big focus of our marketing effort is establishing Allovue as a partner in change management and as an organization that can support the champions in our district in moving through change and really getting to the other side of implementing a tool like ours.

Drew: You instantly made me think of Brent Adams’ phrase that always sticks in software decisions or decisions like this. It’s always the question of is the gain of change bigger than the pain of change? And it’s such an easy way to think about a challenge like this. And the other problem is that when you talk about the gain of change, you’re talking about a future state that may be hard to imagine. 

Megan: I’ll add too, K12 behaves a lot like a nonprofit organization. And especially on the administrative side. There can be barriers to innovation and some of that has been in large part created by the EdTech market and the focus on instructional tools and innovation on that side of things, and less so on the administrative side. And so public sector leaders are just so used to working with free homegrown tools and solutions, you know, these things of course just increase the cost many times over when you talk about human capital costs and the cost of error and lost institutional knowledge when folks retire. And so just coming up against that status quo can be really tricky.  

Drew: Yeah. I mean, really, the question I’m thinking about for you all is, there’s got to be a small set of administrators who are willing to cross the chasm who are going to take that chance and be the champions. You know, what are the odds that you can help them be the hero in this thing versus the person that sort of tried to bring about a change? Why are you fixing it, it ain’t broken kind of a thing.  

Megan: Exactly. It’s a really fine line to walk.  

Drew: So how do you do that?  

Megan: It’s a great question. One of the ways that we’ve tried to meet our target audience is just to recognize that one of the things that’s really challenging about their work is the fact that it’s so misunderstood, that even folks in district leadership and certain communities and politicians don’t necessarily get it all right when it comes to understanding how money flows through school systems. And so we focused a lot of our messaging and our outreach on trying to clear up these misconceptions and just sort of stand shoulder to shoulder with them in this work that they’re doing to help just bolster literacy in education finance throughout the public. And so for example, we’ve recently been working with the publication Education Week and their nonprofit research division on a nationwide survey that assesses the perceptions and understanding of education finance and helps to expose where there are critical gaps so that we can come together as school districts, as a vendor, and help to educate the market to just pick some of the core challenges that are at play.  

Drew: By the way, for those folks who are not in EdTech, this is the moment where that play is exactly the same play that a SaaS company would use that is struggling to get someone to change what they’re doing and do something else. You do some research that is with a partner who has credibility in the category, you survey a bunch of stuff. And lo and behold emerges the exact challenge that you solved.

Megan: You’re absolutely right. And I think what’s sort of a unique spin on what we’re doing is it certainly there are things about the market research that reveal the need for a product or an actual solution. But the focus of it really is on the reality that there are some real threats to the economic bedrock of public education right now. We’re talking about a looming fiscal cliff, teacher shortages, privatization efforts, all sorts of really scary existential problems that threaten public education. And I think showing up as a vendor who cares about those things and cares about educating the community at large, even outside of what we’re able to offer as a solution provider, is a powerful way to be present in the market at this time.  

Drew: Yeah, I can just imagine, because in theory, as a FinTech, you’re making the money available or helping them be more efficient. And if budgets are going to be harder to get to, being more efficient with your money is going to really matter at this moment. But interesting in that, also, you came to this notion of thought partnership, being a partner with folks. 

Okay, well, there are so many meaty topics that I want to get to in the second half of the show. But first, it’s time for me to talk about CMO Huddles. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is a close-knit community of over 200 highly effective B2B marketing leaders who share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Given the extraordinary time constraints on CMOs these days, everything about CMO Huddles is designed to help leaders save time and empower them to make faster, better decisions. If you’re a senior B2B marketer and need a shortcut to B2B greatness, take a second to sign up for our free starter program at  

So all right, let’s bring Kevin, Kay, and Megan – you three are incredibly busy marketing leaders. I’m wondering if you could share an example real quick of how maybe CMO Huddles has helped you save some time.

