Earlier this week I was asked “what should business leaders and marketing directors be thinking about now to best prepare for the return of normality?”
Now, you may raise an eyebrow to the assumption that things will return to normal, and I am tempted to raise mine with you. Questions on the future of work and of V, U or L shaped recessions that may be coming down the track are, however, beyond the scope of this newsletter.
Whatever your view on the lasting impact of Covid-19 and the global lockdown, most accept that we are in an exceptional moment, and that it will pass, and that we will want our businesses to be ready for it.
I have found that, when on a panel and asked a difficult question like this, I look least stupid when I try and answer a question with more questions.
Here, then, are the questions I would like business leaders to be thinking about when they get a moment to think.
1. What has changed for our audience?
⚽️ 5-a-side footy on a Tuesday night.
🍖 Sunday roast with my mum.
🍻 A cheeky pint at the Bird in Hand.
These routine activities are now milestones for me. That’s a big change.
The first trade conference is going to be a bit weird. Will we hug everyone handing out leaflets or wander round with anti-bac spray? Either way, it will mark a milestone for each industry. In the words of Vinnie Jones, it will be “emotional”.
The point is this: if we’re not actively getting as much information on our customers now - how they’re coping, what they’re looking forward to, what the new milestones are for their sector - we will miss our chance to be relevant and serve them best
I’m especially interested to see what impact ‘furloughing’ will have. Will people return to work rearing to go or will they need time to get back up to speed after a lengthy break? (And what does this mean for the types of content they’ll be searching for?)
2. What has not changed for our audience?
I’m sure you’ve heard the Jeff Bezos quote about which of these questions is the most interesting...
“I very frequently get the question: 'What's going to change in the next 10 years?' And that is a very interesting question; it's a very common one. I almost never get the question: 'What's not going to change in the next 10 years?' And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two -- because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.” Jeff Bezos.
For all the new adoption of Zoom and changing habits in preserving loo roll, there is also the undeniable fact that we really don’t change all that much. What was true 6 months ago will be true again in a year.
Of interest to us marketers is this: what was true in other recessions is also true now. Brands that keep advertising (or start advertising) during a downturn, come out of the other side with more market share.
Of course, your FD will say, we need to come out on the other side first, and she is of course right. But assuming you can keep hold of some budget maintaining brand awareness is priority one.
The key point is this: just because we are in an exceptional moment does not mean that the fundamentals of marketing have changed. You still need to communicate with your clients, you still need to move to an inbound marketing process, you still need to build brand awareness.
3. What assets and skills will we want in place for when normality is restored?
This is a more tactical question.
Here’s what I think I’ll want for Future Content’s marketing when the lockdown ends
Brand equity: Every agency across the land is going to want to hit the big red lead-gen campaign button when normality is returned. We want to be one of the few agencies that has continued to advertise and that has continued to produce good, high value content and grow our presence across social and search. This will make generating those leads a hell of a lot easier and cheaper.
Positioned as premium: If we are heading for protracted recession, I want to be able to show results, offer insights that few others have, and be difficult to replace. Anything less and we will be competing on price and our willingness to work all-nighters. I don’t want that.
Inbound marketing up and running: I want to have several really high quality premium pieces of content that lead into well defined customer journeys that provide excellent value. I want our Hubspot tracking setup properly and our CTA’s tested, our bottom-of-the-funnel content ready to convert.
Most important of all, I want our marketing muscles trained and flexing. When we’ve paused our communications during extremely busy periods I’ve been amazed at how long it takes for us to get back to our regular publishing cadence. When I see green shoots of growth, I want us to be first off the mark.
We are all having to be very tactical at the moment. For many of us, the initial panic of change is beginning to recede.
My hope for us all is that this gives us a chance to step off the marcomms hamster wheel and get ahead of the businesses needs.
Image credit: David