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Now is the time to get to know your customer like never before

UK Head of Strategy, Simon McEvoy, discusses how to ensure you don’t stop the wheels of business turning while also keeping your communication sensitive to the current reality of the COVID-19 pandemic that is impacting the world. 

Covid-19, Strategy

Simon McEvoy

UK HEAD OF STRATEGY

Simon has worked with a wide variety of clients, from large multinationals like Xbox, Thomson Reuters and Sky, to smaller organisations and NGOs like National Trust, Outward Bound and Samaritans. His role is to act as the ‘bridge’ between data insights and creative in the agency, working across Strategy and UX to produce attention-grabbing, innovative but most of all effective work.

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What fascinates me about human nature is the way we respond to life events so differently, and yet we have so much in common. As the news and stories of Covid19 spread, the reactions amongst us have been so diverse. Some panic buy, some immediately self-isolate, some survive using humour, some through compassion and kindness and some deny it’s even a problem at all. All following the herd in our own, unique way.  

 

Tone Deaf 

Of course, some people respond by continuing to try and sell their services via LinkedIn navigator. I received one of these approaches yesterday, with a chirpy salesperson I don’t know asking if we could connect to talk about how we were using insight services at Omobono. He wanted to know when I would be free to talk about it. I have to be honest, in the current context, it came across as utterly tone deaf.  

Right now my primary concerns are for the safety and security of my family and loved ones. Then, for the wellbeing of my team and health of our company. Closely linked to that is the wellbeing of our clients and supporting them as best we can. I am working from home, with two young children, shifting between my home and office and kitchen table. The future feels utterly uncertain, and I am doing my best not to get overwhelmed by the feelings of vulnerability and fear. I do not want to talk about new insight services. It’s obviously not the time. 

This made me reflect on how B2B marketers and salespeople should best respond to this rapid change in circumstances. How can you continue to protect your brand, and pipeline, at a time when customers have so many more pressing concerns than you and your product and service? How can you make sure you don’t stop the wheels from turning, whilst also not appearing totally out of touch with current reality? 

Customer Understanding 

The answer is – get to know your customers like never before. If you really want to build brand loyalty, to live true to those claims of being a ‘partner not a supplier’, and demonstrate you understand your customer and their business then show them that you are here for them in this time of crisis. And do so in ways which are truly valuable and authentic. It may be that you can be of extraordinary help to your customers, but just not in ways you have been in the past.  

For example, Microsoft have done this brilliantly by offering Teams for free for six months. Teams has gone from a useful collaboration tool to a life support service in the space of a few weeks. Microsoft have realised this and made it free for all to use, understanding that many businesses need a relief from hard costs as much as they need the ability to collaborate remotely. 

In other sectors, like logistics, companies are creating dual warehousing facilities and increasing capacity rapidly to assist retailers with the shift to online shopping. I know of marketers who are creating private whatsapp groups with customers to keep information flowing in short bursts throughout the day, where the situation is shifting rapidly.  

Or, consider the flexible office sector – one which is having to radically rethink the value they offer to their clients as they are faced with closures. Women-only workspace ‘The Wing’ has shifted their community activities like meditation and working mum support groups online to ensure home workers don’t struggle on their own. Their Twitter feed is buzzing with grateful entrepreneurs, putting their brand at the centre of a fiercely loyal community.  

At Omobono, we’re also starting to think about how we better support our clients during this time. For example, shifting our working day around to accommodate our clients little ones (we’re in that boat too!) and helping our clients run brilliantly engaging workshops remotely. We’re in daily contact with clients to understand how their businesses are having to change, and how we can adapt quickly to make it easier for them.   

Marketing still matters 

Whilst it can be hard to keep focused on work right now, business will play a vital role in continuing to raise the tax revenues needed to fight Covid19, provide jobs and salaries and give us structure and purpose at a difficult time. Marketing is the engine of business, so we’re helping our customers keep their customers happy by keeping the wheels turning.  

Marketing and salespeople have a pivotal role to play in getting to know customers as companies, as humans, as parents, or as concerned adults worried about their parents. Focus on what they need, not on what you might want to sell, and build relationships through acts of kindness that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.  

 

If nothing else Covid19 is an example that we’re all connected on this planet, and we’re all equal in the face of a pandemic. We might have to isolate for a while, but we’re not doing it alone.  

 

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Donna McGrory

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