As we see some steps back to a form of normality, the question being asked by a number of our clients and the business community at large, is what will things look like and what will the impact be on brands and business?. Have things changed forever?
Clearly, nobody is sure what this answer is, but it is fair to say, without stating the obvious, there will be serious challenges. Within any downturn there are winners and losers and we have witnessed that brands and businesses are finding themselves in various states. They are either frozen and unable to do anything, adapting, where parts of their business is functioning well, or they are renewing, where they are trying to find new ways of working and adapting their offering to market needs.
Some commentators are predicting a sharp snapback to pre coronavirus activity for B2C, but for B2B businesses, the return could take much longer, although this will vary between sectors as will the required response, demanding an agility and adaptiveness not seen for a while.
One thing is for sure though – it is not a time to panic. Marketing has a fundamental role to fulfil during this period – helping brands to respond resiliently, continuing to communicate effectively and ultimately finding ways to serve society better.
It is critical that businesses become strategically focussed, ready to try and retain their marketing budgets to help protect their market share. In previous downturns, such as the financial crisis in 2008, brands that continued marketing reaped the payback when normality returned. Recent research by LinkedIn also suggests that building brands through a recession does get rewarded.
So where do we envisage change happening?
There will be an acceleration of digital transformation. This shift was already underway prior to coronavirus – studies have shown that 94% of buyers research a company online before engaging in any sales activity and 85% would prefer to renew contracts online as opposed to dealing with a salesperson.
Digital will provide an opportunity to change how we do things, certainly from a B2B perspective, which is heavy on events, content production and face to face meetings. It will change how we listen, engage, connect and meet the needs of customers in a much more personal way, to enable us to really get under the skin of what customers need. The need for multi-channel content will become even more pronounced. Digital will also accelerate organisation change where digital expertise will be the norm within organisations as opposed to a specialism.
There will also need to be a change of voice, where trust will have a premium in a world where budgets will be tighter, there is a greater need for security and buyers will be more risk averse to help protect the future. Building and developing relationships will be key and making sure putting the customer first is priority.
New ways of working will need to be found with improvements of internal communication to help boost productivity and employee engagement. It is also a great opportunity for organisations to serve society better and use their business as a platform for positive change.
It’s important to do something tangible and consider which trends will carry on or change and the challenge for all brands and businesses is to ensure that the ideas for change being raised during the coronavirus pandemic are actually implemented. The temptation to fall into the same old habits once the challenges of the coronavirus crisis have subsided must be resisted.