Six months on from lockdown, there’s a lot to chew over and, in our latest ‘Directors Discussion’, it felt like guest host Andy Headington had summoned up the spirit of Clint Eastwood’s non-nonsense cop ‘Dirty Harry’ when he starkly challenged seven of BCP’s leading digital CEOs with a simple question: ‘How confident d’ya feel right now?’
Was that silence, fidgeting, deep breaths? Perhaps, but – like a surprising plot twist – it turned out the hesitation was just from people not wanting to sound too positive! Having stared down the barrel of a corona-shaped gun for several months, things aren’t just looking up but, for many, the future’s looking pretty bright.
There’s no question that things have been tough, and certainly no one is bragging about any change in fortunes, but clients have re-emerged and they’re embracing tools that can make a difference to their success in testing times. There’s little doubt that ‘digital’ is near the top of their list.
Yes, it’s encouraging, but this isn’t a gold rush and simply doing ‘digital’ isn’t enough; You need to tip the odds in your favour. Critical to that is putting a firm focus on marketing and communications – just getting your name out there. Agencies have tried a range of different approaches with varying levels of success.
LinkedIn seems to be one of the winners and is helping to generate quite a few of the leads. Getting the right sort of content in front of the right sort of people is proving a good way to attract attention. It looks like prospect customers are spending more time on LinkedIn over and above other channels – or at least, when they’re on the platform, they’re more open to messages about business than they are in other places.
Being active as an individual LinkedIn profile is good, but committing some budget is paying more dividends. It really depends on what you can afford, but spending on LinkedIn marketing has been really positive for most companies – to the point where managing the new enquiries is becoming a challenge – but that’s a good problem to have – no?
Less successful has been pay per click advertising. It’s not that it’s a complete waste of effort, but it hasn’t been generating the sort of returns that might have been expected in the past. Many brands have reduced marketing spend – so it’s up to agencies to be smart in getting attention.
Trust and diversifying were two sentiments that got a lot of airtime.
It’s probably not that helpful to hear this now – sorry! – but plenty of the success happening now is down to the work that was put in pre-Covid. Clients who went AWOL for a few months are coming back and, because it’s tricky to make new connections right now, they returning to the people they were dealing with before, because there’s some trust already established.
There’s a lot to be said for going back to old clients – checking in with them, seeing how they’re doing, and asking if you can help – but genuinely. There’s no need to charge right away; just see if your knowledge can help them get some clarity on current plans and see where that leads. It’s a great way to re-establish and build on trusted roots.
Diversification is being triggered as a necessary reaction to sectors that have been hit hard by Covid. Over recent years, there’s been an agency trend to specialise – and focus on vertical markets – I know, rubbish if you chose a badly affected vertical.
So, agencies are rapidly opening up to new markets – not wantonly – but a little diversification opens up two opportunities. First of all, you can redirect your skills to serve a wider client base and try to generate new business in untapped waters. Secondly, no one wants to be caught up in the danger zone again. Focusing on a few verticals rather than just one or two makes you less exposed if and when the next crisis hits. Even if two of your verticals are decimated, you can still survive on one or two others that are less affected or, god willing, do even better. Having those new markets gives your sales team (even if that team is just you) a new direction. It’s a good way to stimulate energy and new thinking into your sales strategy.
Overall, the underlying message from local CEOs is that things are looking positive, but no one is getting ahead of themselves. To paraphrase one leader: it’s like the positive ending of a Series 1 box set, the high drama’s passed and we can breathe again for a while, but the characters are in still in play and we don’t know what’s going to happen in Series 2!
So, while we wait to see what the next instalment has in store for us, we just need to keep pushing ahead, finding the best way to connect with new clients, building trust and getting noticed. As Dirty Harry almost said – Just go ahead and make their day.
For more information on our Director Discussion Groups, you can visit our website here, where you can get information such as, the objectives, our agenda and how you can get involved. With the current environmental restrictions, all our meetings are hosted via Zoom, so make sure you get in touch if you want to get involved.