TUME Insights

The ‘New Normal’ – how companies should market themselves in an era of uncertainty
Published by Joanne Smalley | 21st July 2020

A few months ago, towards the start of the lockdown period, I wrote about how brands needed to get the tone of their content right in a time of crisis.  I discussed how the Coronovirus and all that has come with it has accelerated a general trend towards people seeking out more ‘purposeful’ brands to do business with, and that companies needed to be very sensitive as to how any marketing might be perceived when the world was being turned upside down.  It’s very easy to issue a piece of tone-deaf communication that would do immeasurable damage to your brand, just without thinking about it.

Three months on from that original article, just how should businesses be looking to manage their ongoing marketing approach?  Whilst many put marketing on hold for the initial lockdown period, due to uncertainty about revenue and perception in the market, it’s now clear that we’re all in this game for the long haul.  And no-one is really sure what the new normal actually looks like.  That means that many B2B companies (if not all) will have to fundamentally review their marketing approach on an ongoing basis for the foreseeable future.  We’ve seen the end of 12-month marketing plans for a while! 

One thing that IS clear is that B2B events, the cornerstone of any B2B marketers relationship marketing approach are off the agenda –  for the rest of the year at least.  The biggest European event of the year for the energy sector, Enlit, has been pulled for October (I for one wasn’t massively looking forward to heading to Milan with 13,000 other people), and the smaller face to face conferences that litter the year are looking more and more uncertain.  So where do companies put their marketing budgets now?  

This presents a great opportunity to sit back and look at what tools your sales team use to build relationships, and then have marketing and sales work closely together (virtually of course!) to come up with a plan of action.  In a virtual world, content becomes even more important but it’s also critical that you ensure that you’ve matched your content approach to every stage of the sales cycle – blogs and short articles to ‘open up the funnel’ and drive initial interest, optimised web pages and white papers to deepen interest and demonstrate thought leadership, and case studies and testimonials to close the deal, alongside interactive pitch decks.  When you can’t rely on the face to face ‘elevator pitch’ opportunity at exhibitions and conferences, you need to make sure your content effectively and efficiently describes what it is you do, and why people should buy from you (you should be doing this already of course, but it’s a really good time to double check that your marketing literature, in whatever form it takes, really does accurately describe what you do!).

But it’s not just enough to produce great content – you also need to think about the distribution strategy.  How are you going to make sure that your target market is actually seeing those fantastic research-based white papers you’ve laboured over?  The critical next step is to evaluate how well your current web presence is optimised for SEO, what content partnerships with media platforms you have in place (or not!) and how you are using LinkedIn sponsored and organic content, as well as Google Adwords.  

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to be able to communicate a sense of purpose in your work.  What industry issue are you solving, and why is it important?  Are you doing the right thing by your people and customers, and in an industry that is constantly under challenge, by the environment?  Now is the time to think about the moral standpoint that drives you – and how you communicate that.  It will only become more important in the future.  

Joanne Smalley is an independent Marketing Consultant with over 15 years of marketing and communications experience working across some of the biggest names in energy, including E.ON, EdF, BG and Elexon, as well start-up and mid sized businesses. She has worked in energy retail, metering, balancing and settlement, distribution and generation, and is uniquely placed to help businesses get their marketing efforts on track quickly and effectively – whether that be from start-up, entering a new geographical market or launching a new product or service, or by troubleshooting an existing under-performing function.  For the last four years she’s run her own Marketing Consultancy, working with businesses globally. Joanne has been a TUME Associate since 2018.

The Utility Market Experts offer experienced guidance and support for those adapting to the ‘new normal’

The current market situation remains uncertain and unclear, however there are still customers and they need to be effectively engaged. While face to face activities & events (often led by sales staff and supported by specialist marketeers) have been constrained, dynamic online activity (led by industry conversant marketing specalists) has become increasingly valuable to engage clients and prospects.

Whether you are a start up or an established utilities company (who may have been forced to sacrifice marketing specialists with specific disciplines) then a conversation with a TUME Interim independent expert (such as Joanne) may help you better understand the risks and opportunities available on a full time or fractional basis. Please contact us below or link in with Joanne here if you would like to start the conversation…