GoDaddy Looks to Rally Small Business Founders Through Hard Times

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While prospects for small business owners may seem bleak right now, plenty of companies that started in similarly dire straits went on to become successful.

That’s the message of a new GoDaddy ad that seeks to rally prospective founders at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has led thousands of small businesses across the country to shutter.

The ad features stock images of entrepreneurs like Thomas Edison; William Harley and Arthur Davidson, who founded their eponymous motorcycle company during an early 1900s recession; Madam C.J. Walker, one of the first African American millionaires, who started her hair care business during the same recession; and John D’Angelico, who began selling guitars in the midst of the Great Depression.

Interspersed between them are scenes of financial turmoil, then stock footage of more modern small business owners.

GoDaddy CMO Fara Howard, who is based in Seattle along with much of her creative team, said she started discussing how the web host might support its small business customers in February, when living in the then-epicenter of Covid-19 gave them a preview of what was about to overtake the rest of the country.

The original premise was a simpler campaign communicating to small business clients how they might stay open virtually amid the lockdowns. But Howard said that quickly evolved into a broader message about resilience and more substantive aid efforts to match.

“It pretty quickly shifted into a broader initiative to bring together offers, tools, services and community, far greater than just GoDaddy ourselves,” Howard said. “We created Open We Stand, and we started to assertively reach out to partners to help small business.”

Those efforts include free websites, three months of access to marketing and social tools, and special discounts for nonprofits, teachers and students, as well as links to fundraisers and deals from various partners.

As for the actual spot, Howard and her team knew from the get-go that full-scale production would be out of the question. But that didn’t make the process of wrangling content together over Zoom calls much easier—challenges included “everything from Donald Sutherland doing the voiceover from his own home to having to find and assemble existing creative assets in ways where they fit together seamlessly.”

“It certainly took a lot more ingenuity than one would have ever expected,” she said.

Other big tech platforms are starting to turn their eye to small business customers as well. Facebook teamed up with the Small Business Roundtable this week to release a report examining the state of small businesses at the moment—prognosis: not great—while Vimeo recently announced grants for filmmakers to spotlight stories of small business resilience.

GoDaddy has been in more constant communication than ever with its customers, according to Howard, and the marketing team began to feel recently that the timing was right for this particular message, based in part on indicators such as an uptick in Google searches for business founding advice.

“Our messaging really has to be colored by how they’re feeling,” Howard said. “We wanted to make sure that before we moved into the space … customers were actually ready for that.”

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