How an Events Company Reinvented Themselves When Their Industry Came to an Abrupt Halt
Introducing the Intermedia Business Innovators series – where Intermedia honors business leaders who are improving customer care, employee engagement, and business operations through innovative thinking and decisive action. Hear the stories from the business innovators first-hand.
When you are a branded merchandise company helping clients to get their brands into their customers’ hands through logoed merchandise at business events, what happens when social distancing forces the entire business world to cancel these events with little warning? That’s the challenge that Shelley Stewart, CEO of Red Promotions, faced when the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world in March 2020.
As part of the Intermedia Business Innovators series, I recently interviewed Ms. Stewart to learn how she worked through an uncharacteristically dynamic business environment to keep her business moving ahead. As Ms. Stewart recounts the days leading up to the shelter in place orders, “It was just a big scramble to make sure everyone stayed healthy and to make sure we honored the commitments we made to our clients. Within a few days we learned that some of our largest clients were moving their events to virtual – some of them not even through this calendar year but into next summer.”
Ms. Stewart shared that she took a deep breath, sized up the situation and then immediately got down to business, “Within a month’s time, we’ve essentially had to reinvent our business given that it is so events focused. We’ve had to figure out how to do virtual events.”
Even while her clients shelter in place, Ms. Stewart understands that their fundamental needs haven’t changed. In Ms. Stewart’s words, “Clients still want to keep their customers engaged,” and “now more than ever, (people) still have a need to feel connected to each other.” With that in mind, she pivoted Red Promotions to address her clients’ needs given the new environment, “We quickly figured out how to do virtual events. We are working with our clients to ship individual packages to people either prior to an event, or after an event as follow-up. We have worked with some other technology partners to create pop-up shops that allow attendees at events to go in and use a redemption code they’re given to get an attendee gift.”
As Red Promotions prides itself on being a service business, handling each project with the same amount of care and thoughtfulness – be it for a Fortune 500 company or a one person shop – was a priority. Ms. Stewart turned to Intermedia AnyMeeting® video/web conferencing solution to bring the attributes of in-person meetings into the virtual communications environment. She explains, “Our working relationship is about getting to know our clients on a business level but also on a personal level. Before (the pandemic) we would still do some virtual meetings. 95% of the time, people would call in but not get on the screen. But now, people are getting on the screen and enjoying it.”
Unlike other businesses who haven’t adopted cloud-based unified communications solutions, Ms. Stewart recounts the shift to remote working as the least disruptive part of the equation, “Immediately, when this happened, we had to go to everyone working remotely full-time which honestly, out of everything that went on, was the easiest, least stressful part because we have the tools that we needed already and everyone was comfortable with them. We were using IM already. We use it a little bit more right now. We had been doing AnyMeetings. We’re definitely using those a lot more now. We were using the Intermedia Unite® (unified communications) app on cellphones already to receive and transfer calls, SecuriSync, email…” Ms. Stewart continues, “In that regard, there wasn’t really any change for the team. That was nice because everything else was so chaotic and unknown – and that’s a cause of a lot of stress. To have one thing that remained consistent, that was nice…kind of comforting.”
What will the future bring? As an innovative business leader, Shelley Stewart is wisely planning for what’s to come next, “We definitely think our business is going to look different for at least the next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if it looked different for the next two years.” Ms. Stewart concluded her interview with a recommendation to other business leaders, “Plan for the unexpected so you can quickly pivot. Those that are having the most success right now were able to pivot quickly. Having the tools that we have, having the clients that we have, and the teams that we have, allowed us to do that within 24 hours.”
Watch Red Promotion’s full story in the video below and learn more about the communications tools that help companies connect better.