Digital Trends & PPP Applications in the Age of COVID-19 with Nathan Latka

Editor’s note: Verblio’s CEO Steve Pockross recently joined entrepreneur and author Nathan Latka on his business-world podcast The Top. The focus, as you’d expect during times like these, was on COVID-19 and its impact on both Verblio and its clients.

The following post was drafted by a member of our 3,000-strong Verblio writer community. After listening to Steve’s interview, he wrote this piece that made it 80% of the way to publication, and afterward Steve came in with his insight to take it through the home stretch to publish.

If you don’t have time to listen to the full 17-minute interview, below, you can catch up on the highlights of Nathan and Steve’s conversation in this post.

It’s almost impossible to record a business interview in April 2020 and not talk about the Coronavirus pandemic. So why not lean into it? On April 3, that’s exactly what Steve and Nathan did.

You can listen to the full conversation on Nathan Latka’s website, or search for The Top on iTunes or Android. If you’re just looking for a quick summary, keep reading.

Or, if you’re really into COVID-19 business insights and straight business talk, we’d suggest both!

How Verblio Clients are Reacting to Business Uncertainty

Every business reacts differently to the uncertainty that COVID-19 is throwing at them based on their size, industry, and marketing approach. Steve has noticed two major trends among Verblio’s 1,000+ clients in the weeks since the crisis began:

  1. Larger clients, especially among our 400+ agency partners, have maintained and in some cases even increased their content requests. That makes sense; in this day and age, digital remains one of the few feasible channels available to businesses.
  2. Smaller clients, especially in the verticals most directly impacted by Coronavirus, are dropping significantly in revenue spent.
Uncertainty is still the only constant in how businesses respond to COVID-19.

Between both client types, though, uncertainty reigns:

Everyone is kind of in shock mode [as of April 3]. Everyone is trying to do a reset and a pause. Most of the revenue that we did lose turned into ‘paused’ revenue.

-Steve Pockross

Wondering how Verblio is helping clients who need to pause their accounts without cancelling outright? We cover that below.

From Shock to the Power of Content Marketing

That shock mode won’t last forever. It’s easy to see what might come next, thanks at least in part to the fact that in-person marketing and sales has been pushed to the sideline for a while:

I think what’s going to happen, and I’ve been talking to as many industry leaders as possible, is that there will be a trend towards content. Content marketing and digital marketing are two of the few avenues that still remain relevant.

-Steve Pockross

That’s because content marketing, done right, can fit the right and appropriate tone for the uncertain times that we’re in.

Adjusting your tone is crucial in post-Coronavirus content marketing.

It doesn’t require being aggressive or pushing your content. Instead, you can prepare your story and your insight, providing actual value when your audience is ready for it.

Of course, adjusting your tone is absolutely crucial to make that happen.

Verblio’s Own Situation & Plans for Post-Coronavirus Business Viability

We’re living through unprecedented times and while an increase in content marketing needs is on the horizon, we need to look inward too as we evaluate the viability of our business.

Verblio’s hiring plan for 2020, moving from 12 to 24 employees, is on track with 18 full-time hires plus independent contractors filling out the rest. Six engineers work continually to improve the platform for our clients and writers.

Verblio is fully bootstrapped, with no capital or additional capital at the moment. The one exception: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), part of the federal government’s stimulus package to keep small businesses afloat.

If you’re looking into this for your own agency, Nathan explained the math behind the program:

Taking your total payroll expenses, excluding 1099s, between February 2019 and January 2020, dividing by 12 to get it monthly, and multiplying by 2.5.

-Nathan Latka
Solving the puzzle of the PPP can help sustain your business.

At the time of the podcast airing, several details of the PPP were still unclear. As with so many other aspects of the current situation, things are changing by the day. Nathan has a good PPP tutorial on his website.

As for what Verblio will do with the PPP funds, once received:

We run pretty lean in our cash account. First, we will have extra assuredness that we don’t need to make any changes. Then, we will think strategically once the dust settles on whether we can add anything.

-Steve Pockross

How Verblio Is Helping Agencies Through the Coronavirus Crisis

PPP is helping Verblio ensure the continuing good quality of its service to our clients. But we want to make sure that we can help our clients, especially our agency partners with multiple clients, in two central ways:

  • Content advice. As the crisis hit, Verblio’s team reached out to all clients offering a comprehensive guide on how to change your content’s tone.

It’s so important to get (your tone) right. You just have to lead with empathy.

It’s all about them right now. It’s not about you.

-Steve Pockross
  • Extra assistance. All of Verblio’s clients received an offer of 10 free, SEO-optimized blog topics (a service that usually costs $99). Clients have the opportunity to either find new angles on existing topics or work with our SEO team to discover entirely new topics, which can partially be COVID-19 related if applicable.

The Power of the Pause

Remember that ‘paused revenue’ discussion earlier? It’s a feature in the Verblio platform, not a bug.

Last July, Verblio rolled out a feature that allows all of our clients to pause their subscription for a maximum of three months without outright canceling. In light of COVID-19, we extended that pause option to four months to help clients who are struggling with revenue.

Our extended pause function allows you to stay on Verblio even if you don't have the revenue short-term.

And wait, there’s more:

The other thing we thought about it is what are the assets we can offer. I started a video series on LinkedIn where I’m interviewing marketing leaders and agency coaches on what they expect from the crisis and what their recommendations are.

-Steve Pockross
steve pockross verblio conducting video series with agency experts covid19

It’s a mix of value and flexibility. It’s the ability to work with our partners as we navigate these challenging times. And it’s the value of that partnership as we look to a future that is uncertain.

Fortunately, we’re in this together. Let’s work our way through it.

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Steve Pockross

As CEO, Steve brings more than 20 years of startup, nonprofit, and Fortune 500 experience to not only running the business of Verblio, but also setting the culture, vision, and purpose of the team. Outside the office, Steve enjoys ultimate frisbee, telemark skiing, hosting jazz concerts, and spending time with his two boys.

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