Adapt to a changing landscape – and keep your company strong

Samantha Vassallo, founder and managing director of B2B marketing company Horizon Works, provides guidance to NEAA members on marketing and communicating – both internally and externally – during these challenging times.

It is currently a challenging time for many NEAA members – and even more difficult when we are all uncertain as to how long the Coronavirus pandemic will affect us, our families and our businesses.

But by taking proactive steps now, you can put your business in a more secure position which will help it to stay strong, recover faster and build for the future.

Regardless of sector or industry, coronavirus is impacting on businesses large and small across the globe. In the B2C world, a lot of major campaigns have been put on hold with some companies investing more heavily in digital and virtual reality strategies. However, for B2B, some businesses are fighting to keep things going and are having to drastically change the way that they operate and work.

Marketing is no exception to this change. Businesses across the automotive sector and its supply chain are having to reshape their marketing strategies and plans quickly, focusing on what will keep them at the forefront, but at the same time being sympathetic and sensitive about the situation.

Here are some useful tips which can help your business now and put your organisation in a good position for the future.

Continue to connect with customers, stakeholders and prospects.

Now more than ever you need to communicate with your customers, prospects, suppliers and stakeholders in order to maintain strong relationships. Listening to customers’ and prospects’ needs is equally as important as promoting your products and services – and a deeper dialogue may help you to re-shape what you offer around what they really need.

Ensuring that lines of communication are open with suppliers and stakeholders will help you to maintain relationships – simple actions, such as informing them of who they need to contact if any of your staff are absent, can make a big difference.

Issuing e-newsletters and informative e-shots, holding regular virtual meetings and conference calls, making use of social media platforms, adding announcements and blogs to your website – they’re all things you may want to consider.

Engage with staff and strengthen morale.

With many staff now working from home, strong internal communications are vital - and not just from an operational point of view. Clear, regular internal communication is an important part of building and maintaining morale, and promoting wellbeing, especially given the challenging conditions now facing many businesses. Staff should feel connected, up-to-date and informed.

If you haven’t already, consider embracing and integrating digital communications technology such as Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp, implementing internal company e-newsletters and enhancing intranet communications, as well as holding team activities – such as desk exercises, virtual lunches and quizzes.

Make your messaging consistent and make it count.

Your messages and content may need to be adapted in line with the current business climate. Certain products and services may not now be relevant or will need to be re-positioned. Think about what your customers and prospects need. What will be useful to them?

Tone of voice also needs to be carefully considered – are you hitting the right note, given current business landscape? It may

be time to look at your social media messaging, how your website content may be adapted, the tone and focus of your sales campaigns, and the messaging used in your PR activity.

Reposition your products and services and make the most of your opportunities.

What your customers may need now might differ greatly to what they needed earlier this year. Some of your products and services may not be in such high demand – others may be more popular than ever. You may have had to adapt to new manufacturing processes or ways of working.

You may not be able to rely upon long-standing customers and markets, and therefore need to look at new opportunities elsewhere. You may need a new marketing strategy which can reposition your business and its products and services for a changing landscape, and can help your company steer a new course.

Energise your digital presence to generate more business.

As your sales teams may not be able to meet with customers and prospects face to face, you will need to ensure that your website really works for you – and can be easily found by your target audience.

This could mean enhancing your website with new content, images or graphics, making it more user-friendly, adding downloadable content and helping it to rise up the Google rankings to drive traffic, increase inbound enquiries and generate new leads.

Your website should help you to build credibility for your business and could even become a useful knowledge hub for your customers.

New website content, the creation of downloadable content, enhancements to your website navigation, structure and design, SEO activity – there are plenty of ways in which you can improve your digital presence.

Engage effectively on multiple platforms and build your audience.

Social media platforms such as LinkedIn are now seeing surges in demand and with good reason – in the absence of face to face networking and sales meetings, they represent a great way of connecting with customers, prospects and partners. Crucially, effective social media is a means of staying visible and disseminating your messages.

But your company and staff need to stay on-brand and be consistent in how they are communicating. In addition, you may need to reconsider your company’s tone of voice on social media, or it might be important to re-shape social media content around the products, services and expertise your customers and prospects need at present.

Keep your business in the spotlight.

It’s vitally important to remain visible. Customers and prospects need to have confidence that you are operational and available to help them. And even in the current climate, there can still be positive news to share about your business.

Of course, getting the tone right is key – as is ensuring the right people see your news.

Regional, national and trade press are all still active and are still looking for interesting content for their readers, and if your business is dealing with difficult circumstances, having a good public relations strategy in place is essential.

Support for business development teams is essential in order to boost their engagement with prospects.

If your business development and sales teams are struggling to adapt to the current business landscape, they may need some additional support – and tools – to help them.

Much of their business will now be conducted over email or through platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and LinkedIn – and there are numerous ways in which their communications with prospects and customers can be enhanced.

They may benefit from enhanced Powerpoint presentations, e-marketing support or assets such as infographics, downloadable brochures and sales content templates. It can all make a difference.

Build your network and share your knowledge.

Webinars, online presentations and digital networking events are becoming more popular as the business world adapts to working from home. It opens up opportunities to share your knowledge and expertise on a global scale, and engage with new audiences using platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Facebook and YouTube.

Think about how a product could be demonstrated online, or how technical data may be displayed for maximum impact in an online event environment. Infographics, videos and more impactful and engaging graphics on your Powerpoint presentations can all help you engage more powerfully with customers and prospects.

Strengthen your profile in target sectors.

Connecting with potential prospects and partners – and getting access to industry advice and expertise – through being an active industry network member can have huge advantages for your business, especially in these challenging times.

Are you making the most of NEAA’s virtual networking events, communication channels and opportunities to connect with fellow members?

Moving forward…

Above all, this is a good time to forward plan. To get back to basics. To take a step back, revaluate your marketing, re-focus and build a strategy and a range of assets that will help your business to emerge from this difficult period fighting fit and ready to grasp new opportunities.

If you’d like further support on any of the aspects of marketing and communication raised in this article, Horizon Works is here to help. You can contact us on hello@horizonworks or visit www.horizonworks.co.uk

If you would like to assess your current marketing position, from strategy to delivery, why not try our free online marketing diagnostic tool Snapshot360?

Complete our online assessment and within minutes you’ll receive a 360 snapshot report which scores all areas of your marketing. Click here to take the test.