The new normal

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell attends an industry webinar.

While I had to make the coffee myself, and the pastries were conspicuous by their absence, I avoided the four-drive and still took part in a hugely relevant industry conference hosted by Andrew Scott and Sam Cross of Purplex Marketing.

Furthermore, small talk was limited to a couple of hurried WhatsApp messages beforehand, and I needn’t have worried about shaving because Andrew and Same were sporting fine lockdown beards as well (although I did put on a shirt in case my camera switched on).

The Purplex Webinar (hosted on the Zoom platform this morning [Wednesday April 15]) was refreshing in more ways than one.

Primarily, it was reassuring to be in the company of two industry professionals (plus 300 or so participants); I’ve had numerous phone calls with people over the last few weeks, but I’ve been missing proper human interaction, and while this was still an online experience, it felt like it opened up the rest of the world.

But, most importantly, Andrew had some positive and sensible things to say about the state of the market and how businesses should respond to this country’s current predicament.

The reason why Andrew put the webinar together was because of conversations he’d been having with his customers and others since the lockdown started on March 23, and he recognised that we had all been placed together in one massive echo chamber where we are consuming news on a minute-by-minute basis, which can exacerbate fear and anxiety.

However, while we are at the beginning of a three-stage process, we will have to deal with the fallout before accepting a ‘new normal’. So how do we deal with that?

First of all, good news for the home improvement and fenestration industry: all the signs are that our sector should recover quite quickly. On the flip side, according to Insight Data’s financial modelling and company profiling, 12% of fabricators and 12% of installers are at high risk of failing, which could lead to a number of mergers and acquisitions over the next 12 months.

Andrew’s general advice (and I am condensing this somewhat, as he had a lot to say in 75 minutes) was that if business leaders keep a clear head and don’t retreat from the crisis, then there is no reason why companies can’t hit the ground running once life returns to normal.

This means keeping social media channels open between you and your customers with the aim of building up a pipeline of orders and enquiries, and to embrace new technology, such as online video conferencing, to help close deals. Don’t retreat from advertising and marketing.

Andrew said that companies who are keeping channels of communication open are reporting increases in orders and enquiries. One piece of research found that while companies are posting less on social media, customer engagement is up.

Interestingly, Andrew repeated some of the things I’ve said here, in that people are looking critically at their homes while they are housebound, long haul holidays are off the menu, and the housing market will have stalled. All of which promotes a home improvement mentality.

In summary: engage now, reap the rewards later.

This comes at a time where companies are itching to open up again, and if the latest government advice given to the GGF is anything to go by then your business may be in a position to reopen if you follow all the rules.

I’m always interested to hear your thoughts.