Episode 11 was the final webinar of the Business as Unusual series, before we take a hiatus for the Summer (we're as sad as you 😢).
This was a special episode featuring a panel discussion on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world of marketing in the South West, and what marketers, sales people, and scale-up business owners can do to adapt to a new "normal."
We look forward to seeing you in the autumn as we re-launch Business as Unusual!
Jon Payne (00:00):
Welcome to Business as Unusual. The weekly webinar made by Noisy Little Monkey where we discuss how those of us involved in business growth in marketing, sales, and those of us who run scale up businesses can stay productive and profitable, and at peace in the pandemic and whatever comes after. Today, we're looking at marketing and gearing up for the new normal. We're using a recent survey called Discovidery. It's discovery combined with COVID and it looks great, but it's quite difficult to say. The survey is about how marketers and business leaders at brands, agencies, and some freelancers across the Southwest have been impacted by COVID-19 and their approach for the future. I'm Jon Payne, I'm one of the co founders of Noisy Little Monkey. And my cohost on this webinar is Claire Dibben, our Marketing and Events Manager. And we are joined by lots of people today.
Jon Payne (00:58):
I'm going to let them introduce themselves, one at a time and in alphabetical order, and because we're pushed for time and I'm already running over, I'm going to use the simple jeopardy timer to keep them to under one minute. So I hope Alex Treban or whatever his name is, doesn't sue me for the use of his music. What we need to hear, starting with Crystal, is your full name, what you do, who you do it for and the best marketing, or can be PR or communication that you've seen in lockdown. You're not allowed to use one of yours. Go.
Crystal Carter (01:37):
My name is Crystal Carter. I am a Senior Digital Strategist for Optics Solutions. We are a full service digital marketing agency, so we can take people from website all the way through to marketing all the way through to leading campaigns and getting results. And so because of that, I do lots of things about all of those different parts of the marketing process. And I do that for clients in the Southwest and internationally and further afield.
Jon Payne (02:09):
She's done it in 30. That was 35 seconds, ladies and gentlemen. We've got 25 seconds left. Would you like NASA for a hundred dollars or Kings of England for 200. No, ok. So, up next. Thank you, crystal. That was fabulous. Up next is the marvellous Nick. I'm going to let Nick introduce himself. You got a minute, Nick.
Nick Barthram (02:34):
Okay. Thanks. I'm Nick Barthram. I'm Strategy Partner at Firehaus and we help brands and agencies rediscover and apply the power of creativity. We do it for, we've done it with the NHS recently, UN Women, Collinson and a bunch of other brands and agencies. And the best bit of marketing or PR since lockdown is bit of a niche one. It's the German mountain bike brand called YC industries. And they've been smashing it out of the park in the past. Christopher Walken doing soliloquys and that kind of stuff. This time, they've done an amazing bit of anime and it's fantastic.
Jon Payne (03:14):
These people, man, hugely high bar set by Crystal and Nick, both in under 40 seconds. This is great. There is now the amazing Nicola to join us. You've got a minute.
Nicola Payne (03:29):
I started, I am Nicola Payne also known as my wife, by Jon. I'm the Managing Director of Noisy Little Monkey. So I look after people, process, and money mainly within the business and try and create some order from the chaos that generally ensues whenever Jon goes anywhere. In terms of my favorite piece of marketing, this is very niche as well, and perhaps not quite what you're thinking of Jon, but HMRC actually best piece of PR communication actually clear, actually understandable, actually useful.
Jon Payne (04:13):
You overran, no you didn't. Brilliant. Pravanya, this is going to be hard. They've all kept it to under 50 seconds. Although my wife did celebrate the government and we're in Bristol.
Nicola Payne (04:27):
No, I celebrated the HMRC. That is not the government. The two things are entirely separate. Separation between civil service and government is very important. Just saying!
Crystal Carter (04:39):
A round of applause from Crystal there. I can't imagine why Crystal would think that that was important. Given her heritage in the United States of America. Pravanya, I'm already dancing to the wonderful theme tune of jeopardy. Here we go. You've got a minute.
Pravanya Pillay (04:57):
Great. Hi, I'm Pravanya. So I'm like a bit sneaky, cause I'm not actually in marketing, but I do outreach for an organisation called Babbasa and we support young people into their dream job and with their professional ambitions. Yeah, so basically what I, I do outreach, is going out meeting people, but I've had to just do that online now. So it's yeah. So it's been pretty interesting. And I think that my favorite piece of marketing that I've seen, I guess I don't really think about it that much, but the other social enterprises in Bristol are doing some really great stuff and also our marketing, because someone else does that. But yeah, so it's great fun.
Jon Payne (05:40):
Pravanya doesn't do marketing, but has set up a YouTube TV channel during lockdown, which is one of my favourite pieces of marketing. That is marketing, Pravanya. You might give it a special name because you work in the third sector and that's lovely. But we all respect you for it. Thank you everybody. I would say let's give our guests a round of applause. I mean, feel free to do so they can't see you or hear you, but do appreciate that. And I'm now going to turn over the floor to Nick from Firehaus. Who's going to share his screen with us and begin to take us through some stats that we can discuss that come out of the Discovidery thing. Thanks, Nick.
