We turned to our customers during this time to learn more about the market, and in doing so spoke with Christine Beury, who started her new role at Zendesk three weeks before the pandemic sent everyone to working-from-home. We were in awe to learn that just this past October the company crossed a billion-dollar annual revenue run rate. In times like these when companies are dwindling in revenue, what was their strategy?
When Beury said it, it seemed so simple – caring and listening.
As the newly appointed Senior Director of Global Enterprise Marketing, Beury had a lot of goals for this year, and she and her team had to pivot dynamically in many different ways to meet those goals when the pandemic hit.
“We did a lot when COVID hit to try to support businesses as they’re going through challenges,” Beury says about the company’s marketing efforts over the last several months. “We’ve been really flexible in supporting our customers in both cases, where there was either an increase because of COVID or just a slow down, and really working with our customers one-on-one… we’ve done some things with flexible pricing, we also offered up a remote support bundle for six-months for free for teams transitioning to a remote model that we started about a month into the pandemic.”
Why empathy was pivotal for the Zendesk team in 2020
In the midst of uncertainty, it was difficult for marketers to know exactly how to continue their messaging and move events to virtual without being insensitive to what is happening in the workforce now. Even at Zendesk, there were changes to be made in how they approached their marketing efforts both internally and with their customers.
“Zendesk has been very, very empathetic in how we’ve transitioned ourselves,” Beury says. “We’ve been so aware and cognizant of what the workforce is going through and how do we best support that as we’ve transitioned to a work-from-home model… The key thing has been to be very agile and responsive with our messaging at each point in time in the market. When COVID hit we did a very quick pivot to increase the empathy in our tone and the messaging that we were taking to market.”
Gaining back personal connection in a virtual world
But what people might be missing with working out of office and virtual events is the human experience that comes with networking in-person. Luckily, there are ways to add a more personal touch even to virtual events.
Working direct mail into the Zendesk strategy helped keep those meaningful connections thriving. “We turned [direct mail] back on for customer engagement or where we have sales opportunities first. It’s been very performant for us,” she states. “People had to get more comfortable with the idea of giving out their home address… Now there’s a digital engagement front. You’ve seen it become a more multistep process to be able to do direct mail, but we are seeing people respond and actually do feel comfortable giving out their home addresses and engaging. Definitely now a digital with direct mail engagement model, and a lot of times tied to some sort of a digital event as well.”
Looking ahead to 2021 and further
While getting through the now is important for Zendesk and its customers, it’s also important for marketers to look to the future. That includes acknowledging the fact that this work-from-home era is not quite over, and that companies will have to figure out how to continue to operate in a digitally accelerated world.
“All companies are really looking at the future of work and digital transformation – everyone is dealing with an increased digital acceleration that has happened because of this and the proven ability to be able to work remotely has now really shifted how we’ll be working when we do come back to work in the office. It will still have a digital-first element to how we’ll be working and how we’ll be supporting people in [office] and as well as those who will continue to work from home.”
Not only will the adjustment to virtual experiences be something to watch, but other forms of experience could very well begin to work their way into marketing events. Beury notes that there is a strong possibility that celebrity engagement will be on the rise going into 2021, as well as more usage of hybrid event tactics. “It’s gotten so much easier – for someone to be able to do something from their home, takes a half an hour out of their day and they’re part of your event, or they’re part of a wine tasting with your top 5 customers, it’s so much easier to do something like that now.”
The idea of “professional” means something more realistic
Saying the pandemic has brought on challenges for marketers would be the understatement of the year, but with those challenges, there have been positives as well. “One thing I think this is bringing out more is just that B2B marketing is still marketing to
people… We’re having these Zoom meetings and you see a person’s house and it brings up conversations. I almost think the personal connections have been enhanced even though we’re not meeting face-to-face… Everybody has gotten a level of humanity that you wouldn’t have necessarily seen before. I think the ability to be empathetic hopefully increases as a result of this.”
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