By Tempest Wright, Staff Writer/Illustrator –  February 25, 2021

How a Brand Becomes Essential in a Pandemic

While Zoom, the video conferencing software, seemed to materialize overnight at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform’s success has actually been nine years in the making. How did they do it? How did Zoom strategize and market in perfect timing to fulfill the needs of families wishing to stay connected and people who work from home?

To everything from work meetings, karate classes, college courses, and baby showers, Zoom has been the platform for friends, families, students, and colleagues to safely gather. In March 2020, when lockdowns around the United States began, Zoom was downloaded 2.13 million times around the world, according to CNN. This number represents a meteoric rise in comparison to the 56,000 downloads in January of that same year. One of the biggest advantages that Zoom has over other video conferencing services is its commitment to both customer and employee satisfaction. In a letter to shareholders, Eric Yuan, founder and CEO of Zoom, states, “Our focus is to keep both our customers and our employees happy. The sum of their joy is greater than its parts. Our customers and our employees make each other happy. We live this philosophy every day. We take care of our customers and employees. We built a video-first communications platform that is scalable, user friendly and reliable. We respond to our customers’ emails (quickly), talk with them face-to-face on Zoom, really listen to them and build the features and products they ask for (also quickly).”

In addition to its approach to service, Zoom was built to be a platform that sells itself. This is precarious as Yuan launched the company into an already crowded market. In addition to Cisco (the company Yuan left to compete with), there was already Microsoft, Adobe, Citrix, Polycom, and several others and their respective video calling tools. However, Zoom’s customer-driven approach set it apart from the rest. “We have a relentless focus on making the best product with the best user experience. This is ultimately what every customer wants. Toward this end, we spend much of our time listening to customers and fine-tuning our software to fit their needs,” Nick Chong, Head of Product Marketing for Zoom, explains.

Zoom utilized word-of-experience marketing to extend its reach to millions of customers by outfitting its platform to fit up to 25 participants into one high-definition video call. Through customer satisfaction, Zoom’s reach snowballed. Additionally, the company leveraged live showcasing and social media, and partnered with several companies that not only helped Zoom strengthen the usability of its service but its user experience with its own customers.

Besides building a positive customer experience and placing exceptional service and customer feedback at the forefront, those at the helm of the company’s growth took marketing seriously. The creators at Zoom know their target market, what it wants, and aren’t afraid to spend the money to deliver. “As an emerging vendor, we had to focus on marketing to the curious, adventurous bunch known as early adopters. This allows us to leverage our greatest advantage – user experience – because once an early adopter uses a product they love, they will spread the word,” explains Chong. The company decided to put up billboards throughout Silicon Valley, each costing up to $50,000 a month. However, the investment pays itself off when the result is a partnership with the Golden State Warriors.

With all these successes, Zoom still has kinks to work out in the realms of online privacy and security. Early in Zoom’s popularity, hackers had the ability to hijack video conferences and display offensive and disturbing content, a phenomenon known as Zoombombing. However, Zoom responded to this by implementing stricter security in its default settings. In addition to unwanted participants, the company has also had to keep up with the drastic increase in traffic and keep its servers from crashing, an issue that every giant platform, including Google, has run into at some point or another.

Ultimately, Zoom’s success is owed to years of putting the customers first even if it meant putting a halt on development to fix problems that arose and cater to customer satisfaction. Yuen explains, “Our philosophy is we really focus on making our existing customer happy. We do not aggressively pursue the new prospect. Also, we always prioritize the features requested by our existing customers … We truly believe if you do not make the existing customer happy, even if you get more new prospects, it may not be sustainable.”

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