Nick Barthram (06:29):
Jon Payne (06:31):
We can see your screen now.
Nick Barthram (06:32):
Excellent. Let me just remove your faces from my notes. Cool. Thanks, Jon. So yeah, we're going to talk through this survey that we ran well, part of a collective of businesses down in the Southwest. We ran this towards the end of April, beginning of May with the intention of finding out what was going on at the time. So lockdown had been around for a little bit, but everyone was still kind of in that early phases of trying to work out what the hell was going on. We started thinking we better find out what the hell is going on. And then thought, well actually, if we're going to go to all this effort, we may as well share the results and get some help in the inputs in the first place. So from that, this was born and I can only apologise for the name of the survey as you've pointed out, Jon, it is literally unpronounceable, so I won't try, and just refer to it as the survey from this point forward,
Jon Payne (07:26):
Man, I'm leaning into Discovidery. You can give up.
Nick Barthram (07:29):
Maybe if you could come in and pronounce it at each point that it's appropriate and then drop back out. So yeah, so it was, it's 77 business leaders and senior marketers in the Southwest of the UK, about a third of them are brand, split B2B and B2C brand, a third are marketing agency or suppliers. And about third are freelancers, sole traders, consultants, that kind of thing. So we, we asked them a lot of questions. So bearing in mind, hindsight is a wonderful thing now. So there are some things we'd love to know right now, but weren't quite obvious questions on the 20th April when we set the survey up. But there's lots of interesting things. There's three particular, ah, how do I, your faces are in the way, of the slide buttons, there we go.
Nick Barthram (08:19):
Three particular questions that hopefully, I'll present some stats, some results from the survey, and then we can have a chat around and get some real life examples. Would be really good. So first up how COVID-19 has impacted business mindset, what opportunities have you found to evolve an offering or approach? So the kind of the, the immediate impact of it, then secondly, what change has there been to business planning and being flexible in terms of forecasting the future and facing up to unpredictability. And then thirdly, and this is possibly the first point that actually gets a bit marketing-y. Is how our approach has changed, is changing to marketing. So what are these brands and agencies and people doing differently in their marketing now that they weren't doing before? So without much further ado, we can jump straight onto the first one, which was about the impact of COVID-19.
Nick Barthram (09:14):
So there's got to be no surprises that generally speaking, it's had a negative effect, COVID-19 has had a negative effect on businesses in the Southwest. There's a lot of bars there on the screen, but the kind of short version is about 70% of businesses, regardless of which of the three categories they came from, experienced negative effects from COVID-19. Interestingly in a bit of that kind of psychology of everyone thinks they're an above average driver. Everyone thinks that the effect on their category is worse than the effect on themselves. So there's a kind of sense of optimism there. But undeniably a lot of people hit. I think there was a DMA survey that put the national figure at 94%. So maybe we're doing better off in the Southwest than nationally. We had a bit of a look into those people that said it was affecting them positively.
Nick Barthram (10:11):
There wasn't enough data to do category level analysis. So obviously, you know, D2C brands are doing better, but it seemed to be kind of small to medium organisations. So five to 50 people, if you've been going for more than five years, you were much more likely to say that there's been a positive effect of this versus the other, the other types of startups and much more established, bigger businesses are struggling more. We then went on to ask people, when do you think this is all going to be over? Or when, when is this new normal going to set in that we're all very much looking forward to.
Jon Payne (10:48):
And you asked this in June, right?
Nick Barthram (10:51):
Yes. So, well, no, not June in the, April end of April, beginning of May.
Jon Payne (10:56):
Nick Barthram (10:57):
So they, the, the, you know, our survey said within six months, the vast majority of people said within six months, which would mean that everything is going to be in the new normal by October, which I think is a certain degree of optimism.
Nick Barthram (11:11):
Maybe I'm becoming now with hindsight and in July.
Jon Payne (11:15):
I think I certainly felt that everything was going to be fine by October.
Nick Barthram (11:18):
Yes, yes. Maybe it will be, maybe it will be. There's, there's some interesting differences, not too much between the brands, agencies and freelancers in that brands were much more likely to say that it might last a bit longer, whereas freelancers the opposite. And I think possibly they all ticked the same reasons for why it would last a particular length of time. So I have a feeling it's purely to do with your hopes, as in, if you're a freelancer at the moment, you hope that this is over bloody quickly versus a slightly more equipped brands. There wasn't too much difference there. Then looking into the, kind of the impact on staffing. There's, I mean, there's not much commentary on this.
