As all of us contend personally and professionally with the effects of a global health crisis, Metric Theory sought out stories that we can share with our community of marketers of how our clients are shifting their strategy in response. Like you, each is experiencing the current environment in a different way – surging or plummeting demand, supply chain disruption, messaging challenges, and more. We hope that by sharing these stories, you’ll find motivation, solidarity, and ideas for your own teams and brands as we all adapt to this time of great uncertainty. If you like this story, read more in this series.

For room divider manufacturer Versare, the first indicator that their business was about to change was in January, when they began seeing delays in raw materials from production partners in China. More recently, call volume began to decline, and then a few weeks ago, conversion rate dropped significantly.

“There’s nothing that’s given us experience before either at Versare or anywhere else that has prepared us for this,” says Didier Foley, Marketing Manager for Versare. “Our sales dropped 50% overnight. We started out basing performance on year-over-year, then month-over-month, and week-over-week, and at this point we’re taking it day-by-day.”

Some of their biggest customers are offices and institutional clients like schools and places of worship, so the impact on sales in those segments was enormous. Both Versare and their Metric Theory team had to pivot to completely new strategies within days to do whatever was possible to turn things around. Whereas their core marketing programs typically operate on capturing as much intent as possible, everyone needed to start thinking about outbound opportunities – fast.

Considering their full roster of customer verticals was a key to new opportunities in areas that had never been big business for them before, but were still open and operating, like auto, grocery, and medical businesses. After sales began to tighten, their team got a call from a pharmacy looking for a countertop protective screen for their pharmacists. The rep that received the call raised the request internally, and the entire business sprang to action around the opportunity to help.

The call came in on a Monday, a product manager had a sample ready Tuesday, a sales team member tested it in the field on Wednesday, and marketing developed copy and photos to have the product on the site and ready for sales by that Friday. “Everyone’s doing whatever they can to help,” Foley said. “One of our sales guys wrote some of the copy for the new product. Our VP of Operations, his wife works for a title company, and we got one into their hands. And they loved it, so we’re now reaching out to their network. We have a $1.6 million quote from a grocery store chain for the new countertop screens, which is the largest I’ve ever seen.”

Versare marketing testimonial

More changes have been made to production, away from cloth material designed for acoustics and toward polycarbonate that’s easier to sanitize. Most of their competitors sell primarily through a dealer network, but Versare sells direct, and they’ve been taking full advantage of that competitive advantage to meet market demand.

New information is coming to both teams daily, and they’re remaining fluid with their reactions. When large new quotes came in from military bases, it signaled another emerging opportunity for Versare and a sense of purpose for everyone. “If we don’t react to the market and evolve, we’re out of jobs. People can’t eat, people can’t pay bills,” says Foley. “The people on the front lines in the medical field are the most important people right now. Marketing isn’t gonna do it, room dividers sure as hell aren’t gonna do it, we’ve gotta provide the equipment that allow them to stay healthy and work through this. Not only medical workers, but grocery store workers, too.”

Their work with Metric Theory has also changed, focusing first on tightening up existing campaigns as the performance changed, but also focusing on process improvements like order tracking and lead times that have led to more ownership of the Buy Box on Amazon and improved sales there. Everything from new search and shopping campaigns, to product descriptions, to Amazon Store updates have been made in days to promote both new and existing products to their new customer opportunities.

Versare marketing testimonial

“Based on an analysis we did, we were seeing more room dividers selling for personal use, people building their work-from-home offices,” says Robbie Spil, Sr. Manager of Digital Strategy with Metric Theory. “We have a landing page coming for that and we’ve created a new campaign. It’s just another way that the landscape is changing for us and we’re trying to pivot.”

“Evolution can happen quickly,” he continued. “I’ve been reading about the psychology of social distancing and how just these two weeks of social distancing is going to drastically change consumer behavior. I think when this is all over, whether it’s a month, two months, or six months, we’re going to see a huge spike. And where people used to be worried about privacy and sound, they’re gonna be more worried about Joe in the cubicle next to them, who’s coughing. These new markets aren’t going away for us.”

Versare doesn’t know that they’ll be able to reach their original sales targets for the second quarter, but the work of these teams is already making a big difference to the business. Having never had such a shock to the business before, Versare’s Foley had advice to offer marketers finding themselves in a similar spot. “It comes down to the basics,” Foley said. “Find your audience and their pain points, and make a solution happen.”

You can read more stories and strategies on Marketing Through Uncertainty here.