Diary of a Modern Marketer: Embracing a Culture of Testing and Learning During Uncertain Times

Amelia L. Schrader

Dear Diary,

It's me Amelia, Director of Demand Generation at Procare Software. This past year, we have learned to pivot our marketing efforts to adapt to the new normal. When you’ve been a marketer for a while, you learn a few things very quickly:

1. Nothing ever stays the same

2. Nothing is ever certain (no matter how much data you leverage to erase uncertainty)

But I don’t think any of us anticipated the level of change and uncertainty that comes with a global pandemic – I know I didn’t. When I joined Procare in January 2020, I was ready for a new challenge. Procare provides childcare management software, and I was excited to work in a space that supports the development and growth of young minds. Since the company didn’t have a robust testing foundation or framework built out, I looked forward to being part of a team focused on crafting a modern marketing program guided by data-driven decisions.

Two months after I joined, everything changed. Not only did everyone at Procare need to figure out how to work and collaborate from home, our customers, childcare centers, were subjected to the same policies and stay-at-home orders as all other businesses. Many were forced to either temporarily close their doors or dramatically reduce enrollment numbers.

In a time of unknown, we had to ask ourselves, “Do we stick with previous marketing strategies and tactics that we know work? Or do we use this time to test, iterate and learn across all marketing functions? Alternatively, do we do both so we can hedge our efforts and examine the successes of diverse strategies and tactics to make a meaningful difference?”

A Data-Driven Approach

We decided to combine what we had done in the past and test - a lot. We took a “test, learn, iterate approach” across the board from digital marketing to content and from systems to our new corporate brand and website. Here are some examples of what this looked like:

  • Corporate Branding Strategy:
    As we continued to grow and evolve as a company through both acquisitions and enhanced technology, we knew we needed to reimagine our brand – a brand that has been known and trusted for nearly 30 years. It wasn’t about changing a logo or introducing a new color scheme. It was about capturing the essence of who we are as a company, honoring our past success and redefining our present. We needed to tell customers and prospects about the significant investments we had made in technology and signal our desire to continue to innovate, grow and deliver the best for them. Vitally, we didn’t do this in a vacuum. We incorporated customer, industry and employee feedback into the initial brand development. Then we continued, to this day, to adjust based on customer feedback and the marketplace.
  • Content Strategy:
    At the risk of sounding trite, content is indeed king. When I arrived, our repository of content leaned heavily toward products and features. We knew we needed to provide more meaningful content to better serve our customers. We embraced a metrics-based content strategy to discover what was bubbling up in actual searches. Understanding what keywords our audience were searching provided us with the foundation to deliver truly useful content to our website visitors.
  • Website:
    As a result of our branding work, we rebuilt our website from the ground up. However, we didn’t stop once the new site was launched. As soon as we were able to start collecting visitors’ behavior on the new site, we optimized, and we continue to do so. We constantly review and tweak navigation, Calls-to-Action, copy, and more. We also created a robust resource area that provides articles, webinars, videos, infographics and more to help childcare industry professionals navigate challenges and optimize their businesses.
  • Virtual Events:
    Anyone who had events as part of their marketing plan – either attending or hosting – was forced go virtual this year (if they didn’t cancel). And virtual is challenging because nothing beats that face-to-face interactions. People have limited attention spans and keeping them engaged while also building meaningful relationships is a herculean task. For us, we approached it as a learning opportunity. With each event we attended, we looked at prospect engagement, the type of content presented by the event organizers, ways to maximize the effectiveness of live chat, how to get prospects in touch with sales in real-time, and ways to stand out in a virtual booth.
  • In addition to the above examples, we also overhauled our email communications and strategy and our digital approach leveraging smart technology wherever we could.

Day-by-Day Optimization

Embracing a culture of testing during COVID-times requires a different mindset and forces us to make quick-fire decisions. While it would be ideal to get to the highest level of confidence on every test, we don’t want to waste time or dollars confirming what we already know. That time and money is better spent selecting a winner and then coming up with the next test to see if we can continue to raise the bar. This brings me to an important point: we must continue to raise the bar even after we have achieved our goals.

We set out to improve the conversion rate on our website homepage which we achieved in a relatively short amount of time due to numerous tests and quick decision-making. At no point did we stop to admire our work. We raised the bar and thought about what was next. Staying curious and always asking what’s next and how can we improve is foundational to maintaining a test, learn, iterate approach to marketing.

While change and unpredictability are never comfortable, embracing a culture of testing and learning – especially during times of uncertainty – can make a world of difference. Leveraging a data-driven approach for large and small initiatives alike and being willing to make quick decisions can be a game-changing approach in a time of unknown.

Finally, it remains true that nothing stays the same and certainty is far from guaranteed but a willingness to listen to our customers and adapting to serve them in new ways will undoubtedly continue to guide us.


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