Marketing in a changed world

By Sioned Roberts, marketing director at Aluk.

It’s very easy in any kind of downturn just to cut back on marketing and focus only on the bottom line. But experience tells us that those businesses that invest in marketing when times are tough emerge as winners in the long run.

I’m not talking about advertising and promotion, although that is important, but in strategic marketing that identifies new opportunities and helps you to target them.

In the recession, which followed the 2008 financial crisis, one of the biggest winners internationally turned out to be Amazon. The online company transformed the book market with the launch of its Kindle, firmly establishing itself as an innovator and not just a logistics business.

As this industry gets back to work, I think the companies that do best over the coming months will be those who can adapt quickly to what will be inevitably be a changed market, and respond to what their customers actually need – even if they don’t know it yet – rather than just returning to the status quo.

That of course comes down to talking directly to customers and engaging with the wider market to see what kinds of innovations you can offer, in either products or services, which will help to win business. You can do that via your sales teams obviously, but reaching out to customers online and via social media is already more important than ever.

Aluk put together an online Marketing Hub during the lockdown offering our customers free marketing advice and downloadable tools. It’s no surprise at all that the most-viewed section of that so far is on how to get started on social media. The market has recognised that we need to talk and to listen if we are going to understand what we can do at every stage of the supply chain to maximise new business opportunities.

The Aluk marketing and product development teams have been working from home throughout the crisis, and our efforts have been focused on planning new services and product launches in bifolds, windows and curtain walling that we know our customers want to help them target key sections of the retail and commercial market, which have been least affected by the lockdown.

We’ve also reviewed our operations in response to early feedback so that we can be more flexible in how we supply product, and we’ve been talking to customers about how we can support their sales and marketing in the new digital age.

One of the key elements will be differentiation; making sure that fabricators and installers can find ways to stand out from the competition and successfully communicate that in their marketing.

Probably one of the only benefits of the enforced lockdown has been the opportunity to think more clearly and identify what really makes our individual businesses special. We’ve seen plenty of examples of that in how so many have stepped up to support healthcare and community efforts, supported colleagues, and gone above and beyond for customers to help them through the crisis.

Aluk’s Marketing Hub covers e-shots and PR alongside social media, and customers have been accessing these tools as they look for ways to reach out to retail and commercial buyers with a message that goes beyond just product or price. For many, it represents an entirely new branding and marketing challenge as they distil their new approach and their intrinsic values into a coherent new message.

The fact is there is no alternative to selling and marketing online now, but the aim shouldn’t be simply to replicate what you used to do digitally, but to find ways to redesign and reframe both your offering and your marketing so that it is right for this changed world.