Nick Barthram (12:03):
It's obviously had a big impact. We all know people who've been furloughed and possibly now people have been made redundant. At the time about a third of brands had done no furloughing or redundancies and almost a half of agencies. But then you can see there, the numbers that, you know, there's between, you know, a big chunk of people were furloughing about a quarter of their staff. Brands at the time had made no redundancies. But what was it about a quarter of agencies had started making people redundant. So it's, you know, even with the sense of optimism and the 20% of people seeing positive results, it's obviously having a significant impact on people's livelihoods and their ability to get into work in the day. Then the final bit of this section, we then ask people, okay, if you know, it's obvious it's going to be a negative impact, generally.
Nick Barthram (12:56):
What about opportunities? No one, no one likes to profiteer from a situation like this, it's obviously a bad thing, but whether you like it or not sometimes opportunities arise in these circumstances. And we were expecting when we set the survey that most people would have their. So in the middle of, in the thick of dealing with day to day, that opportunities wouldn't really come on it, but actually it was very heartening to see about 50 or over 50%, all brands and agencies were saying, yeah, we've spotted opportunities and we are already acting on them. So there was a significant, you know, already by that point in April, people were moving to capitalise on the best opportunity they'd come up with. Brands, you'll see there, brands were actually slightly quicker than agencies in terms of there's there's more of them or less of them saying they haven't acted on them.
Nick Barthram (13:51):
Oh no, sorry that's the wrong way round, but there's, there's not a vast difference as we come into the business planning, you start to notice a bit of a gap between brands and agencies and their responses to this. But so that's the general kind of picture really of how the feeling and the vibe was. You know, there's no denying negative impact, a big chunk of furloughing, but significant levels of optimism and opportunity in COVID-19. So I guess before we go into the next bit, it's possibly worth capturing everyone's thoughts and feelings on that.
Jon Payne (14:24):
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Who wants to jump in and say how COVID-19 has impacted their mindset? Go Crystal, I knew you'd be first.
Crystal Carter (14:45):
Yeah. I think that, I think that what I've seen from, I guess I work, so I work with, with our team, but we also work with brands. So from a, from a brand point of view, a lot of people I've been seeing has been using this time to, sort of particularly marketing managers to pick up on digital transformation projects that they, that they flagged before and that, and that they're able to push forward now. So I have a, one of the people I work with is doing is, has, has been trying to get live chat on his site for years and previously senior management weren't that interested in it. And they since implemented the live chat and they, you know, they had more conversions than they'd ever seen. They're having, you know, proper transactions on, on, on the live chat.
Crystal Carter (15:32):
You know, they've, they've now they've now added it into their budget going forward. They're looking to, you know, upscale and expand there. So people are taking this as an opportunity to push forward elements. We, within our, within our team, we offer a training, a training service, and we've extended our training service to be more accessible to people who aren't aren't, who can't attend face to face and extended our reach to be, to be wider. So that's pushing forward something that we'd always been planning to do, but it sort of, you know, you know, pushed things pushed forward and made them a higher priority. So I think that that's where you can find opportunities to do that. I think there is optimism.
Jon Payne (16:18):
Yeah. Yeah. Agreed. Nic, what are your thoughts?
Nick Barthram (16:25):
Nicola Payne (16:27):
Oh, yeah, sorry Payne. Nicola, Nicola, sorry. You're on mute.
Nicola Payne (16:33):
So I think there's quite, the numbers in the survey are quite interesting in terms of the Southwest aren't they, because they are Southwest numbers. And as Beth put in the chat, you know, we are quite a positive bunch. And I think the numbers are really very much, and our mindset of people who are based in the Southwest very much defined by how relatively little impact COVID has had on us. I think the results, if you'd asked people in London boroughs, you would have got very different or in the Northeast or whatever, where there have been real hotspots. The fact is that we were dealing with business problems rather than large numbers of people being sick, mourning over colleagues that had died. You know, there are some real hardships that have happened in other parts of the country, which we have been very, very lucky to to escape.
Nicola Payne (17:23):
And I think in terms of mindset, that's been an interesting thing in the Southwest that we've been allowed to remain optimistic in a way that I don't think others have. I think it's quite interesting that difference between brands and between agencies in terms of mindset. And I, I wonder, I mean, we did a, Jon, not, we, Jon did a, he ploughed through what 212 Google analytics accounts, I think, to try and look at what was happening in terms of different, how people's search traffic had changed and what you saw is real winners and losers. And again, I think that mindset was very much defined by was your business one of those winners where you were a building company or a DIY company where everybody was suddenly on furlough and desperate to do up their house, or were you a different kind of company, but, you know, just, it just died on its ass.
Nicola Payne (18:23):
And I think, again, mindset and opportunity, you would have been in a completely different place depending on where you were and what your business was. So it's quite, it's quite interesting to pull it apart from people, you know, who was optimistic and who wasn't and those business leaders and what was happening within those businesses and within the context of the communities in which they were in. Yeah, I think, you know, for us, we have thought about new products and services. So we've thought about the marketing side of things, but also operationally, you know, what's the mindset and the opportunities operationally to work differently and to think differently. And I think for us as a business and talking to other businesses, that's been quite exciting, even though the actual new business stuff, shockingly shit, you know, that's been awful, but, but the opportunity to do things.
