We’ve been catching up with marketers to find out how they and their organisations have adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic. Today it’s the turn of Hubspot’s EMEA Managing Director, Christian Kinnear.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I oversee all of HubSpot’s operations in EMEA, leading on the development of our overall strategy for the region and supporting teams all across the business to help our clients grow better.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
Both myself and my wife work full time, and given our childminder is unable to visit us at the moment, we need to split our workdays to take care of our young son. So on a typical day right now, I spend the morning with my son [which is a tonne of fun!] while my wife works, I take 20 minutes mid morning to attend to urgent messages. At noon we swap, I get down to work with an emphasis on meeting people for the afternoon. I then set aside some time after dinner in the early evening to progress some of my more strategic topics and larger project work. All told I’m spending the same amount of time working now as I did in the office, but I’m spending 2x the amount of quality time with my son and family.
What are your favorite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
Breaking my day into two focussed blocks is super helpful – my afternoon is dedicated to meetings and working “in the business”, while the evenings are preserved for thinking space to work “on the business” – this ensures I’m giving the required attention to both elements. I notified my team that emails will get reviewed and answered in 24 hours, if something is urgent to use Slack which works well. Frankly all the other tools I need to use are HubSpot and all are mobile friendly, so if I need to view demand metrics, see sales performance updates, approve a deal or address a customer topic I can do it all on the go as my new routine may require.
From a personal point of view, I’m taking advantage of not having a morning commute so I run each morning (around 6am) not just for the obvious physical health benefits, but also for a change of scene to refresh the mind and energise me for the day ahead.
What companies have impressed you the most during these times?
Honestly I’m focussing all my attention on our customers and partners during this crisis, and I’ve seen some incredibly impressive adaption by many of them – all of which I believe will not only help them survive the current challenge, but will actually set them up to grow even better once the crisis subsides.
For example, Coffee on Cue, traditionally an event coffee cart company, was hit hard by the current world circumstances when all their events were cancelled. They’ve quickly pivoted and transformed their business by launching a brand new online store. Customers can now get their coffee shipped directly to their home.
ClassPass’ adaptability is also remarkable. As millions of people are being asked to stay home to flatten the Covid-19 curve, fitness studios and gyms worldwide are being forced to close. Many of these studios are run by small business owners who may not be able to afford rent or pay their employees while shutdown, so ClassPass has launched a new feature to enable fitness and wellness partners to offer live-streamed classes through their app and website.
It is also inspiring to see some of our app partners offer discounts, flexible terms, and new packages in these challenging times. Jobbio is a great example, which has created the BounceBack website to help people who have been recently unemployed. Anyone can advertise a job, whether they’re a customer of theirs or not. Besides, they’re launching free job posts for anyone who wants to advertise a job.
What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
Our philosophy as a business is to approach this situation with empathy and urgency. HubSpot’s top priority is the health and safety of our employees and of the communities we serve. Therefore, we’ve introduced several measures along with a set of resources that we hope will help them to adapt to these times.
For example, we look at aggregated data from our global customer base of 70,000+ companies on a weekly basis to understand how business metrics like website traffic, email send and open rates, sales engagements or close rates are shifting. We’re publishing these data updates to help people get a real-life insight into how the industry is being affected and serve as an early indicator of when short- or long-term adjustments to their strategy may be needed– these are freely accessible online to all, not just our own customers.
Also, our content machine, whether it’s through our blog, webinars, or ebooks, to name a few, has long been a valuable source of growth advice for businesses of all sizes, so we’re making sure the content there provides practical, useful advice for the current situation.
In our effort to support our customers, prospects and partners, we’re adding free tools and removing limits for businesses so that they can stay connected to their communities. But while the Covid-19 pandemic has business implications, more importantly, it’s a health issue. To help address some of the most urgent health care needs arising from the spread, we have made a donation on behalf of our global partner community to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
We’ve seen that the current situation has pushed many businesses towards trying to engage with their customers more regularly. Based on data from our platform, the number of marketing emails sent has risen by about 20% since the pre-Covid period, with savvy marketers focusing on educational content, not promotional.
This does seem to be working – the open rate for these emails is at 25.5%, the highest single-week average of 2020 so far, while website traffic was up by about 13%, demonstrating the importance of providing consumers with something useful, rather than just capitalising on the fact that many are stuck at home.
However, deal creation volume is down, a decline that will impact most businesses’ sales forecasts. Responses to sales outreach have decreased as well, really highlighting the need to adopt a more educational approach. While external factors like budgets and industry-specific impacts from Covid-19 will inevitably affect sales cycles, businesses still have an opportunity to attract and engage interested customers.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
Be targeted, educational and empathetic. This is a difficult time, and simply being noisier to try and maintain consumer attention won’t work in the long run – it’s about growing better, not growing at all costs.
Those who have implemented genuinely useful and informative inbound campaigns will be well-positioned to keep their customers on side, as will marketers who work closely with customer service teams to deliver a well-rounded, holistic customer experience.
What do long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?
It’s hard to know how things will evolve, so adaptability and agility are vital in a moment like this. At HubSpot, our strategy remains the same – this is, solving for the customer and delivering exceptional customer experience for everything we do.
For this reason, we are now placing even further emphasis on listening to our customers to make sure we fully understand, at all times, their needs, pains and concerns. Also, we’ll continue re-evaluating our processes to identify any flaws. This includes questions like: Are our employees aligned and engaged working remotely? Are all teams equipped with the tools and rights accesses to work from home for a more extended period? Do managers have the knowledge to support their teams in such a situation?
Going beyond marketing or sales strategies, every company should think about how a further digitalization could improve their business and help them minimize the economic impact in case we ever face other uncertain times. Not least importantly, we’ve seen lately that consumers are expecting companies to take responsibility, and we are doing our best to ensure that our prospects, customers and partners feel this. I wholeheartedly believe that brands with a purpose-driven mission that act beyond solely profits will come out of this crisis stronger.