Strategies and Tools That Produce
Successful Learning Solutions and Expertise
The tools in our 'toolbox' are both unique and contemporary, and they continue to evolve. Most importantly, they offer the flexibility needed to meet the needs of any project regardless of size or format (print, digital, hybrid) and its breadth allows us to create and recommend a different and strategic combination of applications for each. From the outset of strategy formulation to pre- and post-publication promotion, we fully integrate the marketing function into all of our activities. Moreover, our unequaled track record and long-term experience ensure that each client benefits from a methodology that is empirically rather than theoretically based.
As noted above, Burrston House services can be utilized with any project, regardless of scope, platform, or market size, and at any point during the product development and marketing/promotion cycles. We handle assignments that are limited to a single function or those requiring the most comprehensive and complex strategies and steps to execute. Our involvement with each project begins with an initial meeting with the client and team members to determine its needs and goals and the anticipated breadth and mix of research, development, marketing, etc. Following this initial meeting, Burrston House prepares an in-depth proposal (detailing each step/activity and its timing) and budget for review. It is subsequently revised based on client preferences and, once approved, serves as a joint blueprint and reference for project success.
Our range of services include, but are not limited to, the following:
I. Brand Creation/Expansion
In today's competitive environment, creating and successfully launching a new brand or substantially expanding the market share of an existing one requires much more than good product development or clever promotion. To successfully create a learning solution that achieves the stature of a brand requires a long-term view coupled with dedicated intensity in its development and launch. It requires a comprehensive strategy focused on each facet and factor that influences success -- from authorship and format to the level and consistency of post-sale service for customers.
Burrston House is all about assisting clients in branding their products and services rather than simply publishing them. Successful branding strategies and activities are those that produce contemporary products/services in the proper format, characterized by long-term sustainable advantages and high profitability. We view branding as a concept that applies to both individual products/services and companies as a whole. Expressed through our strategies, we approach each assignment with a commitment to brand creation at the product/service level and to brand enhancement for the client as a whole.
II. Market Research
Why is successful product differentation and branding in academic publishing so challenging? There are many factors, but one of the most common is the failure to conduct the proper research and/or to correctly interpret and apply the research data. The process of identifying and meeting unmet product needs is, of course, a marketing function, and our considerable experience has taught us that the more faculty and students (i.e., consumers) are consulted and participate in this process the more likely the results are to benefit all parties. Accordingly, research (in various forms) is the primary vehicle we use to ascertain these needs and preferences and to provide clients with an objective, reliable basis for decision making.
The depth and scope of feedback from the more than 350 focus groups we have conducted (in addition to thousands of in-depth questionnaires and reviews completed on various projects by instructors and students) have not only made crucial contributions to the success of our projects, but when aggregated, the knowledge and insights they have generated regarding issues and trends gives us a unique perspective on the evolution and, most importantly, future direction of our industry.
We conduct both quantitative (quick response) and qualitative (in-depth response) research on numerous scales, utilizing several different instruments, formats and venues. Our questionnaires, regardless of scope, are always carefully tailored to project specifics - and are never generic. Our firm has now conducted more qualitative research in more courses and disciplines than any other consulting firm in higher education. Most recently, we have arranged and moderated over 20 focus groups (200+ instructors/students) whose primary objectives were the exploration and testing of digital content/resources.
III. Media/Digital Research
Contemporary product strategies and design demand awareness and use of the evolving pedagogical utilities provided by digital resources. The capabilities provided by these resources are rapidly changing and their acceptance and use by instructors and students require continuous monitoring. Market timing and product differentiation are both crucial elements in achieving desired financial returns with digital products. Accordingly, research is an essential task in determining market needs, product design, acceptance of and use of digital content. We have substantial experience, expertise, and capabilities in generating digital product research and application.
In summary, whatever the research task, we will tailor a strategy to carry it out professionally and efficiently, and no other consulting firm offers as much experience or success in doing so.
IV. Competitive Analysis
Other than unqualified authors, the absence of research or poor application of its results, what factors determine whether some products thrive and others founder? In order to compete successfully with entrenched products/brands and changing product formats
in highly competitive, over-published markets, we believe it is essential to know your competition -- 'inside and out.' True product differentiation that is market driven and responsive to needs and opportunities is the key element for success, and it is only achieved on a consistent basis by having thorough knowledge of targeted competitors. Accordingly, we typically launch each project with this step. There are, of course, many forms of competitive analyses and we offer the range of tools necessary to efficiently obtain the needed information, as well as the experience to correctly interpret its significance.