Jon Payne (19:13):
Swearing on a webinar, what the hell?
Nicola Payne (19:17):
Jon Payne (19:17):
Excellent. Thanks Nic. Pravanya, how's it, how's it affected your mindset and, and in what you do in your outreach?
Pravanya Pillay (19:29):
So it's been really, it's been really, really different having to do, cause what I do in outreach is I go out and I meet people and I go into spaces and I like see kids on the street. And I'm like, Hey, come to Babbasa. Which like, I kinda like maybe it was a better way of doing it before, but you just can't do that anymore, obviously. Because no one's about, and you can't go to schools. So basically our outreach, we were thinking, it's just going to stop. Like, there's nothing we can do. It's just going to stop. But obviously that's not the mindset that we can really have because we have to keep going because those young people, they aren't, they haven't gone anywhere. They're still there. We just can't see them anymore.
Jon Payne (20:09):
So you're still fighting the same challenges, in fact maybe arguably worse.
Pravanya Pillay (20:09):
Exactly. No, that was the thing. That's what we recognise as well, that these are young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds from like from BME backgrounds, which like statistically are proven to have the hardest time during COVID as well. So there was no way that we could stop what we were doing. And so outreach had to, so our marketing, or like at least a part of it, a big chunk of it had to become outreach basically. So I had to think like, in the past. I think the way that I see it is that we used our channel as more to show what we had done. But our outreach was in person like talking to people, bringing people in was very much in person. So in that way, our marketing had to become more of a conversation, I had to be way more interactive. It had to involve young people and had to like respond directly to their needs as well.
Pravanya Pillay (20:59):
So we did like a big survey. First of all, before we did anything where we just spoke to young people, we were like, what do you guys want? How are you guys feeling what's useful to you? And that's where Babbasa TV came from. It was built totally off that. So it was built as a way to do outreach in a really interesting way in the way that's online. And it was also almost like marketing almost had to be a way to support as well. So we had to use like marketing, to support young people as well as to reach them. So that's been really exciting and really interesting. And it's been really experimental as well, I think for us. And it's also that as well, the whole idea that we can't be perfect, that we're going to be doing something that we've never done before and then learning from it and then improving it. And that's what the Babbasa TV's been like, will this work, do we have, I'm realising the amount of work that goes into it as well, to put Babbasa TV forward like
Jon Payne (21:52):
We may need to introduce you to our clients so that they can understand how much work goes into this shit.
Pravanya Pillay (21:56):
I know. Yeah. Cause at first I was like, okay, yeah, I could do this. It will be in place of outreach. And then I was like, there was a lot in this project, we're going to have to, and that in itself has become an opportunity. It's an opportunity to sort of bring other young people on, upscale them in places. And I guess, like we sort of had to throw ourselves in and then think about like strategy and what marketing is and how we can streamline things after, which is what we're doing now with the help of like a really great girl called Helen Evans, girl, woman, lady.
Jon Payne (22:29):
It's funny that we have had quite a lot, on these conversations that we've had with various people we've had quite a lot of people talk about now is an opportunity to have that conversation with potential customers in our case, Pravanya. But for, for the rest of us on the call, it's kind of service users and young people or whatever you want to describe them as. And, Nick, obviously took this time also like this survey is right, Nick, is for your customers. And it is that it has enabled us to have some conversations, which has enabled us to, I guess, challenge ourselves. And it, maybe it's something, I'd be interested in everybody on the panel just saying, do you think that it's something about people who work in marketing, which is creative, even in some of its dullest forms and believe me, I work in search engine optimisation. So I know from dull, but is it a mindset thing where you go, oh, well this is just another challenge that I need to overcome or I need to help my clients overcome. Is that a mindset you think that's typical to marketing? Or do you think it's actually, everybody's doing this and we're just, we shout about it cause we're in marketing and we're full of hot air. Thoughts.
Pravanya Pillay (23:43):
So I would say that it's really typical in the third sector. Like, I feel like you're like, Oh, okay. Here's another challenge. Oh, is another challenge and all right, we just have to raise this much and then we can continue being an organisation. And so, so like it felt like COVID was like, oh, okay, here's another one. Sorry. I think that definitely is like really common in the third sector. But yeah, it does.
Jon Payne (24:06):
What about other sectors guys?
Crystal Carter (24:08):
I, yeah, I would echo that. It's certainly from an SEO point of view. I mean, like, you know, we're constantly working with platforms that are changing and with you know, recommendations and, and expectations from Google that are constantly changing. So when, when, so I think if you get into the, into the mindset, that change is the only constant then you will, you'll be much more agile and much more robust when, when the inevitable changes come, come, come your way. So I think, I think that learning how to, how to respond and your process for responding to change is really, really important. So I, I, my, my general general response is to do a bunch of research and then make some decisions. So I'll just watch like 12 YouTube videos read 15 blogs and then decide on whatever it is I'm going to do. And, and I think that if you get into a sort of habit of knowing how to do that and knowing where to get, where to get recommendations, to find the people that you trust, then when changes come, it's a lot easier. Yeah.
