TO: Casey Green, Campus Computing (consultant)
FR: Executive Officers, Acme Education Widgets
RE: Response / Questions - Partner is Not a Verb and Other Key Issues for Doing Business in Higher Ed
We at Acme Education Widgets would like to reiterate our ongoing gratitude for the highly actionable and wise consulting services that you have provided to us over the years. As longtime sponsors of The Campus Computing Project, we at Acme rely on your data driven insights to guide us through the treacherous educational technology market in which we operate.
Our team of analysts, business development officers, sales professionals, product managers, and executives have been discussing your Partner Is Not a Verb memo - and we have some (confidential) questions.
1. What Should We Say If We Don’t Say “Partner”?
We understand that we need to stop throwing around the word “partner." But what we can’t figure out is what word to replace “partner” with?
Maybe “collaborator”? Or “preferred client”? Please help us find some new language that means “customer", but does not say “customer." Our customers hate being called customers. Friends?
2. How Do We Get To “Trust” Without First Going Broke?
You write in your memo that the “trust is the coin of the realm” when it comes to “recommending, buying, and deploying.” We get that trust is important - but how can we accelerate this trust thing? We at Acme need to operate on a fiscal time scale, not the tectonic time scale that higher ed seems to follow.
It is also clear to us at Acme that the best way to make a sale to college A is if college B is first a customer. Why is it that colleges and universities spend so much time talking about “leadership”, but never want to lead in anything when it comes to purchasing a new technology?
3. If Colleges Really Want Concierge Relationships, How Come They Will Not Pay for Concierge Services?
You write that…"Campus clients want (and expect!) concierge relationships…” How can we at Acme communicate that: a) It is really expensive to provide this level of service, and b) Our technologies are affordable because we do leverage 3rd party technologies that we don’t always control.
In our experience with the higher education market, we have come to understand that all colleges and universities thinks that they are unique. They are doing a favor to us at Acme in deigning to become our customers. We want to treat all of our customers well, but all colleges can’t be special - can they?
4. We Know That “We Are Not Our Client” - But Who Is Our Client?
Yes, we understand that our higher education customers will have very different backgrounds, orientations, and appetites for risk than we have at Acme. We think we can manage that difference. What we at Acme struggle with is figuring out who exactly our client is.
Figuring out who the decision maker is at any given college or university is often an exercise in frustration. It seems that almost everyone on campus has a veto power, but almost nobody has full authority and discretion.
Do you think that you would be able to get us into the CIO Lounge at EDUCAUSE 2016?
5. How Can We Understand Our Clients Costs in Relation to Our Prices?
You point out in your memo that a "product or service may ultimately cost two to five times the actual contractual price”.
This may be true, but it is not the fault of our technology. If our higher education customers were only willing to narrow their project scope, and be disciplined about what the technology should do, than implementation costs should be nowhere near the 5X multiple that you describe.
Is it our fault that our higher education clients are so inefficient?
6. What Do We Do About the Higher Ed Neural Network?
You write in your memo that "institutions not only collaborate, they often conspire." So true! Why is it then that every institution asks for “special pricing” and a “special deal”? We can’t offer special pricing if we have to offer the same price to everyone. The pricing would not be special then, it would just be the “price”.
Also, why is it that when something goes wrong with our Acme technology that every customer and potential customers seems to know about the problem within a matter of minutes? But when things go right nobody ever talks to anyone? Does the higher education neural network only share bad news?
Again, we at Acme Education Widgets greatly appreciate your continued consultative partnership. (Can we say partnership with you?).
Executive Officers, Acme Education Widgets
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