Megan: I’ll just add that I’ve actually had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with both Kay and Kevin, which were meetings that were organized by Drew to help address some challenges that I was encountering recently in my role. And so being able to have that curated network and peer mentorship has been immensely valuable.  

Drew: I love it. And the idea here is you get a one-on-one with somebody who’s actually experiencing the same challenges and you can get a force multiplier there, right? That hour is like hours and hours saved. Very cool, thank you. Kevin?

Kevin: Yeah ,really to build off what Megan had said, I think it’s the one-on-one opportunity. But it’s really just the strength of the community and the strength of the network. And so there are different ways to interact with others to, you know, I found when I’ve got maybe a particular challenge I’m wrestling with, I can pose that question. And I’ve usually found just two or three hand raisers right off the bat of people who are offering their time for me to connect and just brainstorm. And so it’s a really helpful community that lets you get to some interesting ideas and answers without all that noise. I found a lot of value in that way.  

Drew: Awesome. Thank you for that. And Kay, any thoughts?

Kay: I just would say plus one to the community piece, I mean, being an executive can be lonely. You know, you have your other executive friends who lead different functions, but they don’t necessarily know marketing really well and aren’t grappling with the same marketing challenges. And so it’s just wonderful to have peers that they’re dealing with the same kinds of things, hear about how they’re dealing with it differently than you thought to deal with it, etc. And then innovation, you just bring really cool speakers in for us to learn from, for instance, about AI, and I’m hiring that person now to come work with my team. And it just allows you to kind of have ongoing professional development and community.

Drew: I love it. Well, thank you, the three of you. And if you’re a B2B CMO, as I mentioned, who can share, care, and dare with the best of them, do yourself a favor, you’ll save a lot of time, get inspired, have a peer network that will solve that loneliness issue, check out 

Okay, now, I am dying to get at some of these issues that they’re not on the plan, but you raised them first. Issue number one, and I was talking to one of my brothers who was a high school teacher, and it used to be that you could get a textbook if you can get Texas to buy it. Maybe you sell it in 40 or 50 of the other states, right? Now it’s like every single state is now looking at every little thing and every district is. This has got to be creating both product development and marketing challenges. You and Kay already talked about that. But I’m just wondering, how do you navigate this political environment?  

Kevin: I do think there’s a distinction to in terms, what are you talking about scalability and the politics and the local. The technology itself fundamentally doesn’t change all that much in terms of what we do and what we do is different in many ways than what Amplify does, and when Kay is talking about core curriculum, and we do a lot more on the supplemental, and some of the assessments and things like that. But yes, on the curriculum side, it’s certainly different. You know, we offer digital curriculum for high school English courses or something, that is very different in some states than others. There are a lot of politics at play, there are a lot of concerns that translates across even into what generalized messaging you might put on your corporate website, in terms of the nature of the solutions in one state. It’s a requirement that you offer that solution or that approach, just even to be considered an RFP. And in other states, it’s an instant disqualifier if you’d even offer that, particularly in recent years, I would say there’s been a lot of increased local activism and an increased focus that’s translated up into the state level around what’s the curriculum being put in front of our kids, and what’s the approach and things like that. So that’s what I was getting at. There’s some common threads, but the flavor and how we communicate those threads on a local level, you have to be very, very thoughtful in your approach. And you know, there’s some landmines in there. Certainly.  

Drew: This is where thinking about the apocryphal Bud Light case, right? Everybody knows that as a case where it cost them 40% of their business. And I’m thinking, we’re gonna get the place in EdTech, where you’re a red state or a blue state provider, or is there a way of navigating? Or neither? And can you get away with not taking a stand on these things?

