While Autism Expressed is ultimately a business that needs to make money, part of what the company does is also about sharing our vision when it comes to students with autism. The company tries to promote awareness about the need to include people with disabilities into society. I share this vision as a way to have an impact on the lives of individuals and families across the country, but also to gain traction as a business and grow the company.
Sometimes this is done through a direct approach by calling potential customers, sending out emails, and by doing social media marketing. Other times, it’s something that happens organically, by sharing conversations about the company and what I do in a variety of social circles—at a tech meetup, in the coffee shop, a party. While these people I talk to may not be potential customers, the growing prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders, makes it very likely that they either know someone affected by autism or someone working in the disabilities community. So by casually discussing my product and the concept behind it, Autism Expressed’s message can sometimes take a winding path that ends up in front of the exact people we are trying to reach.
This is what happened with our new customer, Bancroft.
I was hanging out with an interesting local Philly ed-tech startup and sharing ideas with the founders about launching a company, disrupting education, and the whole nine yards. Later, one of the team members mentioned that he had a friend who was involved with Bancroft, an organization that works with people with disabilities. Later, he mentioned Autism Expressed and its products to the friend.
An introduction was made and I shared my story and then my vision. While this person was not actually providing services through Bancroft and would not be a decision maker when purchasing a product like Autism Expressed, he was an advisor to the organization and understood that there was value in what I was doing. But he wasn’t sure how it might translate or be implemented at Bancroft.
Our conversation then sparked another introduction, but this time to Dennis Morgan, the executive director at Bancroft, who invited me to present to his team.
As I wrote in an earlier post, it’s important to know your market. I tailored my presentation to what I anticipated the needs of Bancroft would be and by the end of it, I could feel the excitement and level of motivation among everyone present. I was asked some of the best questions I have ever been presented with and was thoroughly impressed by the brainstorming that took place as a result. The Bancroft team saw the value in Autism Expressed and shared my vision for how to best help the community we serve. As a result, Bancroft quickly purchase a package and will be rolling out the Autism Expressed program as we bring in the new year.
A lot of people, like my aunt, who has been an educational diagnostician (and my inspiration) with a very successful private practice for nearly 30 years, say that word of mouth is the best marketing. She would always tell me, “I haven’t advertised a day in my life.”
I’ve learned that word of mouth can bring serendipitous results. I was not focused on making a sale, but being passionate about what I’m doing and telling my story led to just that. Then, another happy accident occurred. While I was not actively seeking a conversation with an investor, my sale to Bancroft eventually may lead in that direction. It just shows me that it’s important to focus both on deliberate marketing and advertising efforts as well as the idea of networking and informal contacts and conversations.