December 10, 2019
Services to recalibrate
Ever since the COVID outbreak prompted us to pack up our studio and take our work home last March, my inbox and social feeds have been flooded with stories of business owners grabbing the bull by the horns and dramatically reinventing their business. Everywhere we turned, the message was clear: pivot, pivot, pivot, pivot.
Although we were still busy supporting our existing client base, we couldn’t help but feel anxious about whether we were missing out. Should we be doing more? And if so, what exactly?
So we focused on what we tend to do best – putting our heads down and getting down to work. And while doing that, a few notable trends surfaced:
Our processes have become new services
The Parcel team transitioned seamlessly to #WFH because, serendipitously, we had already implemented process updates and tools (like Trello) that allowed us to engage in highly collaborative work with remote client-teams.
These tools aren’t new, but they can often feel overwhelming. We found ourselves being asked for advice a lot, so we took our experiences and started setting up Trello frameworks for clients and creating customized “how-to” guides for internal training purposes. Some, like Support House, a new client of Parcel’s that provides housing and peer support programming, have adopted Trello to not only manage their branding and marketing activities but other operational projects more broadly.
Brands need to be optimized
Even before COVID-19, a common issue faced by marketers was ensuring brand consistency across all channels. Most of our clients, like Vicwest Building Solutions, have dispersed teams across multiple cities and countries. Some are internal, like sales reps, and others external, like distributors. All are under increasing pressure also to be in-field content creators. But when you aren’t trained in marketing or design, how do you do that in the most optimal way?
The traditional solution has been the brand standards guide, but after a decade of producing and expanding on standards guides for brands, both small and large, we noticed some gaps.
First – they were limited in terms of the info provided to folks with a non-marketing or production background. They didn’t include details like how to write – or behave in a way that was brand-aligned. Not to mention, most brand standards guides aren’t produced in a way that allows for them to be expanded upon and evolved without going back to the AOR.
Enter BrandOps, an idea sparked during COVID that is (to think of it simplistically) a mash-up of a Brand Standards, an Employee Manual, and an Operations Guide and built in a virtual WIKI framework that allows everyone on the team to access and contribute to its evolution.
Finding new pricing models
Before COVID, we spent some time looking at our industry and exploring ways to address common client issues: producing more high-quality creative more quickly and more economically. We looked at other business models, including fitness since we’re immersed in that world through Torq, and observed that by selling time in “blocks,” these industries can offer dramatically reduced prices to committed patrons.
We applied this same concept to our Studio Services offerings, which gives committed clients who commit to blocks of time access to a pretty wicked hourly rate. With COVID, this model is particularly attractive to organizations who find they need to (a) outsource their marketing because they have neither the budget nor bandwidth to build an internal creative department; or (b) require a studio to create personalized digital marketing and content tools for sales channel partners who can no longer meet with prospects face-to-face. WeRPN, an association that represents Ontario’s registered practical nurses, is one such client who has benefited from this service to more rapidly generate social media assets and digital communications aligned with their new brand platform we developed last year.
A pivot is an opportunity to recalibrate. Not necessarily to reinvent.
While a crisis of this magnitude is no time to put your head in the sand, what we’ve learned over the last few months is that it’s okay to pause and take some time staying the course and looking from within for new opportunities.
For us, instead of looking to bust into new markets, this approach has allowed us time to focus on creating platforms that best support the verticals we’ve grown our business with: design-centric organizations with complex sales channels and distributed teams.
To some, these shifts may appear small in times of big change. But when looked at in the context of our brand, small moves can make the most profound impact. You just have to go back to basketball fundamentals to know that a pivot doesn’t have to be a 180-degree turnaround or a leap forward. Sometimes it’s just a shift sideways.
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