The motto of this Oulu-based company is ‘make impossible easy.’ During the pandemic, it may as well have been ‘make impossible look easy.’ The team at Haltian, which began life as a startup in 2012, develops and designs a range of smart products and sensors powered by the Internet of Things (IoT). As a digital-forward company, Haltian had little trouble shifting its events online and its formidable travel budget to online marketing instead. Not only did this allow the company to post remarkable revenue growth throughout the pandemic, but is also now enabling it to help other companies plan a return to the office and help everyone else adapt to the ‘new normal’ of a post-COVID world.
Founded by five alumni of Nokia’s product development staff, Haltian’s team has always shared one vision: produce connected devices and end-to-end IoT solutions that make life simpler. One of the company’s first customer projects was a sleep and activity tracker called the Oura health ring. It has since developed a range of other IoT products and more recently rolled out a unique smart-office offering called Empathic Building. “Empathic Building involves the deployment of special IoT sensors around an office to create a 3D ‘digital twin,’” explains Haltian CEO Pasi Leipälä. “This produces a platform for employees to book meeting rooms, find colleagues, and even check indoor air quality resulting in a better employee experience. It also provides key analytical data to business owners that helps pinpoint an ideal office size and design, decide how many meeting rooms are actually needed, and determine how often cleaning crews should come through.”
It’s an offering that sounds almost perfectly suited to a world looking to return to the office after a global pandemic. Turns out, it is. While some of Haltian’s customers postponed or cancelled investments in early 2020, others saw COVID-19 as an opportunity to drive positive transformation with Haltian’s capabilities. But if the company was going to be able to help them, it first needed to figure out how to adjust to the pandemic itself. “We were forced to learn new skills and adjust to this new reality at lightning speed,” Pasi recalls. “But, thanks to our previous adoption of digital capabilities, it couldn’t have been easier.”
From Twitter and LinkedIn to Facebook and Google Ads, the Haltian team had long utilized a range of tools to stay connected with current customers and find new ones. But it added new capabilities during the pandemic too, such as Microsoft Teams which helped to foster internal collaboration. As the company quickly shifted all of its events and meetings from in-person to virtual, it also moved the entirety of its travel budget into online marketing. Haltian doubled down on previous investments with services like Google Ads and got into SEO with Ahrefs and keyword analysis and search control tools from Google. To guide strategy, Haltian turned to Google Analytics paired with Leadfeeder. All of this led to stronger integration between sales and marketing, which Pasi believes was key to Haltian’s ability to do so well at such a difficult time.
“While Haltian has always been digitally driven, what the pandemic really taught us was how to make the most out of the tools we already had and add new ones on the fly,” Pasi said. The most enduring change he sees is from a sales perspective. While Pasi believes firmly that face-to-face meetings still have value, he is also excited about being able to do introductory meetings via 30-minute teleconferences rather than following hours-long flights. “We now save those for the second or third meetings,” he continues.
The strategy Haltian followed worked well. By the end of 2020, its revenues had grown by 45% compared to the year before. In 2021, it is on track for further growth of around 60%. The company is quite bullish on next year’s plans too as it shifts focus to help other companies adapt to ‘the new normal’ themselves. “As companies plan for a return to the office, many find themselves challenged with the very questions Empathic Building technology was designed to address: how much office do we need, how do we use it most efficiently, and how can we make our employees the happiest,” Pasi says. “We’ll continue using our digital-forward approach and the lessons learned from the pandemic to help others adapt to a changing world too.”
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