The great content strategy pivot
There’s an analogy Tim Ash, an early pioneer of the conversion rate optimization discipline, once used in an article I edited for him that this COVID crisis keeps reminding me of it: ___ is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
What that fill-in-the-blank phrase is, certainly changes for everyone. Ash originally wrote, “But great content that can't be found and read is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.” Think about what you’re currently struggling with:
- Marketing plans pre-COVID are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
- Event strategies with shelter-in-place orders are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
- High-rent offices during widespread work-from-home mandates are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
So much has changed in how we work, how we do business with other companies and how we all talk to each other about this historical period. Companies that aren’t relating to us and providing ways to cope to our unique personal and professional situations, are written off as tone deaf. Overnight, many leaders realized relevant content was their best bet if they wanted to connect with their customers in meaningful ways. They are adapting their content strategy accordingly.
If companies weren’t in the business of content before, they certainly are now.
As they have done since 1928, Becker’s School Supplies serves schools and childcare centers with supplemental education materials – establishments that have been impacted greatly. With schools on lockdown and childcare facilities seeing drastic enrollment cuts, Becker’s School Supplies customers do not need to replenish as they did before. Speaking to them as if they had the same product requirements would be a breach in trust.
“We immediately realized we needed to back off of our traditional price and promotion type of selling to help our customers,” said Robert Bonczkiewicz, marketing and ecommerce manager at Becker’s School Supplies. “Our genuine approach was to say ‘hey everyone, we’re in this together, and we understand that things have changed. How can we help you?’.
“We put our heads together to come up with ways to support our loyal customers. We’re now supporting them by compiling resources of free materials, suggested activities, and related information like webinars for this new style of teaching and coping with all the new stressors. When all this craziness started happening, and rather quickly at that, we realized early on that teachers would be starving for materials and resources to help them face this new reality. Becker’s needed to react quickly, and we did just that. We created a new landing page on our website that teachers, and parents too for that matter, could use as a resource to help them adapt to this new reality.”
Fortunately for Becker’s, they were well equipped to react quickly, and in a manner that could help get their customers through this challenging time.
“We already had a fair amount of content that we could leverage with our blog, as well as other tools within the Resource Café area of our website,” said Bonczkiewicz. “From there we reached out to our network of suppliers and partner community to see what other types of content that they’d be willing to share as well, and all free. We also assembled a list of products by content area or category that either teachers our parents would find helpful, and we did so with limited budgets in mind. If teachers or parents were forced to react quickly, and most were, we wanted to be sensitive to these budgets, and we did so by featuring products that were in the $30 or less range – think games and puzzles rather than furniture.”
With virtually zero sales reps interacting with customers in person, Becker’s ecommerce website is perfectly suited to support digital B2B and B2C sales. They continue to be there for their customers in other ways too even donating 2,500 units of hand sanitizer to their customers which they had to purchase at an elevated price due to retail price gouging.
It’s the customer-first, content-centric approaches during the COVID crisis that people will remember positively and the price- and promotion-first approaches that people will remember negatively.
Stephen Reeder, senior manager of digital marketing at Carestream Dental, knows about these scenarios all too well – from pivoting to an empathetic, content-first marketing strategy to having the right digital infrastructure in place to do so.
Carestream Dental serves dental practitioners with industry-leading digital imaging, software and practice management solutions. As you can imagine, the dental industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 as local dentists closed their offices based on government recommendations.
Carestream Dental had to immediately pivot from a site whose primary objective was to market and sell equipment/services to one of providing customer guidance as a trusted advisor through a new content strategy.
“With the goal of delivering value to practitioners through content, we’re delivering a lot of information to our customers on how their practices can still be profitable,” said Reeder. “Through a microsite we launched in hours on Optimizely, we’ve created a one-stop shop for COVID-related resources such as hosting webinars, hosting a virtual tradeshow and providing advice on improving overall practice health.
“One positive outcome of such a trying time is that right now dentists have the opportunity to learn, and we’re proud to help support that in a small part. So often dentists don’t have the opportunity to absorb and react to content because they are busy running practices and providing patient care. Now they can learn about topics like new equipment or cloud hosting to come back more informed.”
Had Carestream Dental not invested in its own digital infrastructure two years ago, the team isn’t sure they’d be able to adapt to a new content strategy as quickly as they have.
“We switched from an older Sitecore solution in favor of Optimizely two years ago,” said Reeder. “Since then, we have been building up the flexibility and scalability of the platform. Thanks to this continued effort, we have been able to effectively pivot and stand up educational microsites within days, not weeks. In fact, we may have been one of the first in our industry to get a robust microsite up and running based largely on the continued development of the Optimizely platform.
“I don’t know where we’d be two years ago if COVID happened, and we were still running on Sitecore. Optimizely lets us use blocks to re-use content, which makes it a lot easier to create relevant content.”
Like all industries, the dentistry field will learn lessons from this crisis such as the need to include digital methods to communicate with patients and leverage more cloud-based solutions to ensure secure 24/7 access to patient history anytime/anywhere.
“Never has digital been more important to our company,” said Reeder. “It’s the one avenue that the company immediately turned to maintain communication with our customers. Dentists around the world will learn how much they need to rely on digital too for content and communication.”
What has COVID changed for you?
Never has it been more apparent that we are all in this together than how our customers are serving their customers like these two examples above.
Optimizely serves a wide variety of customers with our software solutions. In turn, our customers serve a wide variety of customers.
Optimizely makes digital experiences work the way end customers expect them to work and – we like to think – way better than they expected. How did they know I needed to see that content? How come that checkout was so easy? Why, yes that product would complement what I already have in my cart. Shoot, I sure did forget to complete my purchase. The alternative is: why is this page loading so slow; how come this site never remembers me; why is this content completely irrelevant to me; why can’t I buy online?
Getting to the desired state takes work from our customers. They create the landing pages; they write the content; they choose the product catalog; and they managed to get buy-in for the Optimizely investment in the first place.
There’s a new normal that our customers are well equipped to adapt to: delivering relevant content to the right person at the right time and on a platform that makes it easy to do so.
A website whose content can’t be changed quickly is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.