Nick Barthram (25:13):
I think as well, marketing, good marketing is basically problem-solving, isn't it? It's either at a top level, you know, you're solving consumer problems with your product or whatever, or in the niche area. So everyone in marketing is inherently a kind of natural problem solver used to applying creativity to that. And now is the time more than ever where you need some creativity to inject into it. So everyone, it's this, there's kind of all the, the bad side to it, but at the same time, there's that ability for you to really flex your creative muscles in doing something different.
Jon Payne (25:51):
Yeah. Yeah. Should we, should we move on to the, to the, to your next stat? Of which, I mean, it's it's and we're cherry picking, right? There's, there's lots of stuff in Discovidery, it's a, it's a, it's a big read.
Nick Barthram (26:05):
It's a big read. You can have it read to you, I've heard.
Jon Payne (26:10):
Nicola has her butler read it to her, but the rest of us we'll have to, I assume put it into Google talk.
Nick Barthram (26:16):
Yes, absolutely. Okay, cool. So yeah, the second bit so bearing in mind, everything we've just talked about in terms of the overall impact, what about the, the difference it's made to your business planning and your ability to kind of, obviously no one can really forecast the future, but plan for the future. And so we asked people how well equipped they felt to weather the crisis. And here you begin to quite a difference in the brands and marketing agencies and suppliers come through. So 81% of brands thought they were well-equipped. And whereas, you know, agencies and suppliers, it, it really dropped down particularly for suppliers sorry, freelancers, but I guess that's, that's possibly more of a cash flow kind of thing.
Nick Barthram (27:05):
When you think about it, it makes sense because if you're a brand, then you're used to kind of, if you've got a physical product or something like that, then you're used to longterm planning cycles and logistics and that kind of stuff. Whereas agencies are generally led by their clients, you know, we need this now or whatever. So it kind of makes sense. But at the same time you would have thought that maybe some agencies would be able to, to, to forecast far enough and, or get themselves set up. Those brands that, or brands, which were well equipped, the general rule was the longer you've been in business, the, the better equipped you are likely to be for, for brands and agencies. Weirdly, the freelancers and consultants, the longer you've been in business, the less likely you were considering yourself to be well equipped for this.
Nick Barthram (27:58):
I have, I mean, second guessing, is it maybe because if you've been a consultant for ages, you've got your little network of people that you do work with and you've got out of the habit of new business and marketing maybe, but there was a very definite trend that there was some kind of dyed in the wool, freelancers and consultants who are really struggling. Then moving on to planning and thinking into the future. So this is, so remember the last time the question was about, when do you think the situation's going to get to normal? This is now how far in the future are you planning and this just aligned perfectly with what we just saw in terms of the level of the quickness. So brands what is that about a third of brands we're looking more than a year into the future, even right in the thick of lockdown were planning for that level, which was, which was great. Agencies were somewhere in the, in the middle, around a quarter, half year, and then freelancers and consultants. So they were much more you know, short term-ist and thinking, right, how am I going to get through the next month?
Jon Payne (28:59):
How am I going to put dinner on the table on Thursday?
Nick Barthram (29:02):
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Now, interestingly, we asked again, like the last time question, why do you think this? And again, everyone answered with exactly the same answers. So consumer behaviour was being blamed and confidence in future needs were being blamed by brands saying, Oh, well, I can only plan to a year. And freelancers going well I can only plan for a month. So I think there's a level of you know, the psychology of when you want it or when you need things to happen versus actually what the driving forces of that are.
Nick Barthram (29:37):
So how then do you for the new, or plan for the future in these environments now, when we did this, as I said earlier, we were really expecting people to be so deep in the thick of getting through the day to day that, you know, these graphs here, all the different things you could be doing would actually be much lower and everybody would just be executing the to do list. It's quite interesting that all, everyone that responded a huge proportion of them was planning for the new normal. So everyone had very much had this mindset of there is a new thing coming on the horizon, and we are putting a lot of effort into getting there. Brands then behind that were much more interested in executing the to do list. And then you can see on this, I won't go through everything, but there is a kind of a range of different techniques being used by agencies and brands, scenario planning, refocusing staff on internal projects, reviewing skillset and mindset and that kind of thing.
Nick Barthram (30:40):
So there was, everyone has essentially been keeping themselves busy as it were with these different things, but there's no, unless we hear it in the discussion now. It doesn't seem like there's a silver bullet. We dabbled ourselves at Firehaus with scenario planning, which was quite interesting, I though it would be very dry, but it's a very creative process of, you know, writing stories for the future. And it was very useful, but we, I think we set ourselves to shorter window and we kind of ended up with two scenarios, which is one is everything's going to be the land of milk and honey and the other is, it's all going to be shit.
Jon Payne (31:20):
Every scenario, ever.
Nick Barthram (31:20):
Yeah, exactly. So I think, you know, the lesson from us is certainly if you're going to do it look a little bit further in the future because you get to the short term, it gets quite binary. Yeah. So yeah, so that's, so that's that section. So it'd be interesting to hear, you know, the impact on business planning that everyone's had it facing up to the unpredictability of it.
