#ComeBackStronger: how digitalisation opened more doors than ever before
This week the team at Refresh connected with Installer's head of content, Joe Sharpe, for the latest edition of our #ComeBackStronger series.
Installer is the leading media brand for heating, plumbing and renewables professionals and has been at the forefront of these sectors for 20 years. With a strong readership and award-winning installer trade shows, Joe oversees everything from all online and print content, to coordinating and executing the outlet’s live events.
As the pandemic caused many industries - particularly the events sector to come to a halt, Joe had to quickly pivot on his trade show plans, taking the entire event online. This is what he had to say about his key learnings from the past few months, how he’s remaining optimistic about the future and the tactics he’s adopted to ensure growth during turbulent times.
How are you accelerating company growth in the current climate?
The digital presence of Installer has really accelerated during these past few months and being one of the first media brands in this space to focus on social media, really did set us in good stead and positioned us well to deal with the impact of the pandemic. We have always seen the true value in digital news and while print has a robust nature, it just can’t compete with breaking news in real-time - something Installer is very much a part of, consistently being one of the first to share important industry updates.
There were of course some difficulties, such as having to start from scratch in some areas due to some of the brands we work with not having any digital output, but the online aims of Installer were very much present pre-lockdown. These aims were accelerated as we weren’t even sure if print would be possible when first entering lockdown. With the realisation that without print issues going out, many heating installers would not have a lot of resources for regular updates on how the industry was performing, Installer’s digital presence was ramped up. For example, before lockdown Installer’s Instagram TV (IGTV) was non-existent but now the team has produced around 30 videos, which have gained great traction and become a real lockdown success.
Where do you see your future opportunities lying?
It seems digitalisation will play a strong role in the future of Installer. While trade shows are still going to be prevalent, digital festivals have proven to have their advantages. For instance, going digital offers increased accessibility and our latest event was proof of this - with 50% of attendees admitting they wouldn’t have been able to attend physically due to their location.
While the pandemic sadly forced us to postpone the physical annual Installer Show until May next year, there were many elements we were able to transition to online, like the training sessions and Heating Installer Awards - forming an exciting new digital festival.
For the industry, a digital event was a brand-new format and a huge learning curve for everyone involved. There were some aspects which were great and some we can of course learn from. The training webinars in particular went down incredibly well and, all in all, we reached around 1 million people over the course of the festival across all channels – a huge achievement for a somewhat niche industry. All this considered, digital events will certainly be part of Installer’s future.
What are you optimistic about?
We are extremely optimistic about the benefits of developing and rolling out more digital content. We launched another digital festival recently named #NetZeroFESTIVAL – a five day event designed to help heating and plumbing engineers transition into a low-carbon future.
We believe digital festivals, along with webinars and roundtables, are great for the industry. People learn in different ways and so the format of webinars with presenters/assessors there to answer questions and listen to concerns in real time offers real positive benefits. Training is also really important for heating and plumbing engineers as they are always looking at ways to boost their business. I am therefore optimistic about more online training sessions which are available on demand and are therefore convenient and useful for installers to use whenever they wish.
What opportunities have arisen?
As well as more digital opportunities offering avenues for expansion during this time, we have also seen more opportunities to work closely with various partners and brands, as we really are all in the same boat. With in-person meetings being off the table in the current climate, everyone has had to pivot to online/digital communication. This has led to some positives on our part, such as having stronger relationships with our industry trade bodies, as well as being more collaborative with brands to produce great content for installers.
How are you remaining positive?
Being busy has been great and really has helped us to remain positive – we honestly haven’t missed a beat! Breaking into new ground such as IGTV has created a huge sense of achievement too. We put a lot of time and effort into the Heating Installer Awards results video and with this video being one of our most watched to-date, it certainly kept us optimistic and upbeat.
How are you maintaining a work/life balance and ensuring family time?
It has been a bit easier for me as I don’t have any children and my partner has been on furlough. Working from home has been good too, as it has meant less travel time and enabled me to start work earlier plus finish later – using the time I’d usually spend sitting in traffic, doing something valuable.
Having a home office has also meant I can switch off and separate my work and home life a little bit, but also still be on hand to help the team as needed.
For some team members, keeping their children entertained all day has been a challenge - but they’ve been able to adopt a much more flexible approach to their working hours with a schedule that suits them.
What have been your key learnings from the last few months?
Really taking advantage of the power of the online community has been a great learning experience over the last few months, and targeting heating and plumbing engineers via a relatively new medium for the industry.
Also realising that it is possible to work to different schedules outside of the traditional 9-5, and offering our team the flexibility to adopt a schedule that works for them.
What else are you doing to prepare for the future?
We really are just going with the flow and adjusting as and when we need to - like everyone else. We’re continuing to stay reactive and are confident our growth trajectory will continue for the foreseeable future.
If you’re looking for support on navigating the current climate or for tips on how to communicate through this period, get in touch.