Over the last 2 months, we have been asking business owners across a variety of sectors how they are adjusting to lockdown easing, with a particular focus on their marketing tactics.
Now we are past “freedom day” (hopefully not temporarily), I thought that it was a good time to talk about the key trends that we have identified from the responses, along with any notable differences between the various industries.
We asked several questions, which fall into 4 key areas :
- Why do people buy from you rather than your competitors?
Whilst “Excellent and Personalised Service” (31%), “Depth of Experience” (31%) and “Honesty & Integrity” (25%) all scored highly, there were some big differences by sector. For example, Building Services suppliers responses were focused on service excellence :
Russell Stoner (Safe within the box): Product knowledge, and making customers feel warrantied for calling my business by having a genuine interest in them, what they are looking for & protecting, and solving their needs
Toby Simpson (Coffee Brook) : As a family business, we have an absolute focus on perfect customer service, and creating a brand that people love! We are friendly, we have brilliant true stories about who we are and where we come from, and despite being competitive on pricing & having the most delicious coffee beans & other ingredients available on the market, people tend to buy from us because of who we are! We are also very proud that almost 70% of new business comes from recommendations from existing clients, which is humbling for us, as it shows we have got it right!
Logistics companies strongly leverage depth of experience, whilst Independent Consultants cited a mix of depth of experience and honesty and integrity :
Ian Mealey (The Alternative Board) : We offer the opportunity to discuss real issues in a supportive environment with peers who have been through the same challenges and understand what you are going through, and to benefit from their experience – A holistic approach that supports the business owner personally, as well as the business.
Paul Armstrong (Here/Forth) : Oh this is an easy one, it’s the brutal honesty. I have been told multiple times that my style & approach aid clients in figuring out the first or next step to take
Ayodele Oljiga (Leveli Consulting) : We leverage our knowledge and practical experience to create transformative results with our clients.
The other differentiator respondents cited was that their business are Innovators (13%).
Adam Huttley (Red Inc) : Our business was created to break the mould of traditional supplier models and to reverse outmoded and wasteful industry practises
- What did you have to adjust over lockdown?
Unsurprisingly, the most comments were about adjusting to Homeworking (35%) – both the businesses themselves, and servicing new customer needs.
Adam Huttley (Red Inc) : The switches in products we saw is reflective of the attitude of the great companies we work with, who looked after their staff by allocating budget to set up their home offices
Also, no surprise that number 2 was adjusting to Online communications like Zoom (22%)
Lesley Lindberg (Care Stockroom): Many myths busted! So many companies didn’t believe in virtual sales calls, online buying in their sector, digital events and asynchronous consumption of webinars, training & other online formats. Now they know it can all be done this way!
Building & Office Services and Consultancy Businesses said they changed their Lead Generation tactics (13% of comments)
Toby Simpson (Coffee Brook) : We used to do a lot of door knocking & leaflet dropping to potential clients, very old fashioned style marketing but it worked at the time. Now, however, we have had time out from this to re-evaluate, and as such spend more time in the office ourselves to focus on digital (mainly Google) marketing, and outsource our physical campaigns, where we get a lot more spread a lot quicker!
That said, 13% of respondents across the same 2 industries said they didn’t adjust much.
Other adjustments cited were Cheaper pricing, Faster delivery, Managing interruptions in Stock flow (mainly Retail respondents) and Switching to Ecommerce fulfilment to remain competitive.
- What pleasant surprises did you have over lockdown?
32% of comments in this section were about success pivoting into new products or services – business owners being pleased that their brands & customer loyalty was strong enough to sustain a shift. Similarly, 16% stated that lockdown gave them the impetus to do something new & that they are delighted that their new idea has attained traction over this tricky trading time.
Lesley Lindberg (Care Stockroom) : We set up the first and only online marketplace dedicated to care leaders, providing everything they need to run their care service in one place
Ceri Smith (Your Average Wardrobe): The self belief that I could start up, and that so many people are supportive. People are nicer than you think.
B2B industries also cited the efficiency of Zoom / Teams etc (26%) when used effectively. All industries say that this will stay part of their communications mix post pandemic.