Megan: I’ll just offer a quick comment, this is a challenge for us, because some of the outcomes of using our tool and the values around money management can feel very left or right in education finance, and we’ve run into trouble if we’re perceived as a liberal vendor or a conservative vendor. And so we have to be very careful to not use language that might be okay in some districts and causes problems and others. So that just requires a lot of working closely with our champions at the district to understand the nuance of their school board and the position of their superintendent and all sorts of just really nuanced pieces that can make a word like equity be really favorable in one location and really scary in another.  

Kay: I mean, I would say you kind of have to figure out what your North Star is. And for us, it’s reaching as many kids as we can with our high-quality curriculum, like we build our programs really carefully. We base them in the best research out there about how kids learn reading, math, science. So if you really believe that you want to reach the most kids, then you just really try to stay out of the politics. And frankly, you know, we’ve done a lot of research about this and there’s a lot out there that parents and teachers are not really interested in wading into politics. They want to teach kids academics, they want to teach kids the skills they need to succeed in life. So what we really do is try to stay out of politics and help our customers, basically, when they come to us, and they say we’re dealing with this at the local level, then we just support them with how they can respond, the things they can say they can bring people back to this is why we adopted this program. This is the research basis, etc. So we just sort of lean in and support our districts when they’re dealing with and help them strategize, because they don’t want to be dealing with this, they want to be dealing with the teaching and learning. All of us, we focus on the teaching and learning, and that can get really lost in all of this because it’s usually political motivations going on. And if you kind of return to that, the vast majority of people, including most of the people in the school board room are going to be behind you. Everybody really wants to focus on that. And there’s just sometimes people distracting from that.

Drew: Let’s take this a different way. Let’s go to purpose. The purpose here is to educate kids. And I’ve got to believe that that is a highly motivating thing for you when you go to work every day. And I want to talk about how purpose from an education standpoint, the end goal here is to educate kids, how does that play into your feeling about your job? And your team and your efforts? And how does that permeate the marketing that you do?

Kevin: I think it’s critical, you’ll hear purpose, it’s kind of a buzzword. Every company is purpose and mission-driven. And we certainly are as well and I think all three of us would state in various ways that we have a reasonable sense of what our mission and purpose is. And you’re right, you know, I was thinking about, as we were approaching this about what makes this K12 unique, or what’s compelling about this. And I think it’s about the outcomes. The outcomes, and a lot of marketing industries that I’ve worked in, in the past, were trying to help companies improve their bottom line, and we’re trying to help them improve their customer service. So we’re trying to do these things which are important. And they certainly affect a lot of people. But when you think about the purpose of what we do Kay nailed it. When we were talking about politics a little bit earlier, which is at the core, it’s about helping kids improve their lives through education. And it’s also about helping the teachers and the schools and everyone wrapping around that build those relationships and be more effective in what they do, but ultimately, to help kids have positive outcomes. One of the things I’m so excited about since we’re working in this particular industry, is how purpose-driven it really is. And it’s much more real, I think, what I have seen from talking to a lot of colleagues in marketing, other groups in other companies, as well as certainly within my company, it’s a much more tangible sense of purpose. Because at the end, it’s about kids. And that’s a very emotional connection for a lot of people and purpose serves a very powerful role in the EdTech world. 

Kay: It’s a big advantage in terms of talent, and people, you get great people who are not just careerists and wanting to make money, you get people who are great, that want to make the world a better place. And you can both draw and retain talent, because of it in a way that is hard, I think, if there’s less purpose. So to me, that’s one of the big things is, you know, I have great people on my team, they could go work at a lot of places, but I keep them mostly, not always, but I’m able to retain a lot of amazing people because of the purpose of our company.  

Megan: Another thing that’s really lovely about the industry is that we share that vision and that concern for students and their outcomes with our customers and really help to form those partnerships and those relationships when we’re all in it for the same reason.  

Drew: Right. It’s a great thing and I think other marketers are a little bit jealous at the moment as they’re hearing that three of you chime in on this. So I want to get to some practical, what’s working, what isn’t working, what’s working right now in this very changing moment, you’ve come out of that virtual learning experience. And Kay already mentioned that these symposiums had worked for her surprisingly well both for acquisition and retention. So maybe Megan, is there something that you have been able to start or initiate or spearhead that feels like it’s gonna work or is working?  

