Seller Inspiration

How Educators Launched an SVOD to Teach Social Skills

by Paula Rosenberg · November 28, 2016 · Comments

The creators of Everyday Speech kept finding that they couldn’t find great educational tools. So they built their own.

Brittany Lehane, a speech language pathologist, was looking for resources that would teach social skills to kids, but most were expensive, low quality, or both. So she and Cal Brunell partnered up to make their first iteration of Everyday Speech Social Skills — an app. When they found that kids responded better to video, they launched a subscription video service for students and educators.

Their SVOD channel is a great example of how to listen to customers and make feedback an explicit part of content and growth strategy. We chatted with Cal and Brittany about how they started and grew their network over the past year.

VHX: Why start a subscription video network?

Brittany Lehane and Cal Brunell: We listened at every stage. When we were doing apps we talked with customers and realized they really wanted videos. We made a small set of test videos and released them through the apps. Once we got feedback and realized people actually liked the videos, we made a whole bunch more and sold them as a standalone product. After hearing from customers and realizing they wanted more and more videos, we decided that we should release them monthly. Once we made that decision, it seemed that SVOD was a pretty natural fit.

As far as self-distributing, we didn't even consider any other options. As a small company, it didn't really make much economic sense for us to go through a distribution company. We own the videos, and we own the network of viewers. We love being in control.

How did you build an initial audience before you started your network?

We had apps and mailing lists targeted at this audience before we started on video. We had a contest before we launched the videos where we reached out to bloggers in this space and had their readers sign up for our mailing list. We then gave away free sample packages to every blog — each got one, but the blog with the most sign ups had all of their users receive a free sample. We also did it on an individual basis — each person who referred at least three people was guaranteed to get a free sample. We took a few videos and created a product that we sent out using the free copies tool.

How did you grow your subscribers once you started your network?

We do the obvious things like release free videos on YouTube and some stuff on social media, but for us, the big driver of downloads is our email list. We released our apps for free as a lead generator, and built a worksheet database on our website that has worksheets that our video users might also be interested in. By getting people into the funnel, we can occasionally send them updates on what we're doing, and what new content we have in the library.

Also, once we implemented the free trial, we saw a massive uptick in subscribers. Because of the audience we target (special education), not only does the user have to like our videos, they have to know whether they are appropriate for the students on their caseload, because there's a pretty large range of needs they are dealing with.

How do you engage your subscribers?

We send them updates every month when we release new videos. We talk in our forums about their ideas and the needs of the kids on their caseloads. And we constantly ask them for feedback. We run surveys all the time, and solicit more informal feedback from our monthly emails. It's pretty rare that we'd go two months in a row without asking for their opinion on something. We use different tools for gathering feedback: Google Forms works well for simple surveys and we use SurveyMonkey for more advanced segmentation. We also use MixMax when we want to put a poll directly into an email we’re sending to our subscribers.

What was the hardest part of starting your own network?

Getting eyeballs on the product. Even someone niche like us has to get a massive number of people to look at their products to be able to grow. Once we get them there, demonstrating value in a concise way is really important, and something we're constantly working on.

What are your plans for the future?

We're actually doing a pretty large expansion of our library this winter. Our goal is to create a tool that therapists can use every single day. So we're developing solutions for every student on their caseload, from the lowest to the highest functioning. From simplified videos where we model a target skill, to interactive games and activities that promote problem solving, and real life social interaction we're expanding our reach and doing some things we've never seen done before in this context.

What's the best piece of advice you could give to someone thinking about launching their own network?

Start building your audience before shooting a frame. Through social networks, forums, and related sites you can find people who are in your core audience. Get their contact info and use them as much as you can. When you have zero subscribers, one is a lot. As you slowly grow, their perspective is invaluable because they are so far removed from the creative process — we can get so deep into it, and so excited about what we have that we can lie to ourselves.

When we started out we had an idea in our head about what customers would want. We turned out to be correct for the most part, but not in all cases. We thought videos should be as straight forward as possible, but it turns out our users really like additional voiceovers, animation, and icons when those were added to some video. We moved more in that direction with our content and continued to ask for feedback every step of the way. Your invested customers will keep you honest, and will probably end up being your biggest promoters.

Educators, parents, and students can subscribe to Everyday Social Speech Skills. Or read up on more stories and tips from successful video sellers.