While LAB-AIDS pioneered the concept of hands on inquiry based education, they have not done a good job of promoting this fact and they have had a rough time articulating their varied and somewhat complex offering. As well known as they are to the “enlightened” teacher who understands the experiential movement, they struggle to compete with the larger textbook publishers who have institutionalized themselves with educators and districts who are under increasing pressure to “teach to the test” and are reluctant to adopt a program that while proven, is not mainstream. LAB-AIDS retained Slightly Mad to focus their marketing strategy more clearly, execute quickly and begin to strategically coordinate their marketing with their sales efforts.
Our challenge was first to help LAB-AIDS understand their position in the marketplace vis a vis the complex political and cultural issues and find a way to articulate the offering in a way that presents LAB-AIDS as a leader in the space rather than an “alternative” curricula.
Due to their recent poor experience with a prior marketing agency, an additional challenge for Slightly Mad was to mitigate a good deal of negativity and distrust amongst their national sales team and their curriculum and content providers who had lost faith in management’s ability to properly understand the subtleties in the market and provide adequate support for their product line and sales efforts.
As a lean, employee owned (ESOP) business, they also understood that “we were far too reactive and fire-fighting all the time” said David Frank, President of LAB-AIDS. Slightly mad has helped LAB-AIDS to become pro-active in their strategic planning.
The Reality Check
During the Reality Check, we performed a series of activities designed to clarify and reveal their position in the marketplace, their full product and service offering, their business goals and the target mindset.
Based on these exercises, we began to develop a better articulated, more targeted, high-touch communication strategy. This “broad shoulders” approach was exactly what LAB-AIDS needed to get them out of the weeds and see the big picture possibilities for the LAB-AIDS brand.
We created a new positioning firmly rooted in the company’s long and storied history. The new positioning: “A Catalyst for Learning” became a rallying cry for the organization and began a paradigm shift. This report, which we call “Reality Revealed” was presented to the leadership team in a session that was to be described in the years to follow as a true turning point for the company.
The company was experiencing a lack of clarity regarding their mission, vision, core values and objectives. Different departments and functions were competing for limited resources and clearly some of the functions of the company were housed in the wrong department and run by the wrong people. We created a new organizational structure based upon the new corporate strategy which would enable and support the company's future growth. We challenged senior leadership to make a commitment to the new positioning and allow it to be the lens for which every business decision is seen through.
Slightly Mad went on to design an integrated marketing program which reaches across all customer touch points including development of a new brand identity, website, advertising campaigns, product and new lines of business naming projects, packaging, collateral and trade show experiences over the more than two years to follow.
Due to a once yearly and fast approaching selling season and the negativity surrounding the recent false start with the prior ad agency, we realized that we needed to jump in quickly and deal with their short term marketing needs. While at the same time beginning our comprehensive brand development methodology which we call the Reality Check.
Within the first month of our engagement we participated in their annual sales meeting. We seized this rare opportunity with everyone in one location to perform some team building exercises and workshops geared towards understanding the mindsets and needs of both their national sales team, guests and content partners. Our goal was to very quickly deliver some very specific and much needed marketing materials to serve them in the short term. This quick action had a real and tangible impact and transformed the sales force into a more driven and enthusiastic group.
Another major initiative underway at LAB-AIDS was the redevelopment of their critically important and highly complex e-commerce website. Unfortunately they had major concerns regarding the firm that they had hired more than a year prior and the stalled progress. We immediately assumed the role of Digital Strategy partner and senior project manager.
We re-prioritized the project based on the business objectives.
We redesigned the front end GUI to be more user friendly and support the new branding;
We needed to get up to speed very quickly with a framework that we had not experienced prior, and we needed to we fully understand both the capabilities of the software and its limitations to mediate between the development firm and senior management;
We found workarounds to resolve issues with the prior firm, tested and launched the new site quickly and without significant additional investment.
- The leadership team has reported an unprecedented 40% increase in total sales, with even greater increases in pilot programs and the much sought after and coveted acceptance of the high school market.
- Our Results spurred an unprecedented increase in the size and expertise of their national sales team and LAB-AIDS was able to begin expansion into new markets and delivery channels such as higher education and digital.
- We changed senior management’s mindset from reactionary to proactive, strategic and appreciative of the role marketing must play in the success of their business.
- The entire organization was re-invigorated from the top management, through the ranks and extending to their content partners, with a new excitement and understanding of their true essence “A catalyst for learning”
- The strategic business planning sessions allowed senior leadership for the first time in their history to focus, articulate and document their key core business objective. Specific business models were developed against each to drive corporate growth and development.
- We re-structured their organizational chart to better reflect the strategic objectives that were established during the Reality Check process.
- We developed a new approach to the way they “pilot” curriculum into potential school districts that is firmly rooted in the new positioning and depends heavily on the company’s already solid reputation in the industry. We named the program “The Catalyst Project”. This initiative provided an exciting platform for key players both within the LAB-AIDS corporate structure and also partners and industry leaders to interact with and support new and potential adoptees. We developed a free standing brand identity, website, advertising campaign and print materials to support this initiative.
- We completely changed the mindset of senior management with regards to their trade show involvement vis-à-vis goals, budget and product line presentation - saving them significant expense and time and making their trade show appearances more strategic and effective..
- Our involvement has been raved as “The best thing to happen to LAB-AIDS.” by senior management.
- Due to the overwhelming success of the corporate branding project, the President of LAB-AIDS engaged us to conduct our "Reality Check” brand development and redesign the branding for SEPUP and Ergopedia, the company’s two largest and highly valued content partners.