Awards case study: Find out how Nelson Schmidt won the award for ‘Best SME-targeted campaign’

In just two weeks, Nelson Schmidt planned and built Focus Forward, the go-to COVID-19 relief hub for Wisconsin business owners. Learn how Nelson Schmidt helped to make it happen.

About the client company

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is a state organization committed to creating and maintaining an economic climate that allows businesses and people to maximize their potential. During the pandemic, WEDC focused heavily

on relief efforts for SME businesses, as they were hit the hardest and had the fewest resources to survive the economic impact of COVID-19.

Strategy – broader business issues the company is facing

COVID-19 struck the economy of Wisconsin quickly. Nelson Schmidt’s governor took swift action, executing a Safer at Home order that closed most businesses and placed operating restrictions on those deemed essential. It was a time of great confusion for

small- and medium-sized business owners. Most were just scrambling to figure out if they could survive the shutdown.

Critical information these businesses needed was coming from a wide range of city, county, state and federal organizations, but there was no central hub for a business owner to get this crucial information. At a time when every minute needed to be spent inside their businesses, owners were having to spend countless hours searching for outside resources.

Our challenge was simple, yet highly complicated: Create a branded destination for WEDC that aggregated local, state and federal COVID-19 relief programs and resources available to Wisconsin’s small- and medium-sized businesses. From the start of the project to its launch, the timeline was a mere two weeks.

Objectives of the campaign

The objectives of Focus Forward were twofold:

1. Make it quick and easy for Wisconsin’s small- and medium-sized businesses to find the critical information they needed to survive the harrowing economic impact of COVID-19.

2. Develop engaging, ongoing content that provided business owners with tips and advice, as well as peer-to-peer insights, on how to keep moving forward though the pandemic.

The target audience

Owners of small- and medium-sized businesses of all types throughout the state of Wisconsin who found themselves in a pandemic-induced economic and emotional struggle unlike anything they had ever experienced before.

Media, channels or techniques used

With just two weeks from initiating the project to completion, Nelson Schmidt deployed agile methodologies not only in the development of the brand and digital destination, but also in developing the video, livestream, podcast and blog content that was required

to launch this content-rich hub. The site contained:

Programs & Resources:

We aggregated local, state and federal resources available to Wisconsin businesses in a single section of the site.


To ensure business owners could get the latest information in a timely manner,Nelson Schmidt created a livestream video schedule that provided live updates every Monday right on the Focus Forward site.


We created the Focus Forward podcast to serve as a peer-to-peer conversation, connecting Wisconsin business owners together to help each other succeed during the COVID-19 economic crisis.

Blog Subscription:

To ensure business owners could stay in-the-know about important COVID-19 content, Nelson Schmidt added a blog subscription to the site.

One-on-One Help:

Throughout the site, visitors are encouraged to contact WEDC to receive one-on-one help and guidance.

Timescales of the campaign

The Focus Forward brand and digital destination was launched on April 15, 2020 and content will continue to be added to support small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the pandemic.


Focus Forward has proven to be very effective in helping Wisconsin’s small- and medium-sized businesses continue moving forward through the devastating economic impact of COVID-19. The results include:

  • 227% month-over-month increase in subscribers to the site
  • 84,502 downloads of the industry-specific business re-open guidelines
  • 4,749 lead gen form fills

“The COVID-19 pandemic created new audiences for WEDC seeking new information through new channels. The agency helped Nelson Schmidt quickly create a digital platform that provided information, tools and resources in a variety of formats to help Wisconsin businesses respond to and begin to recover from this unprecedented health and economic crisis.”

Kelly Lietz , VP, Marketing & Brand Strategy Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

Elevation Awards 2021 

This entry won Gold for 'Best SME-targeted campaign'. Check out our full shortlist and full list of winners now to see who won big at our Elevation Awards.

Check out the winners here!

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