Digital marketers adapt due to pandemic-fueled demand

RENO, Nev. — Sandy Rowley was at a loss in more ways than one.

It was early April, and Rowley, founder of, had just lost nearly 90% of her business.

Cash-strapped companies throughout Reno-Sparks were cutting costs due to the pandemic, and digital marketers like Rowley were left wondering how long the sales crash would last.

Sandy Rowley

“I freaked out for a little bit,” Rowley said. “There was a lot of stress, a lot of concern.”

Those feelings were quickly tampered, considering that for several weeks this spring, consumers cooped up at home could only be reached and engaged through their various digital screens.

“Watching the news, they’re saying all of the businesses are closing,” said Rowley, who specializes in SEO, social media marketing and web design. “I was like, well, they’re going to have to go online — it’s the only thing that’s going to help them right now. A lot of people and businesses realized they needed to find a way to have an online platform of some sort.”

Not long after her client base drastically shrunk, Rowley began to see more and more inquiries ping her inbox. She also cut her rates by 20% in an effort to bring back old clients and reel in new business.

“I got half of them back,” Rowley said. “But, I had to go back to the drawing board and say, ‘OK, how can I help them?’ Because if they’re not making enough money, they can’t afford me.”

Along the way, Rowley started using SEO for her business to target other large cities on the West Coast, a strategy she said has yielded more inquiries and website traffic from outside of Northern Nevada.

Moreover, she’s seen an increase in large manufacturers looking to work with experienced, independent consultants with more affordable rates than large ad agencies.

“That’s been exciting,” she said. “I haven’t landed any of these huge corporate deals yet, but just the fact that they’re calling me is nice. So, I’m ramping up to figure out how I can close more of those corporate deals, because most of my clients are small manufacturers or considered small business.”

Cailey Gibson


Cailey Gibson, founder of, a Reno-based digital marketing consultant for startups and small businesses, is also seeing demand increase as the pandemic drags on.

This, Gibson said, is despite the fact that she was prepared to take a break from sales at the onset of COVID.

“People were scrambling and trying to get everything sorted out, and I didn’t want to be one of those people who’s insensitive and going to market to you while you’re struggling,” Gibson explained. “But, it turned out that actually what a lot of people needed was marketing. And so I had a lot of people reach out to me — during the beginning of the pandemic and even now.”

After all, many small businesses and startups in Reno-Sparks have long earned their keep through brick-and-mortar operations built on attracting customers to come in, gather, mingle and spend money.

The pandemic changed all that.

“I’ve got a lot of clients who have been brought on because they just weren’t sure where to begin with digital marketing,” Gibson said. “They were very word-of-mouth or relied on foot traffic in their stores. And everything’s needed to go digital and they just don’t know where to begin.”

As such, Gibson said her client list has doubled since March, and her revenue has about doubled, as well.

“I’m working nights and weekends right now,” said Gibson, who is also a co-founder of a company called Anika Works, which helps match nonprofits with resources.

Jon James


Likewise, Ignited Results, a Reno-based digital marketing agency, has seen its client base double during the pandemic, said Jon James, founder and managing partner.

“Everything has gone virtual, which is good for us,” said James, noting many of the company’s clients are considered to be “thought leaders.” “We’re saying to those clients, ‘we’re building up a big social media following for you, you should have webinars, you should be having online discovery sessions.’ And that has now become normalized. It’s good for our clients’ business and critical for what we offer to clients.”

In fact, after an initial 20% dip in revenue, Ignited Results’ sales are up about 30%, James said.

He added that the company has been narrowing its niche as an agency that works with thought leaders in the business world. However, with COVID causing constant shifts, James knows that being open to moving into different markets is crucial.

“If we talk two months from now, we might be in a completely different hyper-niche space,” James laughed. “That’s something we’re thinking about right now as a team.”


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