Interviews

Alicia Skubick, Marketing Director, Intuit Quickbooks

Amidst the ongoing coronavirus crisis, there are some business leaders continuing to lead with openness and transparency, championing radical change &, above all, listening to consumers first.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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“It was like nothing we had ever experienced before.” Unprecedented may be one of the most overused words of 2020, but as Alicia Skubick, Marketing Director of Intuit Quickbooks explains, it is nonetheless an apt descriptor of how the company pivoted to respond to the crisis. “The first thing we did was ensure our teams were grounded, that everyone was OK. We started from a place of total transparency, with open question and answer sessions,” she explained.

The cloud software company has over 50 million customers across the globe and many of them were small businesses which found themselves at the sharp edge of the crisis. “As a business that focuses on small businesses, we quickly moved to a direct response approach to marketing to support our customers,” Skubick says.

To this end the brand has been running an ‘Ask The Expert’ series since March, providing practical, tangible support on subjects as diverse as cash flow and mental health. When the government furlough job retention scheme was introduced, the brand held six town halls attracting over 5,000 attendees seeking support in how to access and implement the scheme.

“For us we have a clear mission, which is powering prosperity across the globe. Small businesses are struggling. This means that understanding what has changed for them and coming from a genuine desire to help has been key to our approach,” Skubick explains. 

We have seen such a radical transformation over this time; things won’t go backwards.

Alicia Skubick

Embracing a culture of remote learning

Just as Intuit placed learning and empathy at the heart of its marketing strategy for customers, internally building a culture of remote learning was also vital. Ultimately the pandemic and the revolution in remote working it has ushered in has propelled internal marketing and learning to the very top of the business agenda. “Building out of internal communications channels was vital,” she says.

So, how did Intuit successfully build a culture of remote learning? “To start with we really wanted to stay close to our staff and ensure transparency and we began with a very clear vision to ensure all our teams had a voice,” explains Skubick.

This constant communication and transparency underpinned the business approach which included open live question and answer sessions with business leaders. The company also embraced a genuinely transparent approach to working from home in the midst of a global pandemic. “We were clear with our expectations and focused on listening with empathy,” she adds. 

These are not just empty platitudes; the company actively shifted and simplified its performance metrics for employees. Skubick says, “We have people in house shares and then we had parents and careers and we had to be thoughtful with their time and we pushed teams to innovate around these challenges.”

Challenge, change and opportunity

Skubick is also focused on the challenges facing the industry as a whole and not losing focus on pushing for progress in the midst of a global pandemic. “The number one thing is diversity,” explains Skubick, “firstly within our talent and our teams, but also the representation within our advertising. We feel we have a deep responsibility to be a force for good.” Secondly, she is focused on ensuring that the brand is integrated end-to-end to ensure a seamless product experience. 

To achieve this Skubick follows the mantra of Intuit’s Co-Founder Scott Cook when it comes to understanding customers: “Don’t just listen to what they say, watch what they do”. To this end the company has been continuing to watch how their customers use their software, only in the midst of COVID, this test and learn approach is powered by Zoom rather than face-to-face interaction. 

The empathy-first marketing approach of Intuit, both externally and internally, underlines the fact that amongst the economic and emotional challenges of the coronavirus crisis there remain hope and opportunity. “We have seen so much incredible innovation from our customers and our teams,” explains Skubick. She points to restaurants pivoting at scale to deliver packaged goods as one example of that flexibility and innovation.

“The most important thing is to keep motivated as people,” she adds. She points to the example and inspiration set by her father, a doctor in the US, who has continued to help patients virtually throughout the pandemic: “We have seen such a radical transformation over this time; things won’t go backwards.”

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