Pivots that kept Trainual growing 2020 - Jonathan Ronzio

The Pivots That Kept Us Growing Through 2020

Jonathan Ronzio

September 03, 2020

When COVID-19 hit late March, we were in a period of rapid growth, and the idea that all of that could come to a grinding halt was scary. But we knew we needed to make some quick pivots to keep us growing through the end of 2020.

So, we decided to shift our full focus into 5 buckets: customers, content, brand, team, and product. And if an initiative didn’t fit into one of these buckets, it could wait until things returned to normal.

These pivots are super personal to our company. But by sharing them, we hope to inspire businesses to remain agile (and give you a structure for how to do it yourself).

So, here’s what these pivots looked like (and how each effort went):

Bucket 1: Customers

Our bet: Not to be cliche, but there’s a reason our customers are always first, no matter what’s going on in the world. Because without them, we would have no business.

We started seeing how the pandemic was affecting businesses of all sizes – including many of our customers. And we switched all efforts toward helping them get through it. We figured if we stuck by them during this tough time, they would stick with us as well.

What we did: We donated free accounts to students, schools, and nonprofits to make the transition to remote easier. And we helped our for-profit customers document their tribal knowledge before any layoffs.

We even hopped on dozens of calls to capture how their teams leverage Trainual. (And we made sure to share their experiences.) But mostly, we wanted to learn how we could make our app even better for them in these tough times!

But we also wanted to make it super easy for prospective customers to figure out if Trainual is right for their business. (Without the pressure that comes with hopping on a demo.)

G2 review scroll

So we fast-tracked our review campaign on G2 or Capterra to get tons of fresh new reviews up. (Plus, we launched a referral program to reward customers for introducing us to their network directly.)

How it went: As a surprise bonus – our leads list grew by over 300% in the last 3 months!

Bucket 2: Content

Our bet: Tons of resources would help our customers (AKA our #1’s) navigate the times. But they could also be super helpful for just small business leaders and entrepreneurs in general.

So we figured if we created tons of content covering a bit of everything, we could help more people. But we would have to take away any lead gates that sometimes make these resources inaccessible.

I mean, how many people want to put their email address in to get a piece of content? We know that ungated content isn’t the norm in the marketing world. But we believe that our content is super valuable. And as such, we want it in as many hands as possible, regardless of if we got their contact information.

What we did: For starters, we created an entire website of remote work resources. Complete with customizable templates for building your COVID-19 policies, WFH articles, and the ultimate telework toolkit.

We also switched Process Makes Perfect into a daily podcast filled with bite-sized insights and exclusive interviews. And we launched an all-new SMB Consulting Show to give you actionable advice you can put to use right now.

Plus, we hosted Training with Empathy, alongside Empathy Wines and some of today’s top people leaders. This was a day-long virtual event focused around infusing empathy (AKA today’s greatest competitive advantage) in the workplace!

All free, never gated – just to name a few.

How it went: We increased organic traffic to our website by 22% in 3 months. Plus, other companies have started shouting out how awesome our content is!

Bucket 3: Brand

Our bet: It doesn’t matter how great your content is if no one sees it. And that was where we could really add value to everyone.

So we figured investing in our content would ensure that it reaches people who can value from it. And as they helped these people leaders, they would build trust in our brand.

What we did: Our pre-pandemic advertising and marketing spend was weighted 80% acquisition, 20% brand awareness. But when COVID-19 hit, we flipped it!

In April, as many small businesses struggled to stay afloat, churn climbed. But we still spent 80% of our marketing budget on building brand awareness. This included promoting value-based blogs and free templates to get them in front of people who might need them.

After all, we invested tons of time into creating incredible resources that would help small businesses. And we knew that it wasn’t the time to make a hard sell. So instead, we worked to build trust for the long game.

Trainual Insiders: New VIP Facebook Group

We even turned to new channels to get our messaging and resources in front of people. This includes revamping Trainual Insiders (our VIP Facebook Group), creating a TikTok, and sponsoring 20+ podcasts (including How I Built This and Planet Money). 

And on our website, we made sure to pivot our messaging to reflect the times. Previously, we spoke to high growth and scaling up. But as teams downsized and shifted to remote, we decided to talk about keeping your team aligned and protecting your business’s knowledge.

How it went: We reached the 10k benchmark on Instagram. Plus, in 3 months, we saw almost 70% more impressions and 103% more engagement across all our social channels!

Bucket 4: Team

Our bet: When you go remote, it’s super easy for things to become all work, all the time. But that leads to burnout quickly!

We figured if we made sure to set aside time to play, our team would be more productive and happier at Trainual.

What we did: For our in-person retreat (scheduled for June), the answer seemed obvious. We would just move it from Park City to Zoom. And that’s exactly what we did!

We also gave everyone an extra 2 PTO staycation days to help with burnout! (Check out what our Success Coach Shawn did with his days off below.👇)

Trainual staycation - Shawn Jensen

But we also wanted to make sure there were weekly options to help our team bond and blow off steam! So, we decided to offer a little bit of everything – and allowed our team members to choose which ones they would like to participate in.

We started a book club, held virtual game nights (we’re huge Quiplash fans), and hosted a few Zoom happy hours.

But we also wanted to make sure people had a break during the week. So we upped our bi-monthly Donuts (AKA coffee dates where our team can talk about anything but work) to once a week!

Plus, we added company-wide culture chats to talk about how people are really doing!

How it went: On our most recent pulse survey, 97% of our team said they saw themselves still working at Trainual in 2 years. And 100% believe they have amazing career opportunities with Trainual.

Bucket 5: Product

Our bet: When we decided on our buckets, we knew we wanted to start with customers and end with the product. Because these are the bookends of running a business. Without a great product to serve those customers, again, there is no business.

So, we figured if we invested everything else we had left into bettering our product, we would continue to see growth, despite the economic downturn.

What we did: That’s why we added 18 new team members in the last 3 months, most of whom are on the product and engineering team.

We have a massive vision for where Trainual can go and how the app can evolve to better serve our community. And we call it our Playbook Vision!

We want to make it so easy and affordable to build a business playbook that there’s no excuse for a company not to have one. And, we’ve already made huge strides toward making that dream a reality!

Trainual redesign laptop and phone

In less than 3 months, our product team has completely redesigned our app to make it faster and sexier than ever! Plus, they added tons of awesome new features (like Quick Embeds and Dark Mode) to make it even easier to build content!

How it went: We saw a 57.8% increase in Monthly Active Users! And these users were able to create content over 200% faster thanks to our product team’s latest updates!

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