Once the dust settles
Alan Calverley, director Department of Marketing reflects on how our approach to marketing changed during the pandemic, and asks if our tried and trusted methods will return.
Marketing communications played a vital role in the corona era: keeping customers, employees and suppliers up to date, and advising on closures, deliveries and new working practices.
Of course, digital means of communication, such as emails, social media and websites, were all proven methods before the pandemic hit but our experience since then has emphasised their importance and value in the overall marketing mix.
As a PR and marketing agency, we support our clients with communications, ensuring they have purpose, are on-message, on-brand and timely. Like many, we have used a mixture of platforms and approaches, from mass customer emails to instant messenger. Those businesses that have not maximised the communication tools at their disposal may have weakened existing relationships. In my opinion, regular communication, regardless of good or bad news, has been critical throughout the crisis.
While many businesses saw a definite spike in activity, something which still impacts order books, lead generation remained an important consideration; we had to ensure that the leads kept rolling in during those long days working or staying at home. And once again, most businesses turned to digital marketing tools.
One client in the building and construction sector decided to push its Google advertising expenditure to generate more leads and quote opportunities, as customers had more time to browse and research products online. Pay-per-click alongside social media advertising certainly proved big winners in the lead generation stakes.
It was very easy (and still is) to be swept up in the immediate response and exposure of digital marketing but we were encouraged to hear and experience the enduring appeal of traditional methods. PR, for example, continued for all our clients and we were particularly pleased to support our colleagues in the printed press.
Other tried and trusted elements, such as printed brochures, proved to be crucial. Not all consumers are digitally astute, and often the ‘feel’ of a brochure gives confidence and reassurance. Yes, short runs were preferable to long, litho’ print runs and the flipbook was a must, but in our experience the demand for printed brochures didn’t diminish.
The one area which has suffered more than any other is, of course, live events. National, regional and local events were all missing from the marketing schedule. Many were postponed once, some twice, and we are all waiting to see whether the shows pencilled for September are possible. I do hope so.
These events account for a big chunk of the marketing budget and, ultimately, generate a huge amount of exposure when you include pre- and post-show publicity. It was nigh on impossible to replicate this last year; in my opinion, virtual exhibitions just didn’t make the grade.
We also have to consider the knock-on for those trades associated with events and networking: orders for business cards, promotional items and giveaways all but dried up.
So, as the dust settles and we adjust to a post-lockdown, vaccinated normal, what tools will endure and which old favourites will return?
Well, I think the demise of any one element is too early to call. I firmly believe that once we’ve cracked the protocols for live events, exhibitions will feature once again, and looking at the floorplans for some of the trade shows scheduled for this autumn, it certainly looks promising.