Keeping partners engaged

Ben Brocklesby, director at Origin, explains how Origin’s honest and transparent communications throughout the entire lockdown period helped manage customer expectations and attract new partners.

Everyone has been impacted by the last 12-15 months differently. For some, it has been the uncertainty that has been difficult to handle, and for others, work might have become increasingly difficult to do effectively when compared to pre-Covid times, especially if they didn’t embrace technology with open arms.

With this feeling of uneasiness so public and clear to see, we decided that honesty and transparency needed to be the cornerstone of the Origin marketing machine.

Most communications we would have put out would have been surrounding reliability and being able to manufacture and deliver safely, but if there was an issue, even if the conversation was uncomfortable or the messaging direct, we felt that the industry and our trade customers needed to hear the truth, and would respect us more for it in the long run.

This turned out to be the case. We managed to keep our partners apprised of our own operations, while being attuned to the needs and demands of prospective customers, many of whom had been let down by other manufacturers.

Everything we have drafted, generated and issued had the industry at its heart.

At the very height of the pandemic, we had to close our factory for a few weeks, as ordered by the government. It was at this point that plans were put in place by the senior leadership team on what a return to work was going to look like, and we had to relay this as openly and clearly as we could to our partners.

With more than 1,000 partners across the UK, it is clear to see the volume of people that were relying on us, so it was only right that we kept them up to date on all things Origin.

With this in mind, we ensured our direct email campaigns had useful and informative content, discussing everything from delivery times and our Covid protocols, through to government advice and the additional support measures we had established.

This worked well. In fact, the open rates on our email blasts were higher during the last 12 months than they have ever been before. Of course, some of this can be put down to people having more time to read emails, but the feedback we received was that the information we were providing was extremely useful and allowed our partners to plan their own recovery efforts much more effectively.

In addition to direct mailers, we also kept our Covid pages on the Origin website accurate and updated. These pages were tailored to inform our partners to even the slightest change within the business, across an array of areas: OSS, lead times, delivery protocols and supply, to name just a few.

If I take lead times for example, we are known within the industry for our ‘your lead time, not ours’ (YLTNO) promise, which ensures delivery within just 24 hours of a product being ordered.

For obvious reasons, in July, this simply was not possible. We were getting used to socially distanced working and adhering to very stringent Covid guidelines. This had an impact on how quickly we could manufacture and then deliver our products. Completely understandable, but something that needed to be explained to partners, so their expectations could be properly managed. As many have come to expect from Origin, we innovated and the YLTNO promise was quickly re-introduced, with an update being issued to those installers, specifiers, builders and showrooms that needed to know.

These external updates also created a boost in demand from prospective customers. We found that they had either been let down by another manufacturer struggling to keep up with orders (or sadly gone out of business) or they had heard nothing from the manufacturer and therefore didn’t really know where they stood.

Our messaging resonated, reassuring that we could deliver on time in full and offering complete disclosure into how Origin was handling the situation. People felt relief at being included in our ‘fight’ and trusted us to deliver for their business.

The marketing team also played a major role in supporting partners on a proactive front, ensuring that the latest innovations coming out of Origin were communicated properly, allowing partners to use them to their fullest extent.

As an example, at Origin, we understood that having showrooms closed was going to have a significant impact on partner sales, so we launched a virtual showroom to help minimise this. It was a free service, designed with the partner in mind. Our comms generated a high uptake for this new service and enabled partners to keep showcasing our products to customers.

On top of this, we started offering video appointments to partners, where a team member would be live in the Origin High Wycombe showroom, on hand to answer any questions the partner might have, or even speaking directly to their customer about practical points involving the Origin Home range. By doing this, we were able to take the pressure off the partners, help close the deal for them and try and change homes across the UK for the better.

Without the marketing team providing these updates and being on hand, this simply couldn’t have happened.

There were many ways of handling the extraordinary 2020 that we all experienced, with some turning the marketing tap off while uncertainty remained (and still remains). This was not our approach, and our proactiveness has served us well.

Our partners felt well informed and engaged with, and we managed to come to the rescue of a substantial number of specifiers and builders who had been let down one way or another. Our clear, concise and honest communications have really paid off, and the demand we have experienced since rules and regulations have lessened has been phenomenal.

The whole Origin family really have pulled together to come through this pandemic in one piece, and the marketing department has been the voice for transmitting this messaging.