Interview with Naveen Raman – Head Marketing & Communications – Pearson Education
PW: How important is technology for the success of the modern marketer?
NR: Modern marketing is all about doing things in real-time. Technology has changed the way we communicate, connect, reach-out, buy, sell, transact and learn. Social Media Management and Community Building, Database Management, Search Engine Optimization and Analytics have become an integral part of the marketing mix.
For instance online marketing using strong technology and analytics can become very data driven, scientific and predictable. For instance in TutorVista, on peak months, we have spent over $ 500 K a month on online advertising in a scientific manner. We have data over 1 million key words – the cost per click , the conversion rates, cost of acquisition using the specific key words. This allows us to optimize marketing spend granularly rather than a “spray and pray” approach.
The technology platform allows us to do A/B testing to continuously test the effectiveness of campaigns so that we measure ROI of marketing spend.
Modern technology now offers several advantages to a business. Expensive phone calls have now given way to Skype calls and e-mails. There are little or no courier or fax costs as documents can be shared on Google Docs. Not only have the costs gone down, but new improved technology ensures that people can act immediately rather than waiting days or weeks. Order placing does not require ledgers and records but can be done over e-mail. Payments can be done through online banking, credit cards or PayPal. Technology gives businesses access to new markets, partners, customers more quickly and easily. It also allows organizations to be more productive and innovative. In the nutshell the world of communication is becoming compact, thanks to technology.
PW: What are your current priorities?
NR: From a commercial point of view, I would say Customer Data Management & Analytics and New product development are key priorities where we are usage of technology is maximum.
For our ICT product “Digiclass” we provide a 5 year license to our customers and within this span our entire database management system, day to day tracking of product usage / customer satisfaction, payment / collection , Hardware monitoring , finance management all are tracked, controlled and managed by us with the use of technology.
All our products / services are built on technology being the base platform. Starting from Digitally i.e the key application for our classroom solution ‘Digiclass’ to Scoremore which is our retail offering to Edurite One which is V SAT based teaching solution.
The above said activities are clearly targeted in achieving the following objectives
– To reach out to every customer and help them benefit from all the offerings that Pearson has – beyond publishing
– To be established as the brand of choice for private schools when it comes to any form of Digital solution
– Cater to every learner’s unique learning needs. One size doesn’t fit all and we are here to provide customized solution to all our customers.
– On online tutoring side – make personalized tutoring convenient and affordable to the masses across the globe. Marry Internet, technology and global teachers to deliver a service at a place , time and cost that meets the needs of the students.
PW: At Pearson Education how has technology played a role in customer acquisition or retention?
NR: Technology has played a vital role in customer acquisition as well as retention for our flagship product ‘Digiclass’ . Digicalss is a digital learning classroom solution, aimed at schools. This solution is mapped to every syllabus and curriculum blending the latest developments in education, thus creating an environment that not only enhances a teacher’s productivity and creativity, but also helps in better student understanding and retention.
The customer acquisition for Digiclass includes demo based sales. The entire package moves from point to point for a physical demo. Our product extension process also effectively uses technology leading to a customer acquisition.
The customer retention process centers on regular product upgrades. In fact, for Digiclass the information gets updated regularly giving it an edge over similar competitor products. We upgrade our products every academic season and send regular updates to customers, and this is a key customer retention tool.
On the online business, technology is key for acquisition as it allows us to target the customer as an individual and customize the best offer to him so that he is likely to buy and take up the offer. This is like mobile operators offering customized plans based on customer’s usage pattern. Technology also helps us to retain the customer as we study “churn” patterns across the customers and make proactive interventions and offers to increase the customer’s length of stay.
PW: How has technology played a role in new product development, market expansion or other areas?
NR: Technology is vital to new product development and market expansion. All our products like Digitally, Edurite One – VSAT based classroom education and Scoremore are pioneers in the education space and we are ahead of the technology curve in terms of innovation and customer usability. Our VSAT teaching is a technology lead initiative geared towards market expansion. Using this technology we have now reached out to schools in the North East also.
Our online tutoring offered through TutorVista also relies completely on technology. The tutoring is done in a virtual, online environment using a proprietary digital whiteboard where the student and teacher can draw, write and chat for an effective tutoring session. The whiteboard which was developed in-house after feedback from students across the world over several tutoring sessions makes the learning and teaching process almost identical to a face-to-face session.
Technology is used on all parts of the business to make a face-to-face service go virtual across the web. We have over 280 features of the proprietary technology platform that allows us every day to conduct live, one-on-one , synchronous sessions on the web for over 20,000 students across the world (primarily the US ) through 2000 tutors working from their homes – primarily in India.