The B2B post COVID-19 lockdown strategy
A big part of a marketer’s role is analysing the company’s macro and micro-environment to develop strategies to compete for opportunities and initiate actions to mitigate potential threats. The Coronavirus outbreak was an unprecedented threat that has had a global impact. Instead of looking to the future, companies are forced to focus on the now. With sparse and inconclusive information available and the constant change of the Government’s guidance, it is proving to be arduous to provide solutions.
A report published by Mckinsey & Company presented findings that show during the peak of the pandemic, 65% of companies who implemented new digital sales models were equally or more effective in reaching customers when compared to their traditional sales methods (Ray et al., 2020).
With the ease of Lockdown and the slow restoration of “normality”, companies need to be innovative in how they restart their businesses.
Hayden Francis, Communications Ambassador of the CIM Yorkshire Board, conducted an interview with the Marketing Manager at one of the UK’s leading Horticulture companies to see how they are adapting with the Lockdown restrictions being eased.
How have you adapted your strategy to accommodate a reduction in face to face events?
Events and trade shows typically provide us with an opportunity for showcasing products, meeting with existing customers and engaging with prospective new customers. All planned events that we were due to attend in 2020 have been cancelled and we are not expecting the events schedule to properly recommence until 2021. Meetings with existing customers are still able to take place and have moved wholly to video-conferencing, this is an effective medium and is so far working well.
Product show-casing is a little more challenging but we are still able to utilise video-conferencing for this purpose with backup support from email marketing, it just requires more samples to be sent out so that customers can physically experience an item. So far this has proved cost-neutral given that exhibition costs have on the whole been refunded to us. Prospecting for new customers is a little more difficult but we continue to find that our telesales approach backed up with email marketing is effective in engaging new customers.
There is a suggestion that the future of events will move to become virtual online events – personally I think there will still be a demand for live shows once the safety issues have been addressed and confidence returns. It is very evident that ‘Zoom fatigue’ is already setting in and that there is still a preference for face to face events and meetings.
We will continue to adapt our working practices to suit the changing trading environment and we are actively consulting with our key industry bodies including GIMA, HTA and FBHTM to ensure that we remain flexible to changing demands.
As a result of the pandemic, many companies have been forced to adapt to mitigate the impact of this macro-factor. How has your company had to adjust operations (manufacturing) to adhere to government guidance?
Operationally we have had to make several changes as follows:
- We have appointed a COVID-19 steering group who are responsible for ensuring compliance with all new regulations.
- There are copious safety notices around all our sites and regular briefings, bulletins/reminders are issued to staff to ensure compliance.
- Office-based staff are actively encouraged to work some of the time from home in order to minimise the numbers in the office at any one time.
- Meeting areas, restrooms and dining areas have been adapted to allow for social distancing. In essence, this means fewer people can gather together at any one time.
- We have added PPE in the form of hand sanitiser stations, optional gloves and masks and have installed perspex screens to separate desks.
- Floor markings have been installed throughout the offices and the warehouse to show safe distancing.
- Visitors are required to complete a questionnaire before arriving on-site and we are actively discouraging face to face meetings in favour of video-conferencing.
- Cleaning - we are encouraged to sanitise our own workstations throughout the day to supplement contract cleaning which now follows more stringent.
- Within the warehouse, the same rules apply and careful staff scheduling ensures that social distancing can be maintained.
- Drivers are allocated to one vehicle in order to reduce the risks of cross-contamination and more regular cleaning of all working areas has been put in place.
Has marketing had to adapt to facilitate changes in customer/ market requirements?
The entire marketing team was furloughed with effect from 01 April and to date with the exception of myself have not been recalled to the office. The focus for the business at the moment is on stock management and sales. Marketing is taking a back seat and all non-essential activity has been temporarily suspended.
As the business settles down and furloughed staff return it is expected that Marketing will continue to support the sales function and whilst face to face channels are restricted, digital channels will be more widely used. Our email and social media marketing is becoming a greater focus and this will include supporting customers who are also moving their business online. Typically this will be in the form of providing images and copy content for websites.
Ray, M., Redaelli, S., Rudich, D. and Wong, A., 2020. A Post–COVID-19 Commercial-Recovery Strategy For B2B Companies. [online] Mckinsey & Company. Available at McKinsey [Accessed 23 July 2020].