Megan: Yeah, you know, and thinking about this conversation today. The example that came to my mind was actually an in-person summit or symposium that we run as well but I can offer, I guess, another example, which is that we often hear from administrators that they just want one tool that solves all of these problems related to finance and HR and all those things, and it’s not out there. And so something that we try to focus on in acquiring new customers and retaining the ones that we have is our partnerships with technology vendors that sit adjacent to our product or who have to integrate with our product and helping to get at that seamless experience that folks are after to ease some of the anxiety. So that is something that comes into our marketing and certainly on the implementation side of things and the product side of things is a big focus to meet the demands of administrators.

Drew: Well, it makes sense because they want a whole solution, you don’t deliver the whole solution. And often, it’s better when you have a component versus the whole. But so bringing partners in and I’m imagining if they’re good partners, they’re also getting you in on deals. Kevin, is there anything you’ve been doing that’s particularly effective in the last six to 12 months? 

Kevin: Well, I think this is a very relationship-driven industry, with superintendents, for example, are very connected, and they’re very much looking to each other to learn. You talked about change, they’re looking for change leaders, people who are willing to take that personally, it’s heavy on the relationship. So from a marketing side, I don’t have the exciting answer so much is it’s a lot of really strong, walking and tackling, that’s our focus right now. It’s about good product marketing, good solutions, messaging, really heavy emphasis on sales enablement, really empowering our fields on the frontline, our customer success folks, our sales folks, our partnership managers who are out there, building those relationships. So that’s been the big focus, you know, and then we back it up with things I mentioned before about content tactics like efficacy, research, Voice of Customer, things like that are really powerful and important. And so just making sure that that kind of content, those kinds of messages are getting out in front of our prospective customer base is critical. But it’s really all in service of supporting that relationship.

Drew: As I think about it again, in the larger marketplace, Voice of Customer, always a good thing for almost anybody, the commonality of what you all are doing is it’s more alike than it feels differently other than that condensed sales cycle. But I’m imagining that AI is going to play another transformative role. And I was at a conference where it was actually a publisher who had created a tool that sort of enabled curriculum, I’m just imagining that you all must be looking at that very carefully. Can you talk about what role you see AI playing in terms of transforming, and also I’m imagining their issues related to it as well.  

Kay: As I said, we’re actually hiring the consultant that you brought into CMO Huddles to help us think through because I want my whole team to have plans for how they are going to integrate AI in 2024, we haven’t really done much yet, truthfully. But we do so much content generation, as all good marketing organizations do. And so I think we’re going to be using it for writing first drafts of lots of things, press releases, blogs, other kinds of content marketing. And along those lines. Also, I think it’s really easily used for both generating first drafts and also distilling lots of information. I’m getting new reports every day about the industry and that kind of thing. And like, I don’t have that much time to read a whole report. So I can just distill it into what are the five bullet points from this report. So those are the two main uses I see in the short term. But that’s partly because I’m not that versed in all its possibilities. 

Drew: Got it, ya know, Claude has become my new best friend, you drop a 25,000 word PDF in there, say give me 10 things I must know. And it just, it’s unbelievable. So Megan, anything in terms of not just your use, but in terms of the way AI may impact product development,

Megan: I share a similar perspective as K in that I have an understanding of the potential but it is certainly limited. And so that’s hard for me to comment. But I will add that the way that I see AI affecting our team and how we operate in the short term is in its ability to help us be more productive. So you know, the way that is integrated into productivity tools that were already using, creating efficiencies for task management and collaboration and that sort of thing feels like the most immediate opportunity that we have, based on how our business is run today. 