Jon Payne (31:43):
Nick, why don't you talk to us through how this has impacted business planning, because I see this on a day to day basis and you are one of the best.
Nicola Payne (31:56):
So traditionally we've done our business planning, using something called the EOS. It's from a book called traction and it's the entrepreneurial operating system. And the way that it works is you set your goals for year and then you do three months sprints around particular kinds of action. And it's worked really well for us for maybe five years. And we'd already done, you know, what our year's plan was going to be. And I had all of the numbers for the year ahead, very exciting. And then basically week by week, they just died. And there was a point in which I said I'm just going to chuck the plans away because looking at the plans were so depressing because where we were, I mean, Jon and I run a business together. So everything is sort of wrapped up in, in where we are and as directors, you know, how we get paid and all that kind of stuff.
Nicola Payne (32:47):
So there was no point us focusing on all the things that we were going to lose. The important thing was focusing on where we were right now. So we completely pivoted what we did. We are currently looking at things on a week. We're still forecasting three months out, but monitoring the situation on a weekly basis because cash is what small businesses survive on in these situations. Cause you know, that it's going to go up eventually. You just don't know when, when things first started, I would have said, you know, a couple of months and we'll be back where we were and it will all be fine, but what becomes clear as all of our clients, I think pretty much all of our clients have furloughed staff or have made redundancies or are in the process of restructuring. So we're starting to see that, that, you know, that the, how long term the responses were or seem to be two months ago, actually, it's, it's moved on quite a lot, I think.
Nicola Payne (33:44):
And people and brands certainly have done a lot more restructuring and internal projects than perhaps they were thinking they were going to do two months ago. So we've just now started to go back again and say, right, let's be optimistic and inspired about the future. We kind of have to go through a mourning period, I think for, for us as a business, where we go, well, all the things that we hoped and planned for this year, aren't going to happen. So what is the new, what's the new inspiration and the new normal, and how does that feel? And when I think that's, you know, we're now getting into a position where we can do that and feel good about it and start to plan further out. But I mean, I don't know, I've spoken to lots of other people in agencies, and I think with the best will in the world, people have tried to plan, but it's things have moved too quickly and actually going too far down a, this is what I think is going to happen, will have been a waste of time and emotional energy.
Jon Payne (34:42):
We did, we did expend quite a lot of emotional energy over the last two or three months on that stuff. Yeah. It's and it's funny, isn't it? Cause and I'm gonna come to Pravanya in a second because I think we can learn some stuff from the third sector here, where there is, funding and all that kind of stuff is a more chaotic environment to, you know, you're always chasing that. But it was funny how we went from looking a year, two years, and obviously we've got a five year plan because we're old people, everybody's got a fricking five year plan once they get to 45. And we're a bit older than that. But our planning just went, really, really short term. And what's it going to be like in the next three weeks, four weeks, which is that kind of much more like a freelancer, you were talking about there Nick, but it wasn't when we filled in that survey, when we filled in that survey, we were like that, don't worry about it. We can't, next one or two years. We've got it covered. Pravanya. What, how do you guys stay agile in your thinking and agile in your planning around this kind of stuff, right?
Pravanya Pillay (35:46):
Yeah. Well I think what we've I mean, we've always been quite youth led, so we've always been, it's responding to the needs of young people and suddenly their needs were so different and were changing a lot as well. So from like from day to day. So we, so a large part of what we've been doing is just been talking to young people and being, like, what do you need right now, oh but what do you need right now and responding to that and changing what we're doing to respond to that also like a huge effort went into our fundraising as well. So we launched our beyond COVID appeal, which is about looking beyond COVID and like emerging strong after COVID and trying to raise, I can't remember how much, I should know how much it is. I think it's like 30,000 trying to raise quite a bit, quite, quite a chunk to keep us going and also to allow us to grow.
Pravanya Pillay (36:34):
Cause we had like big plans to, to grow as well and to get bigger and, and we want to still be able to do that cause there's still a need for it as well. So it was more about it's. So it's like, your brain always splits into two frames of thinking, it's thinking, what can I be doing right now to respond to the needs that are going on right now? And what can I be doing to respond to what they're going to need in the future as well? So when you're asking those questions to say like, what do you need right now? But also what were your problems before? Like what's good, what's changed. And, and even with Babbasa TV, I mean, right now it's meeting that need of of like giving young people a platform to speak.
Pravanya Pillay (37:10):
That's one of the, one of the shows is let's talk and they come on and they discuss issues that are really important to them. And we have guests come on and sort of discuss it with them. And then we have level up, which are our workshops so that on my workshops, we can build skills during lockdown and we have start up, which are like Instagram Q and A's with professionals on how to start up in an industry. So we've got all of that, but then it's thinking where's the future for Babbasa TV as well, right now it's, it's meeting a need, but when people start being able to go out and leave their houses and like, what, what needs are they going to, what needs are going to arise then? And what can we do then? And how can we still be having the same impact, because we're having high impact at the moment with Babbasa TV. But like when you don't, when you're not like only allowed to stay indoors that might change.
