Playing Offence During a Global Pandemic

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Other. is a performance marketing firm on a mission to make the future of marketing more predictable and accountable. To learn more about who we are and what we do, click here.

As a company that works across all major sectors of the economy we had the (not so welcome) pleasure of watching both ourselves and our clientele deal with the initial impact of the pandemic and the continued challenges it has brought forward. Almost a year later, we wanted to share what that looked like, but more importantly the measured responses we took with our clients and continue to take in order to be successful during what has turned into a truly prolonged period. 

 

When the world stopped.

 

In March 2020 we celebrated our five year anniversary on a Friday. On the Monday, the entire world seemed to fall apart. There was an almost immediate (and understandable) panic across all of our clientele that led to advertising pauses, significant layoffs, salary reductions, and temporary business closure – all within a matter of weeks.  To the many of you reading this in leadership roles, this is no doubt one of the most challenging times that you have undergone in your career. Amongst concern for your own wellbeing and livelihood, you were likely tasked with making decisions that would have a significant impact on an organizational, personal, and inter-personal level. And the speed. Everyday there would be a new development, a new restriction or a new collateral impact of your industry or a connected industry being shut down.  This hasn’t really changed, but we’ve all gotten a lot more used to it. 

 

Leaders who pushed through the pain are winning.

 

At Other. we have a simple principle that has helped to guide us through all stages of this pandemic – always play offence. We have the unique opportunity to work with a lot of different leaders. Leaders of enterprise organizations, leaders of mid-market organizations, and a couple of startup founders. During the initial impact of the pandemic, many of the brave leaders we work with turned to us for advice and rapid action. Given that we’re through almost a year of this pandemic, we thought that we’d share how we played offence with some of these clients. The actions that have been taken so far were not only mindful of today, but they were made to help these businesses excel in the future. It’s important to note that for some industries like hospitality and especially tourism, playing offence (outside of M&A) was and is, very difficult. For many other industries, it was very possible – here’s what some of our clientele decided to do in order to be successful.

1. They expedited the use of technology as a force multiplier.

We look at technology as a force multiplier. In today’s environment and across almost any category there is an abundance of proven or new pieces of technology that are ready to be implemented and connected to an organizations systems and infrastructure. One our clients in the home improvement category had a significant investment planned in trade show in 2020. In fact, it was their biggest investment yet into that channel. They made this investment because the innovation built into their product was best displayed (and sold) in-person. As you can imagine, they had to pivot. Within the first 3 days of the pandemic we recommenced that they quickly implement a video-consultation strategy and execute a number of training sessions with their sales force to get them up to speed for digital selling. To their credit, they had this up and running within a week and we  launched video consultation ads within a day of that happening. It didn’t completely offset the initial impact of the pandemic, but it helped them to continue building their pipeline while they’re competition sat on the sidelines. 2020 was one of their best years on record. 

2. They redefined their go-to-market message to better position for a quarantined target.

In the healthcare space we worked with one of our clients to quickly reframe and test an ‘at home’ value proposition for a pain relief product that was live across the United States and Canada.  While this was always an underlying benefit of the product, we recommended bringing it to the forefront of our external communications and advertising in order to improve conversion rates and offset the loss of retail sales at the time. We made changes across all of their in-market advertising, content, and email while also deploying CRO tests on the site. It turned out that this was an important benefit of the product while access to chiropractors and physiotherapists was limited. It led to an almost 30% increase in conversion rate when comparing the performance to baseline ads and improved overall on-site conversion by almost 50%. 

3. They focused on rebuilding or building new digital marketing infrastructure.

The initial impact was tough on many businesses, but what happens when your business services some of the hardest hit sectors? On top of that, what happens when your primary marketing channels of trade-show and sponsorship become irrelevant overnight? This is the position that one of our client’s in the traditional B2B service space found themselves in. They came to us during the first phase of the pandemic and we immediately recommended a shift to enhance the capture of existing (but diminished) demand through a paid search overhaul and paid social DR program, while using content and email automation to build a pipeline for a fully reopened world. While the strategy is still in its infancy (and we are still in lockdowns), they are now actively building pipeline and ready for the future.

4. They shifted their primary business focus from B2B to B2C.

The final example (and there are actually more of them) is with a mid-market client in the health food category. Primarily a B2B company focused on wholesale and retail – they had never focused on direct to consumer before. When the pandemic hit and their traditional channels of revenue were significantly impacted, they leveraged Shopify to quickly build a direct-to-consumer site. This was right at the beginning of the pandemic and they launched the site and began generating organic sales from existing customers within one week. Once the site was up and running, they called us in to drive demand and generate more consistent revenues. Under our strategic model we implemented an initial tactical mix  of branded paid search and paid social in order to balance revenue and profit. Coming up on the first year, we have helped them generate over half a million dollars in top line revenue with a spend of roughly 90k. Though that might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things – it was created from nothing and will continue to be an area of rapid growth for them moving forward. 

 

The future of marketing is being forged today. 

 

Unfortunately the pandemic is still here. We have some months to go before mass vaccination and years of rebuilding will need to happen to repair most of our industries. We optimistically believe that Canadian ingenuity and entrepreneurship will be one of the most important factors in this recovery – but we need to play offence. As marketers and leaders, part of our job is not just being ready for crisis, but finding the opportunities within crisis to excel and propel our businesses forward. While we hope to make the world of marketing predictable, we cannot predict everything that the future holds. We do know that whatever comes next, we will always play offence and find ways to do so for our clients. If you want to continue keeping in touch with us and hearing our perspective, you can sign up for our quarterly updates here