The heart of communication

Bethaney Larkman, marketing manager for Distinction Doors, reviews a digital year.

As the first lockdown hit, TVs, laptops and mobile devices became a lifeline – our only connection with the outside world.

Since then, tele- and digital communications have been at the heart of the pandemic, whether it’s the PM announcing the first lockdown to 27 million television viewers or fitness expert Joe Wicks connecting with 7.2 million YouTube users during day one of ‘PE with Joe’.

As marketing manager of a B2B brand with a consumer end-user, I could not ignore this digital shift. It was also vital that we hit the right tone with our communications, mindful of the uncertainty that gripped the nation.

For several years now we have complemented our face-to-face and telephone customer interaction with mass email communications. This became a critical tool in the early days of the crisis and has continued to be an important element of our marcomms.

Mailshots to our customers enabled us to communicate clear and concise details of our response to the pandemic. We needed to get the message out there, fast, and this proved to be the best method. The mailshots are a perfect means of communication in the time between phone calls and, later, video meetings with our business development and customer service teams.

As a company we believe in the value of face-to-face interactions and would always advocate a phone call or a head around the door over email chains. With all those who can, working from home has meant we have become prolific users of Microsoft Teams, both its video calling and instant messenger functions.

Teams has allowed everyone to be in the loop without endless toing and froing on email. We have had many meetings with customers, suppliers and service providers, all without leaving our homes or offices. The video calling platform is incredibly efficient and has ultimately saved us time and money.

It has also given us food for thought. When you consider that a rep could normally visit one, maybe two customers in a day, now they can grab virtual face-to-face time with as many as six.

Yet, long-term, we believe that Teams will simply be a complementary tool; it will not replace real-life meetings.

Our customer service representatives have continued to work, socially distanced, from the office. We felt this was essential for clear lines of communication between operations/production, customer service and, ultimately, our customers. For much of the pandemic, we have continued to provide each customer with a one-to-one customer service contact.

For regular supply chain updates, our procurement team have communicated with providers using Teams, one-to-one email and phone calls.

From the day that the first lockdown began on March 23, 2020, until the end of the year, web traffic to increased by 20% (web sessions) compared to the previous 12 months, while web sessions on our door-designer rose dramatically: up 61% in the same period.

The figures were unbelievable. And the same goes for our social media. Comparing the whole of March 2020 to March 2021 (partial month: 1-21), our Twitter profile visits increased by 349%; Facebook page views were up 162%; and LinkedIn increased by 189%.

Consumer appetite for home improvement means our digital marketing tools have become high-value assets in a very short space of time, and this has certainly driven us to consider bringing forward planned digital investment and improvements.

I think it’s also worth pointing out that these online interactions were complemented by record hits for our showroom locator (proving that consumers still desire a real-life experience) and record numbers of brochure requests. In fact, we are just waiting on delivery of our second print run in just six months.