COVID-19 stories: Marketers, martech firms pivot as world goes online

  •   March 31, 2020

The massive disruption of COVID-19 is forcing many of us to rethink everything we do. And right now, our community needs fresh ideas on how to manage the overwhelming situation.

Here are some encouraging stories from marketers who made quick changes to adapt.

Digital to digital

The Challenge: We were a 15-month-old startup running out of money. In January 2020, cookies were crumbling and brand activations were thriving. We had finally found the sweet spot for our mobile tech: first-party data gathering at live events. A few weeks later, the ground began to shift under our feet.

I started to get nervous when my son wound up in the ER for neck pain on March 1 and was asked to wear a mask.

By March 7, the NBA had been advised to prepare to play without fans.

On March 11, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

It became clear that live events would be eliminated for the foreseeable future. Our funding would not survive this timeline.

The Solution: So, where were all our clients going? Online.

We had a small but real window to reassess the strengths and weaknesses of what we’d built, and decide if it could migrate it’s capabilities from the physical world to the virtual world.

On Friday, March 13, I sat down and rewrote our positioning statement. I only changed one word, but that one word changed everything.

Psychologically, this was not an easy shift for our team. It was radically changing our co-founders’ vision for the company and the product. After a few days of conversations and careful thought, we had made a decision.

We would move from physical to digital, to digital to digital.

On March 23, we launched a pro account giveaway through a video on LinkedIn, where I spitballed about our theory that this could work as a virtual activation tool. The platform was integrated in the video as the point of entry for the giveaway. To activate the entry form, viewers needed to scan a QR code on their mobile device, which would launch our micro experience. Would people do it? We rolled the dice.

The Impact: Not only did it fill our pipeline with leads, but it elicited a meeting with a multi-billion dollar non-profit organization. We established our first affiliate partnership. And on March 26th, I was given the opportunity to be a live webinar panelist where we leveraged the platform to gather psychographic, demographic and geographic information about the attendees: data for our first virtual case study.

We’ve never been busier with demos and onboarding than we are at this minute. What could have cut off our blood supply as a company enabled us to discover untapped opportunities with the product, build a stronger executive team relationship, and generate urgent interest in the solution.

– Karen Kelly is the Chief Marketing Officer of Tapple, Inc.

When everyone is looking for gold, sell pickaxes

The Challenge: As a social intranet provider, our product is built around facilitating better internal communications and employee engagement. Part of our vision already involves connecting international teams, but none of our content every truly expressed that. So the challenge was how do we steer the conversation so that we make it clear that our platform is not just a tool that enables international teams to communicate better, but a platform that enables remote workers of every kind?

The Solution: First, we had to differentiate between companies looking for processes to help them manage remote teams and companies looking for a software/tool to help them facilitate those processes (very different audiences in terms of intent). Then we catered our message towards the latter. Instead of focusing on how our software is the best thing for managing remote workers, we decided to highlight the solutions that support remote work (chat tool integrations, file sharing, knowledge management, employee directories, etc…)

The Impact: Rather than have another bland conversation about how “blah blah blah company is doing all it can to support you during COVID-19,” our prospects were able to make the logical conclusion that our platform supports remote work by seeing what our solutions are meant to address, While the market as a whole is starting to tightening the purse strings, we’re actually seeing an increase in traffic, engagement and ultimately conversions as prospects see a need for our product.

– Richard Castello is the PPC/Growth Marketer for Happeo

Live events to online series

The Challenge: Event and offline heavy calendar in the wake of COVID-19 needed a full pivot as all owned and sponsored events were canceled.

The Solution: Shifting the Yotpo offline flagship conference (Destination:D2C) to early 2021 and positioning the Destination:D2C brand as an online series held monthly featuring the top brands in the Direct-to-Consumer industry. Launch a weekly AMA series (IG Live + Zoom + LinkedIn Live) with industry and e-commerce experts to satiate the need for immediate tactical tips and tricks. For our Amazing Women in e-commerce series, we pivoted all offline events online, like a workout from home series every week. Lean on our partner ecosystem to join on events and combine forces with each event.

The Impact: Effectively replacing our entire marketing calendar and influence with a series of online engagements to continue and hit key pills like engagement, brand awareness, education and lead generation.

– Raj Nijjer is the VP of Brand Marketing at Yotpo

Games at staff meetings build camaraderie, keep us connected

The Challenge: My company sent people home to work for the foreseeable future. For those who mainly work in office positions, it easy for us to feel a disconnect with our colleagues and the greater mission of our organization.

The Solution: During a recent team meeting, we played a game. We all downloaded the same game to our phones — Psych! The game randomly selects one of our names and asks silly questions — like “If Steve was the star of an action movie, which one would it be?” or “Where would Steve bury his treasure?” Each player suggests an answer (the sillier, the better), and then everyone selects their favorite one.

The Impact: The entire team had fun, and we felt more connected as well as distracted from the craziness of today. It sparked a fun conversation and helped us maintain our bonds formed around inside jokes and friendly banter.

Steve Petersen is the marketing technology manager at Western Governors University.

Share your own story

Share your creative thinking around how you’re pivoting and managing your work right now. It can be client-facing or something you’ve tried with your staff. We’ll round up some of the best and share them.

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