Why you should Zig where your competitors Zag

If you want to win as an edtech startup, find your Zig where your competitors Zag

A proven strategy

One proven strategy I’ve found over decades of building edtech is that if you want to win, you need to Zig where your competitors Zag.

That’s not to say that you should contrive the needs of your customers. No, your vision should be rooted in a solid understanding of what they want to achieve (see Don’t ask customers what they want—ask them where they want to get to). But here’s the trick…

Understand what your target customers most value about your competitors

Entrenched competitors are market leaders for good reason—they solve some key customer needs in compelling ways. So, a great first step to success is building an understanding of what your target customers most like about solutions they use right now (contrary to popular belief, focusing on what they don’t like will give you a flimsy understanding of the competitive landscape and a naive view of what it will take to win).

But, armed with that knowledge, don’t follow the same path. In my experience, you won’t be successful trying to steal a competitor’s business by solving the same customer needs in broadly similar ways. Learners, educators, and institutions are busy and don’t go looking for change. So, if a solution is working pretty well for them, you can assume they’re not going to switch to your product if it offers incremental benefits along the same axes.

This may sounds blindingly obvious. But, having reviewed hundreds of pitches from edtech startups over the years, I often see founders trying to launch a service into what appears to be a juicy market sector, but without a fresh story and compelling plan for how to displace established competitors.

How to find your Zig

A much more successful approach is to get back to basics: dig deep to find out, what do your customers really want to achieve? This will help you to tease out their deeper, unarticulated needs. From that, you can craft your product vision and how you’ll help them to achieve their goals. And then use this to catalyze a new, fresh marketing and sales conversation about the how—that’s your Zig.

Educators are in education because they care about the fundamentals—helping learners to succeed. They will be surprisingly generous with their time if you authentically share that goal and are passionate about helping them to be successful.

Never Zag again

So, if you’re a founder, look for your Zig. Once you find it, you’ll never Zag again.

Need help to find or strengthen your Zig?

If you want an independent, incisive, and experienced assessment of your Zig (your strategy and competitive positioning) and practical advice for how to strengthen it and accelerate your growth, please contact us using the form below—we’d love to help. We also welcome your feedback or questions on this blog—just use the form below and start “Your challenge” with the word “Feedback.”

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