Kevin: To build off what everyone else is saying, certainly within marketing, we’re experimenting with Gen AI around natural places, SEO, Search marketing, and coming up with things like that, as well as marketing content creation, and on content development I know our product development teams are certainly running a number of experiments and seeing how it adds some efficiencies. Broadly in the industry, I would say, outside of raw marketing AI in education is a hot topic, that what’s interesting is some of the people who are dealing with it most are the teachers right off the bat, because some of the earliest and most aggressive adopters of AI are certainly school aged kids. And they’re taking the ChatGPTs and throwing them into take-home essays. You know, teachers are right on the front lines. It’s a very active debate on the academic integrity front. It’s a major topic of debate right now, in terms of use of AI and AI detection, preventing cheating, and things like that. So yeah, we’re looking at both what’s out in the marketplace. And you know, how can we embed it in our tools or integrate it in some way but then certainly across like most companies, internally to drive efficiencies?  

Drew: It’s funny, I’m in a book club, and I needed to prepare some notes and I was thinking about the book that I had read. And then I compared it to another book that I had also thought about, I threw that into ChatGPT and said, “Write a compare and contrast of these two autobiographies” and it was like A+, best essay I ever wrote. So, yeah, it’s gonna be a hard time.  

Kay: Yeah, I used to be an English teacher. And I don’t know what I would do now. And yeah, I think it’s gonna take a little while to figure out how we use it and how it’s integrated. But I think it’s going to become something like the web, where it is everywhere, and probably not as powerful or as scary as we think it is. But it’s going to become omnipresent. For sure.

Drew: We always quote Ben Franklin in this thing. And this is a quote that is often used in the educational universe, “tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me, and I learn,” and I’m just so wondering, okay, well, involving me, and I learned does not mean typing in and asking you a question, Generative AI. So anyway, that’s a topic for another day, as we wrap up, offer one final word of wisdom for CMOs when it comes to EdTech Marketing, one thing that they really need to keep in mind, and we’ll do it in reverse order. So Kay, go ahead. One key thought for really being successful in ad tech marketing. Yeah,

Kay: I mean, I would say to be successful in marketing, you really need to know your audience, you really need to understand their needs and their daily lives and what they care about. And in EdTech, that means really understanding teachers. And so I really encourage anyone in EdTech Marketing or interested in going into it to always stay really close to the teacher, write for the teacher, think about things that the teacher would want to hear in their crazy busy lives filled with 100 things flying at them. And that’ll serve you well.  

Drew: Well, as an ex-teacher, you can have even more empathy for those. Okay, Megan?  

Megan: Yeah, I would offer to not get discouraged if some of the cause-and-effect relationships that are dependable in other industries are less reliable for you and your marketing for K12. So to that end, and I think this certainly applies across marketing. Think like a scientist, observe experiment, question assumptions. And don’t be afraid to adapt. 

Drew: There we go. All right, Kevin.  

Kevin: As someone who came in just in the last couple years into this industry, I guess my caution would be particularly for coming in into K12. The tendency is to take your B2B playbook of things that work and make some small tweaks and go. And as we’ve talked about throughout this session, it’s a very nuanced industry, it’s incredibly specialized language, more so than I think most people realize. So don’t just take your playbook and expect it to tweak and go, you really have to case it, understand the audience, really know the teacher, connect with them, and then adapt your marketing.  

Drew: The fact that you mentioned earlier in the show that districts have different names for the same thing, that’s not necessarily the case, unless you’re doing international marketing, right. So that’s a great point. I appreciate all of you in these insights because this is a case where you can bring purpose, but then you’re gonna have to really understand the target and get to know them in a deeply empathetic way. All right, well, thank you, Kevin. Kay, Megan, you’re all great sports. Thank you, audience for staying with us. To hear more conversations like this one and submit your own questions while we’re live. Join us on the next CMO Huddle Studio. We stream to my LinkedIn profile that’s Drew Neisser. Every other week, Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, Ishar Cuevas, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!