COVID-19 has been called “The great accelerator,” and for a good reason – in some industries, market shifts that were expected to occur over years, or even decades, happened in just a matter of months or weeks. While for some industries (such as e-commerce and remote health) this shift is rather obvious, in some cases the acceleration is less evident. In addition, some sectors benefit from the behavioral change, while for others it meant going back to the drawing board to figure out how to adjust strategy, product, go-to-market, and other elements of the business.
One of the areas that is impacted by the pandemic is marketing, and specifically events and conferences. With people’s inability to travel and meet in person, in a matter of weeks this category was put “on pause”.
As Bizzabo co-founder Alon Alroy put it:
Every day we heard about a customer that was canceling their event powered by our technology platform. Within 2 weeks, almost all customers with planned events from March to June 2020 had canceled, totaling over 1000 event cancellations”.
In the past few months every CEO and investor has been evaluating how resilient their company is to the impacts of COVID-19 and how much cash they have to absorb this impact.
Some companies found themselves negatively impacted but with sufficient runway to hopefully outlast the crisis. The most unlucky or unprepared have to also manage the financial crunch.
However, one’s fate is not necessarily sealed. So how can an exceptional team control its destiny and leverage the aftermath of the crisis?
Viola’s analysis of companies’ susceptibility to COVID-19
From defense to offense in a matter of weeks
New York-based Bizzabo, a leader in event technology that provides top tier brands with a holistic platform to create and execute successful events, was hit hard by COVID-19. Nonetheless, the journey they made in just a few months since the pandemic surfaced in the US in March 2020 is a testament to how excellent teams can adapt to a new reality.
Let’s use a framework we coined the “New Operational Model” to analyze how Bizzabo successfully made the transition.
1) Product – Adjusting, to Drive Product Led Growth
It is quite “simple” – move first and move fast, really fast. Bizzabo’s leadership realized very quickly that events will shift to virtual delivery and decisively executed on that realization. From a platform that facilitated “physical” in-person events, they expanded to virtual events while maintaining their competitive advantage offering a holistic set of tools.
Within a few weeks, while the world was still figuring out the magnitude of the pandemic, Bizzabo announced its partnership with Kaltura, and launched its Virtual Experience Solution, enabling Event Marketers to easily broadcast events of any size. This enabled them to retain existing customers who were thirsty for a solution, while expanding to a broader customer base.
Importantly, the frustration caused by the elimination of in-person events and physical connectivity accelerated digitization and adoption of modern technologies. Software vendors that built modern and holistic infrastructure, focused on extracting value from data, are equipped to prevail and leverage their product to grow market share.
2) Marketing – Shifting messaging to “Hybrid Events”
As the world was facing “Armageddon”, Bizzabo took a bold move and decided to hold its first user conference virtually, showcasing its new Virtual Experience Solution to an audience of over 6,000 customers and prospects.
They leveraged this exposure to survey participants, gain important market insights and realize that although Virtual is happening now, the future is “Hybrid”. This led them to quickly coin the term Hybrid Events (meaning that when companies are once again able to host in-person events in the future, they will need to include a hybrid solution that will incorporate integrated virtual capabilities as well).
Bizzabo reoriented their entire content strategy around this message, addressing major knowledge deficiencies in the industry and becoming a knowledge hub for brands looking for knowhow on holding a virtual event (for example: “18 Hybrid Event Ideas”)
The combination of these actions positioned Bizzabo as a thought leader in the events technology industry and vastly expanded their brand awareness.
3) Customer Success – Redesigning onboarding by facilitating group training
It is especially difficult to sustain customer satisfaction when your customers are under duress. Understanding this, Bizzabo demonstrated extreme flexibility with customers to alleviate friction by adjusting contract terms, offering more flexible use of the platform, and really listening to customers, all to ensure Bizzabo’s customer-centric brand will remain intact.
In addition, Bizzabo had to manage the growing demand for its new offering. To do so, they redesigned their onboarding program and started facilitating group training. As the world of virtual events is new to most of Bizzabo’s customers, the company had to refresh their customer academy. They formed a multi-functional task force that created new training courses and, within two weeks, the customer education team saved 100 hours of 1:1 training calls and successfully supported the onboarding of dozens of new customers.
Five months into the crisis, Bizzabo has shifted from the “at risk” quadrant to a company with incredible momentum. Growing at a rate of over 100%, the company broke all previous sales records during Q2 (with a reduced headcount).
It also attracted some of the world’s strongest brands such as Amazon, Salesforce, Hubspot, Bloomberg and others.
However, short term success is not what’s at stake – the opportunity for Bizzabo is to emerge as the category leader in the future of events technology… BTW – They are hiring across the board in Tel Aviv and New York, so check out some of the opportunities here.