Other pleasant surprises respondents talked about were Improved Work:Life balance (11%), a feeling of awakening to Sustainability (5%), the power of Authenticity in content (5%) and Recognition of workers who are so often overlooked (5%)
Adam Huttley (Red Inc) : We’ve seen a significant increase in new clients looking for an office supplies company that didn’t just sell “green” products, but one that offers a truly sustainable alternative
Joanne Watkinson (ByElleven) : The irony is that using ourselves as models (however reluctantly!) has become our signature and has been well received, perhaps because it comes across as more authentic.
Sue Byrne (Byrne Bright Solutions) : Warehouse staff & Lorry Drivers being recognized for how important they are in the supply chain – being categorized as essential workers.
- What changes in Marketing Tactics will you make after lockdown eases?
The top 2 responses were a return to Real Life events (25%), which was mentioned by every industry, and most vociferously by Consultants :
Eliot Hibbert (Nexa Law) : We’re actually quite excited to start hosting real life events again. Whilst our Lawyers have always been adept at working remotely, it’s always great to mix that up with some face to face time with clients and colleagues.
Ayodele Olajiga (Leveli Consulting) : Attending physical networking meetings and hosting workshops.
Joanne Watkinson (ByElleven) : Lockdown meant that we were unable to do pop-ups which would have been a good starting block for us to network and build contacts, so we are building them into our marketing plans going forward.
Toby Simpson (Coffee Brook): A door knock to a target client is certainly something we look forward to getting back to. We will also be looking to re-invest in our online presence, as this becomes more and more important, and the past 18 months have shown a real strong shift to online buying. This will include Social Media marketing & Google marketing, as well as a revamped website, including e-commerce.
and Social Media (25%), again mentioned across the board, and most strongly by the respondents from the Logistics industry. Most respondents said they’d increase Social Media activity, but as well as, not instead of, existing marketing activity.
Dave Leighton (JDL Management Services): We will continue with Local Advertising and we are increasing our Social Media
Ann-Maree Morrison (Labels 4 Kids) : Online advertising, social media & blogging
14% said they would be focusing on Content Marketing & SEO on their websites, and 14% said they are planning to increase their Paid Search activity – Local Search, PPC or Facebook Advertising.
6% of comments were around promoting new products & services and 6% of respondents said they’d be making no changes at all.
Last, but importantly, 10% of responses were about promoting new sustainability initiatives.
I’m delighted to see Personal Service, Depth of Experience, Integrity and Innovation being cited as differentiators as I believe that these are the key ingredients in building a successful business that can stand up to today’s Apex Predators such as Amazon.
Similarly, how fantastic to see businesses talk about Sustainability, Personal Support, Recognition for Colleagues and Work:Life Balance as things they are proud of during lockdown. Long may these attitudes prevail as they’ll make the emerging workplace a much nicer place to be.
Finally, it’s brilliant to see business owners rethinking their marketing plans as our freedoms return. As a digital marketeer, yes, I’m delighted to see the recognition of the influence of Social Media, the choices for Paid Advertising being talked about, and the growing understanding of the power of Content Marketing on a Website to drive Organic Search. However, just like our respondents, most of all I’m most excited by the prospect of real life events, meetings and socials. Invitations welcome!
Thank-you once again to all of the contributors to our various Industry Focus blogs – please find out more about them here :
Lesley Lindberg : https://www.carestockroom.com/
Toby Simpson : https://www.coffeebrook.co.uk/
Ann-Maree Morrison : https://www.labels4kids.com/
Ian Mealey : https://www.thealternativeboard.co.uk/
Ayodele Olajiga : https://www.linkedin.com/in/ayodeleolajiga/
Sue Byrne : https://www.byrnebrightsolutions.co.uk/
Dave Leighton : https://www.linkedin.com/company/jdl-ltd/
Peter Adams : https://www.strlogistics.co.uk/
Joanna Watkinson : https://www.byelleven.co.uk/
Ceri Smith : https://www.youraveragewardrobe.com/
Alex Johns : https://www.bridgeheadest.com/
Russell Stoner : https://safewithinthebox.co.uk/
John Kelly : https://www.restormate.co.uk/
Adam Huttly : https://www.red-inc.com/
Andy Fosterjohn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/andy-fosterjohn-864977118/
Terry Abra : https://jlc-solutions.co.uk/
Trevor Jones : https://www.bisphamgate.com/
Paul Young : http://v2r.work/
Paul Armstrong : https://www.hereforth.com/
Eliot Hibbert : https://www.nexa.law/