Inside the Business Australia COVID pivot

As the crisis broke, Business Australia turned its website into a COVID-19 news hub offering support and vital information to businesses facing the rolling crisis.

  • Genevieve Brock
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When COVID-19 hit, Business Australia was days away from launching its planned ‘In the business of better’ messaging, forcing it to drop the planned campaign and instead prioritise business support and survival as the country went into lockdown.

Business Australia, born from a rebrand of the 190-year-old NSW Business Chamber, needed an immediate response to the fast moving situation. Business Australia GM of content and acquisition, Genevieve Brock, said businesses were facing a once-in-a-lifetime economic catastrophe and it set up a dedicated coronavirus news hub and ramped up content production within 24 hours. 

A year in the making, the new website had been a complete overhaul from sketching out the new design to wireframes and many months developing a strong library of content.

“We were so focused on that and we’d been working towards it for so long, we were ready for the big launch,” Brock told CMO. “And then literally everything changed.

Genevieve BrockCredit: Business Australia
Genevieve Brock

“We'd been hearing about this virus that was spreading, but we didn't think it would impact us at the rate at which we had to abandon what we were doing. In the week we were about to launch, we changed a year's worth of work."

From the evolving jobkeeper information and daily announcements to the changing rules around certain businesses, such as hairdressers, and people allowed in gatherings, there was a huge demand for clarity and guidance by businesses of all stripes in the early days and weeks.

“At the beginning of the crisis, we went from generating five pieces of content a week to 40; and in the 10 weeks from March to May, we published 248 pieces of new, timely and COVID-related content, from articles and tools through to the second season of our The Company You Keep podcast and eight webinars,” Brock said.

“Every one of those content pieces was designed to help our members and customers navigate the pandemic – whether their business was thriving or just trying to survive.”

Even though it was the worst of circumstances, the crisis was also an opportunity to get its messages out quickly and to a wide audience using a tried and tested content-led approach on fast forward. “We did have a very robust site already,” Brock said.

Taking a content-led marketing approach

“I have a lot of experience with content and building new brands using a content-led approach, and normally it will take four to six months to rank on Google. This time it was less than three months, because we have such a high volume of relevant content,” Brock continued.

Using content as a ‘value add’ that isn’t a strong sell, Brock knows quality content builds a strong proposition and, in the case of Business Australia, it’s a B2B approach that aims to encourage people to register with the organisation.

“Once you can use content to build that engagement and build trust, then moving to that next step of converting to membership is much easier,” she explained.

Fast-forward five months, and many of the council's 40,000 members have tapped into the coronavirus support, including more than 15,000 new members, surpassing its goal of 10,000. This content-led ‘freemium’ business model allows the organisation to speak to businesses at breadth and depth, with the primary objective to grow its base of members for paid product cross-sell opportunities. 

On the question of how content marketing can be difficult to show ROI, Brock told CMO “it may not be as immediate or as tangible” as other marketing efforts. Marketers can face questions about why there aren’t specific mentions of the product or brand in the copy.

“It’s the biggest challenge but it's really important to have editorial integrity to the content,” Brock noted. “The challenge is when people don't understand the customer journey and the role content plays in that journey, then it can be difficult to justify.”

Adapting to the changing membership model

As a paid membership organisation, Business Australia, like most business chambers around the world, was increasingly finding it hard to retain members. The volume and scope of information and resources now accessible across the Web means there are a lot of places people can go for assistance.

“We wanted to flip it and look at a really different way of doing things,” Brock said of the organisation’s decision to adopt the freemium model based on free membership and paid services and resources.

“In the past, you had to rely more on networking, like networking events, to interact with your peers and learn from each other and these kinds of opportunities. But there are so many other ways you can achieve similar objectives now, digitally,” she noted. And the biggest competitor in the digital landscape? The same as many businesses. Google.

“Anything you want to know about running a business, you can now search for on Google,” Brock said.

Needing to show up in the digital space to stay viable, a content-led freemium approach has allowed the organisation to attract new members in solid numbers. It’s a page from the marketer’s playbook, even though it’s business owner members who are the customers - adapting to customer needs and showing up where they are and how they want to interact. 

Business Australia has since been recognised for its content, winning the Best Content Marketing Launch of the Year at the 2020 Content Marketing Awards, and been shortlisted at the Australian Marketing Institute awards as well as the Customer Experience Awards.

Brock said that a crisis, like this current pandemic, creates an imperative to focus more directly on the customers and, if not already, develop that customer-centric approach. “I's really about putting that the customer at the center of every decision and thinking from the customer's point of view,” she said.

“When you do everything from that customer point of view and it comes to understanding what that job to be done is, and it flowing through from product development, to customer journey mapping to digital innovation and all the way through. It can work very well. And now there's definitely an opportunity to leverage that more."

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.


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