Business development reimagined: Weathering the COVID storm – through 2020 and beyond

What does the coronavirus fallout mean for company owners and their markets?  Organisations who thought next year might herald a return to business as usual may be heading for disappointment. 

‘When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness’, or so said Alexis de Tocqueville, the nineteenth century diplomat and political scientist.  In a YouGov poll conducted during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, only 9 per cent of those surveyed wanted things to return to pre-lockdown times.  Instead, they cited stronger communities, cleaner air and closer contact with nature as some of the key benefits of the enforced stay-at-home orders. 

Nine months into the current health crisis, the novelty of homeworking is beginning to wear thin and adherence to lockdown measures is not as rigorous as during the first phase.  But the enduring sentiment is that COVID-19 has created an unprecedented opportunity for a wholesale reset in our choices as businesses and consumers.  Against this backdrop, we offer eight key marketing survival tips for the rest of 2020 and beyond.

1. Strategy revisited

Redefining normal, or planning for the next normal, should be our priority, as life will probably never fully return to what was previously ‘normal’.  Don’t expect your pre-COVID assumptions to hold up now or next year.  Whilst managing the current crisis, plans need to be laid for the next normal.  In both streams, marketing plays a pivotal role in strengthening the connection between businesses and their stakeholders.

Are your purpose, story and narrative fit for today?  Conduct research to gain as much new insight as possible to help determine your future direction.  Innovate, but above all listen to your customers.   

2. Get personal

The pace of digital transformation has rapidly accelerated during 2020 with the necessary shift towards more tech-enabled communications.  But in a world where the hug, kiss, handshake, or any close physical contact is becoming a thing of the past, consumers more than ever crave the human touch.  Go the extra mile and personalise your interactions with clients as much as possible.  Customers will remember this and you will be rewarded in the longer term.

More than ever, we need brands we can trust.  Think about ways in which you can help solve your customers’ new or anticipated problems.  Now is the time to relax your tone, dial down the ‘hero’ and step up the empathy.  But be authentic. 

3. Channel hopping

In the absence of opportunities for face-to-face networking and direct personal engagement, all your other communication channels need to work harder to ensure you remain ‘top of mind’. 

Review your mix of own, earned and paid media through the COVID lens.  Are there new channels which can be deployed?  At a time when your competitors could be cutting their advertising and PR spend, amplification of the right channels could win you a larger share of voice.  Hold your nerve and fight your instinct to batten down the hatches: building your brand in troubled times is essential for long-term success.

4. Window shopping

When many of us are still working from home and conferences and exhibitions are on pause, your company website is your main shop window.  Make sure your site content is up to date and as optimised as possible, and that your social media pages are consistent, so that all your digital assets are working in harmony. 

5. Print is dead – long live print

Despite the relative ease with which we have adapted to the new digital reality, it’s the physical interaction with our favourite brands we are missing.  We therefore ignore print at our peril.  Print literature enjoys a ‘tactility’ that we cannot experience with other media. 

Physical mail tends to be trusted more than its digital equivalent.  Print enjoys a longer shelf life, higher engagement and better response rates and it can be an effective channel for raising awareness and helping to move customers through the sales and marketing funnel. 

At a time when we yearn for more direct contact, consider the impact of a well-designed mailing piece delivered to the right person with the right message at the right time.  According to the Joint Industry Committee for Mail (JICMAIL) direct mail can achieve open rates of as much as 81% and up to 94% engagement.

6. Sales force

Your people are your brand ambassadors.  Find innovative ways to keep your business developers, project managers and field sales teams engaged with customers during the pandemic.  Make full use of video, social media, Microsoft Sway, Google Hangouts, Slack and the many applications that exist to facilitate both mass and one-to-one communications.

7. If data is the new oil, avoid a disastrous spill

Remote working has heightened the need for ever-more robust IT security practices.  Reduced workforces and the emphasis on planning for a COVID-safe return to work, should not be a distraction from the important task of maintaining the highest standards of data protection possible.  Subject access requests, data retention and minimisation policies, privacy impact assessments, data processing agreements, privacy notices, suppression lists and data capture points should be reviewed in the light of more fluid working arrangements.    

8. Crisis, what crisis?

It goes without saying that PR crisis management plans need to be reviewed and kept up to date during the ongoing pandemic.  Because stuff happens.

So, nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed. 

If you would like help with any of the topics mentioned above, get in touch with us today

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