Jon Payne (37:55):
Yeah. We hear that a lot actually. Is that there's those two mindsets and actually it's born out by the data that, that, that Nick was sharing is that, the stuff that we need to do right now to stay going and okay, how do we, how do we, we need to do the scenario plan, or even just guess what that's going to be in three, six months, because otherwise we're not going to put the foundations in. So it's interesting to know that you're finding those same issues. Crystal, do you, thanks Pravanya. Crystal, what about in your world? How's, how are you able to flexibly plan or is it again, it's just, well, it's just marketing. I got it.
Crystal Carter (38:35):
So, so I think within, within our team and, and, and our general approach to clients is we we've tried as most, as best as possible. And as, as often to possible, as possible, to keep people you know, focus, focusing on deliverables and focusing on plans, so plans that we previously have been doing sort of you know, six months plans at a time. And when, when everything sort of kicked off we, you know, I went through all of the plans and I, and I adjusted them according to like what sort of opportunities we think might be available. And there are some clients who are more, who are more sort of like a regular, regular turnover, lots of sales and lots of need to respond to sort of immediate, immediate opportunities. But within that, I, I'm a big fan of, and it's very similar to what Pravanya was saying, is this sort of a mechanic and organic sort of approach.
Crystal Carter (39:25):
So you, so the space to respond to what's changing, but also make sure that you're keeping going, like with the things that you need to do. So so with SEO, for instance, having, making sure that your website is, you know, is up to scratch and it's, and it's meeting all of the criteria is always going to be good, particularly when you're, when everyone's online. So a lot of the clients that I, that I work with that have spent time, you know, sticking fairly closely to their deliverables, adding in, adding in some new things to the mix, to respond to the environment, but sticking fairly close to the deliverables are seeing really, really good results. And and so now they're now, you know, given that, that, you know, firm foundation, they're able to pivot into new to new spaces. And also I think that that keeping that consistency helps you to feel more able to try new things and to, and to succeed with those new things, because you've got the basics covered and, you know, you don't even have to worry about them because it's working.
Jon Payne (40:31):
Dibs, our Marketing Manager wishes you'd talked to me like that three months ago, I suspect. That was one of the mistakes I think I made. And I'm, I'm sure I'm not unique in making this mistake is, just going right. Well, we're going to do fucking everything because what we're doing right now, doesn't work. It no longer works. And actually if we'd given it a couple of months apart from the event side of things and which, you know, we're making up for that with this, but actually apart from the events side of things, pretty much everything is still the same in terms of the way we're generating pipeline. It's just, it took a smash and it's coming back up and it's coming back up using a lot of the same methodology we used to use. I'm really sorry, Claire, I've been a dick for three months. But let's take the summer to plan and hope that you don't kick me in the nuts too many times.
Nicola Payne (41:21):
So much longer than that Jon, so much longer than that.
Crystal Carter (41:27):
I think also just, just one thing is if you have a plan and you deviate from the plan, you can always come back to it. So it's nice to have one anyway.
Jon Payne (41:36):
Yeah. That's what, and that's where we are right now. I'm glad as Azeem is witnessing my recorded shame. And so is he, that's why I mentioned it cause he's popped it in the chat. Right. Let's, let's move on to the next bit. Cause I think that's it. I want to leave us enough time. We've got about 12 minutes guys. We might end at 1605 is my guess. So, but let's have Nick talk to us about this next bit, which is, I'm really excited by.
Nick Barthram (42:01):
Sure. Yeah. So the last bit, the meatiest bit, how are approach approaches to marketing changing and the why? So this, you know, for those of us in marketing, this was the bit we wanted to get our head around and see what was differing. And actually to your point, just then Jon, I mean, it may be that some of these changes have changed back now after everybody's kind of ridden the wave or so, but at the time there were certainly a lot of people claiming pretty big changes to their marketing strategy. You can see here that was around. What is that about? Well, about 97% of brands saying that they changed marketing strategies, 93% of agencies and suppliers saying they changed it. So most people were saying, yep, we were doing something differently. What was really interesting was two things. So one that the brand side had said, they'd made much bigger changes to their marketing strategy than agencies and freelancers.
Nick Barthram (43:01):
Now on the surface, you think, Oh, well that's fine because you know, B2C brands or whatever, but bearing in mind a big chunk of that brand pot, were B2B brands. So they're selling in a similar environment to the environment that agencies are selling in. Yet they've made much more decisive changes to their marketing strategy. And on top of that, when asked, how confident are you in the new strategy? Three quarters of them said, yep, we are, we are definitely confident in these big changes we've made. Whereas then unfortunately, and I've got no way of defending it, having worked in agencies most of my life, the, the agencies and consultants who are here to advise on these matters well, much less, you know, made much lower changes and were much less confident of the changes they then made in their, in their strategy.