V. Product Development
With the emergence and increasing use of various forms of digital content, successful product development is now more challenging (and exciting) than ever. Our firm conducts all forms of product development -- research, analysis of competing product, reviewing, analysis of reviews, editing, illustration research, product testing, etc. We provide development for all forms of digital media and supplements, as well as hybrids and traditional print product.
Our approach to working with authors, instructors, students and associated vendors during the product development process has been and continues to be refined. As a consequence, it yields precisely targeted consumer feedback that allows authors and publishers to make informed, to-the-point decisions at each juncture and to achieve successful product differentiation. Experienced authors who have worked with us from project outset to conclusion will verify that our process is the most careful, thorough, and market-driven they have ever experienced.
We systematically break down each project into each of its competitive elements and then compose a development (branding) strategy designed to yield a learning solution that features superior pedagogical utility in each of these areas, as well as the whole. We believe that it's this degree of strategic and creative thinking in planning, our unique toolbox, and thoroughness in execution and attention to detail that has produced our unequaled track record and that serves to set Burrston House apart in product design and development.
We have conceived, implemented and refined numerous development tools. Examples include the concept of continuous or on-going development - - a necessary and powerful resource in terms of product differentiation, community building, and return on investment. Additionally, we pioneered the use of user diaries and have conducted more reviewer conferences (another tool that when well-executed has and continues to produce extraordinary results) in more disciplines and courses than any comparable firm. The know-how and expertise we have gained from having conducted over 50 of these reviewer conferences gives us a unique perspective on how to maximize the contribution of this resource/tool to project success.
Our approach to reviewing and product testing is unique, rigorous and comprehensive. We place great emphasis on identifying, qualifying and commissioning the right participants at each project stage. Additionally, we focus on addressing specific substantive and pedagogical issues from the outset, and to assure maximum input and effective decision making we work closely with all reviewers to ensure that their preferences are clearly articulated.
VI. Digital Product Design and Development
Efficient and successful development of digital content requires knowledge of emerging and potential applications. Matching and blending of these learning resources with user needs and usage behaviors/habits is equally necessary. Tracking and defining this behavior utilizing various methodologies (and technologies) is a key tool now available to our clients. The optimal mix of digital media in successful product design depends on awareness and competencies in numerous areas, similar in many ways to authoring a foundational or survey work. We have developed these proficiencies through our extensive research and direct involvement in the development of hybrid products, LMSs, CMSs, etc.
VII. Illustration Research
Another important resource we provide within our full range of product development services is illustration research and procurement. We treat the conceptualization, research and selection (or creation) of illustrations for each project with the same care and developmental emphasis as all other content. As a major pedagogical component, and in many instances one that constitutes a substantial percentage of the project's substantive content, we consider the visual element in all formats and media to be an integral and critical competitive component that must be developed to the absolute highest standard.
VIII. Product Launch Strategies
Just as distinct products published for certain market segments in various disciplines (and in multiple media) require original strategies for development, the same thinking should apply to its promotion. Innovative and creative thinking should be hallmarks of every product launch -- something we contribute to every project. In fact, our marketing toolbox is just as comprehensive as its editorial counterpart, and what's most important is that the two functions and strategies are fully integrated from the beginning.
Another advantage we offer clients is research-based promotion strategies. Our firm has and continues to conduct extensive formal research into the methods and content instructors prefer when interacting with publishers to learn about new products and resources. This step is especially critical to successfully launching digital products and resources. The insights generated by our research serve to inform and identify the most effective and efficient ways to use e-marketing and other tools in this process to reach and communicate with potential adopters.
IX. Community Building/Engagement
Successful branding requires meaningful and consistent interaction with consumers. Engaging future users throughout the process of creating and launching learning solutions has been the cornerstone of our success. Within the sphere of academic publishing Burrston House has pioneered and continues to generate many of the practices and tools used today to successfully build and sustain communities of users. Long before the inception of our company (in our previous employment) we were dedicated to this principle and its importance and role in successful publishing.
As with so many of the other services we offer, our long-term application of
this philosophy/approach has led to the development of a
broad, diverse, and proven set of methods for accomplishing
this objective. We value and respect the input of every
participant/contributor to each project (regardless of role),
and the relationship goal we establish is to work with
them to generate a product tailored to market needs --
one that ultimately improves the educational experience
for all concerned. The more involved each contributor
is, the greater their influence, and our methodology is
geared to achieving and maximizing their continued input
throughout development (from initial participation forward).
We offer this community building service either as part of an overall strategy, or as a stand-alone component to complement development carried out by others. Moreover, we can provide single or multiple functions/steps in this regard, and at any stage of a project.