By April Rubin
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, many of Francisco Garcia’s client companies put their businesses on pause.
The travel industry, which had been booming, saw a quick decline. And his digital marketing company, Direcly, suffered from the fallout.
“In a couple weeks, I felt our entire world changed from a business standpoint,” Garcia said. “It was completely shocking.”
Garcia founded his digital marketing and transformation company more than three years ago via StartUP FIU, an entrepreneurship initiative at Florida International University.
In the years since, Direcly has become a Google Marketing Platform Sales Partner — a coveted designation awarded to only 600 companies globally. With marketing expertise leveraged off the Google Cloud platform, Direcly’s industry skills are highly sought.
Still, the pandemic’s economic downturn forced Garcia to trim his U.S. staff — from 12 to eight employees — take out a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration. None of Direcly’s 12 international employees were laid off or furloughed.
Garcia has used the lull to beef up its expertise create new digital strategies. Direcly was recently approved s a Google Cloud Partner, which allows for more expansive technology, collaboration and data storage options. As brands and companies slowly and cautiously start coming back, Direcly is able to provide new insights via the Cloud capabilities.
“Times of crisis are the ones that force us to step up and do something,” he said. “It’s certainly a shocking situation but one that brought a lot of transformation and innovation from our hands as well.” That includes collaborating with potential competitors by sharing ideas and hosting webinars.
“It’s been exciting to see the entire community also get together in this time,” he said. “In some ways in brought out the worst in us, but also the best. It’s definitely uplifting and motivating to see.”
In addition to working with cruise lines and hotel chains, Direcly provides marketing services for organizations such as local publication relations firm Roar Media.
Jacques Hart, Roar Media CEO, said his partnership with Direcly helps his clients take advantage of the Google marketing sphere, which he calls an “800 horsepower engine” for digital advertising campaigns.
Hart’s clients either paused, cut down on or terminated their marketing programs when the pandemic hit. Like Direcly, Roar used the time to work on back-burner projects and training that will help it stay abreast of a constantly shifting digital world. For travel clients including Royal Caribbean and LATAM Airlines, that means crafting strategies to let consumers know when they reopen. For infrastructure firm Cemex, the focus is on workforce communication and safety implementation.
“What the smart companies are doing in the meantime is saying to themselves ‘The world is going to return to the new normal — whatever that looks like — and I need to prepare myself,’” Hart said.
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