How a sending platform survived the pandemic
Most b-to-b marketers recall the second quarter of 2020 with remarkable clarity—where they were when the shutdown began and the feeling of uncertainty throughout the early weeks of the pandemic. Those in “essential” categories saw their business skyrocket. For the rest, the pandemic became the ultimate test of resiliency and finding a way forward despite enormous obstacles.
For Dan Frohnen, chief marketing officer of Sendoso—which helps marketers send gifts—the start of the pandemic was brutal. The business froze. Physical events, which had been a major source of leads, vanished. Frohnen reached out to customers to share news and discuss how Sendoso was responding. Next, he doubled down on partnership marketing, both to stretch dollars and tell a broader story about Sendoso’s role in the marketer’s tech stack. Add in virtual events and Sendoso’s business not only recovered but thrived.
How did COVID affect business?
In April, our pipeline basically froze into an iceberg, so we just monitored it. We talked to our prospects and learned as much as we could. I interviewed approximately 10 chief financial officers to learn about new buying behaviors, and the big thing they talked about was ROI. Like, “Tell me why this is a must-have purchase right now. Show me that there will be an acceptable payback period and that we will be making more money by having purchased you than not.”
That put me into action. It was like, OK, I’ve got to redo some customer case studies. I’ve got to punch up our messaging. I always like the silver lining and that was one of the best things that could have shocked our brand a little bit to up level that story.
What other things did you do to build back your pipeline and close deals?
We started to train our entire internal teams including sales development reps (SDR), marketing and customer service on our new educational value prop and messaging. It was about teaching people how to connect and maintain relationships in this work-from-home world. We spent a ton of time with our SDR team because they were talking to people that were going through some heavy-duty times. It was about how to have empathetic conversations, how to truly ask how you're doing, how to truly find out the psychology there before you jump into some tirade about how we can help you. It went a long way.
What else did you do?
We partnered with like-minded companies where we have a great “better together” story through technology and went out and educated the market at scale. It wasn't just about us—it was about the 6senses, the Terminuses, the Outreaches, the SalesLofts of the world, about bringing our stories together and helping through technology, creativity and being authentic about being helpful.
Why did you decide to pursue these partnerships?
One of our premises was that it’s about the customer journey, it’s about connecting your technology and the experiences, then going out and telling that story. That’s where partners come in in a big way with us. Yes, you can use a sending platform by itself, but if you're a company that's leveraging technology to automate and have next level experiences, the coordination there is critical. With partnerships, it’s about telling that story and then using our collective brands to get that out in a big way so that we're just rising this entire conversation through our collective audiences.
How did you replace physical events in your marketing mix?
Events were 40% of our program spend, so it was a big loss. Our head of field marketing was talking to our head of content and said, “All of our events got canceled; now what?” The head of content said we should write a blog about it, and that was really the birth of our approach of educating.
We took the stance of: “We sell to sales and marketing and we are a marketing and sales organization that's trying to figure this out, so let's take our customers and prospects on this journey with us and figure it out together.” It was everything from more virtual one-to-few events and more direct mail and gifting. It was really leaning in and being hyper-relevant and asking our audiences how they were doing.
Was your approach to virtual events successful?
We’ve seen a ton of pipeline velocity out of these things. A lot of opportunities are attributed to these. One of our strategies has been to make part of the virtual event special for the prospects that are at a later stage, whether that's special one-on-one time with our CEO, a branded experience that goes beyond just the virtual event. For example, a conference-in-a-box goes out to a certain number of our prospects. We’re just up leveling that experience so that they feel special in the way that they would at a physical event.