Has your role had to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and if so in what way?
The pandemic has had a huge impact on marketing, some of it positive, some of it negative. We’ve had to review, pivot, adapt and rethink almost every aspect of our strategy. In some ways this has been a refreshing exercise as it forces you to think outside the box and be innovative. But it’s also quite frustrating as budgets are reviewed and we have to think creatively about how to do more with less.
I read an article during the early stages of the pandemic that said, the winners of 2020 won’t be the ones that finished as close to the original plan as possible, the winners will be the ones who ripped up plans and made new ones! This really hit me in the heart so we decided to apply this philosophy to our marketing strategy. We have always been agile and quickly adapted to changes in the market; the financial services market is certainly full of surprises and we love finding new ways to leverage industry themes to deliver messages to our audience! So that’s what we did… we reviewed our goals, we thought hard about our objectives for the year, and we adapted our marketing strategy to achieve the best possible outcome in this new world.
Have you had to scrap any marketing plans you had because they are no longer relevant? Any examples...
As the first lockdown occurred, many conferences shifted from in person to online. This had an impact on lead generation as face to face engagement during networking at these events adds huge value to the nurturing process. This meant we had to find new and innovative ways to fill the engagement gap. Some conference organisers have been successful, offering 1-1 coffee meetings through Zoom and encouraging delegates to network via messaging apps. But the opportunistic meeting in the lunch queue or chat with your friendly exhibition stand neighbour hasn’t been successfully substituted. So we had to make a tough decision and redirect some of the event sponsorship budget to other ways to generate and nurture leads.
Do you think these are interim measures while we get through this, or do you see this being the new way of marketing for the industry now?
I personally believe the pandemic is forcing a change to marketing that’s here to stay. The well-known statement that ‘buyers are typically 57% of the way through the buying process before they engage with sales’ has never been more relevant. Some say that figure is now up to 90%! As the pandemic has removed the in-person channel, marketeers have had to up their digital and content marketing game to make every engagement count.
Every day of our lives digital marketing tactics hit us from all angles. Is this level of digital marketing activity sustainable? Hands up who’s feeling the webinar fatigue? The fact is that marketing is, and always has been constantly evolving. The pace of change may be unprecedented for our generation but if I had to look for a small ray of sunlight in these dark times, it would be that I’m grateful for the additional skills this experience helped me develop that I can add to my marketing toolbox.
Do you think events will become a thing of the past as we evolve into this new way of working and thinking?
Through my experience of marketing software solutions, I’ve learnt that simply digitising pre-existing manual processes, rather than re-engineering them for optimisation and efficiency is never going to work. The same rule applies to events. It’s not right to simply try to replicate face to face events in the virtual world. I’m yet to see an event that has really cracked it and offers a successful virtual equivalent of the face to face networking.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. It’s sometimes hard to justify spending an entire day or two attending an industry conference so online events offer the flexibility to pop in and out in a way that’s more agreeable to your diary. There is also more of a variety of online events available that are now more affordable than the original £1000+ delegate price tag.
The future of events is clear – the industry needs this channel to share insights, experiences and knowledge. What’s changed is the value and ROI from marketing sponsorship and in my view, the conference organisers need to review their packages to reflect this.
As a consumer, what has been the best bit of marketing you have seen from any company (not industry specific) over this period?
The brands that have impressed me the most are the ones that have shown their human side and demonstrated empathy and transparency. Whether they like to admit it or not, consumers are more emotional than ever and conscious decisions about brand value are made when making a purchase. I’ve seen some very clever marketing tactics from firms like Burger King who recently told their customers to consider buying from their main competitor McDonalds in a bid to support the fast-food industry. Or Joe Wicks who very respectfully supported our younger generation through lockdown with free online exercise sessions. Whether these brands consider this clever marketing or just simply appropriate gestures of generosity, both will benefit in the future from these tactics.