Jon Payne (43:51):
So what you're saying is I'm a dick, but I'm among friends. I don't want to make it all about me, but having made that apology, I feel quite, just like vindicated.
Nick Barthram (43:59):
I've used these exact words, Jon.
Jon Payne (44:02):
No, Nick you've got much better schooling.
Nick Barthram (44:06):
So yeah. So then so big changes happening and, and you know, big, confident brand changes occurring here. So then kind of digging deeper into, okay, what, what changes are you making? So we asked this question in two different ways. First up, so what disciplines are you going to be focusing more on? So what kind of, you know, approaches rather than particular channels. And there was, I mean, everybody said social media and, you know, and it's, it's obvious. And we only have to look back to other previous dips and kind of organic content is where everyone starts shifting and putting themselves. But social media has had a massive rise brands, particularly hugely investing in saying, yeah, we're going to put a lot more resources into this in the future, then the strategy, which is always good to hear, but I guess there's, there comes a point when if your kind of immediate pipeline is, is under pressure, then you start thinking about how in the future, you can get it back rather than jumping into sales and that kind of stuff.
Nick Barthram (45:10):
Yeah. Notice here, it's a little hard to read in the graph, but you notice how the orange bars, I don't know if you can see my mouse pointer, but the orange bars.
Jon Payne (45:18):
We can see it.
Nick Barthram (45:20):
For for branding in the kind of more functional things like video production, you know, setting yourself up for digital transformation, internal comms, they're much higher. So brands have shifted their marketing strategy and are doing so in a way where they're like, yeah, so we are going to focus on some, getting some outputs out the door. Whereas the other side of the coin, I guess people are moving more into the kind of more, you know, we're thinking about the future we're you know, creating better creative concepts or whatever like that. So it's tangible versus theoretical difference on across the board. Where's my mouse gone?
Nick Barthram (45:59):
Right, so we then ask you know, media budget changes and there, to be honest, there are much better data sets than ours on this coming out all the time. You know, the national picture on media spend brands, which I guess were the important bit for most of us, 50% of their media spend hadn't really changed. And then the rest had gone down to quite a significant degree. So I guess everyone knew that everyone expected it. There was you know, it's interesting the difference in approach to this because the critical metric, as far as I'm concerned in this stuff is extra share of voice. So are you, outspending your share of market, your share of voice? Everybody's share of voice is coming down at the moment. So in theory, give or take some numbers. The more every pound you spend now is probably worth twice as much as it was prior to lockdown, 50% of people are reducing their spend.
Nick Barthram (46:57):
So I imagine one part of that is that brands are kind of saying, we literally don't have the money. We have to cut this, which is fine. There's no point preaching to them that they need to up their spend. But I would imagine within that pot, there's a certain amount of conservatism as well of just kind of slowing everything down. Whereas ironically, there's a massive opportunity here for brands and businesses that are willing to kind of put themselves out there and get into it. That's then kind of followed through in this one. So this is similar to that other slide, but this is now channels that people are investing in and you can see that organic social. So this is the, you know, it more resources than you're already doing. So on the assumption that most people are doing organic social already, huge spike in people doing more of it.
Nick Barthram (47:44):
And particularly the difference between paid and organic is, is, is huge. So once yeah, people are reverting to, everything's going to shit. I need to spend less money. So where did, where do you get quote, unquote, free marketing, on social media? And they're putting the money there. I mean, the realistically the evidence against making that kind of move is, is pretty black and white, but it's funny. And, you know, kind of take LinkedIn as a litmus test of that. Everyone seems to know it yet. Here you go. And here you have these results with people saying, no, actually I'm putting it there. Paid social you know, in, in second place to me, the, the big missed opportunity, and I know one of Jon at Hurricane, one of the other partners that did this pointed it out in his commentary, which was the paid digital video is, is a bit of a missed opportunity.
Nick Barthram (48:43):
So you can see people here putting their money into video content, but they're not putting money behind it and promoting it. And, and, you know, the amount of eyeballs that YouTube and similar things have every day. Again, that's a missed opportunity if you're going to make great video content, get it out there and get it in front of people rather than wait for them to come to you. Then finally the last, I mean, the there's a lot of press about the last recession and when everyone switched to direct messaging and, you know, it was all short-termism and it's killing creativity and that kind of thing. At the time the survey went out, we didn't really see that. So actually a lot of brands were saying that they were increasing their brand level messaging. Spike in increases in COVID-19 related messaging, which is, I guess, a mixture of genuine, this is delivery date changes and this, that kind of thing.
Nick Barthram (49:35):
But also I'm sure everyone has seen that composite video of all the different COVID-19 apps. Kind of empty streets and that kind of thing. So these have now reduced significantly, but it was good to see that there hasn't been, in the way there has been the knee jerk reaction to organic social, there hasn't been such a knee jerk reaction into 50% off buy now, get, you know, get it quickly. That kind of thing. So, that is it in terms of that one. So big changes being led by the brands, I guess. And interesting to know what everyone else is doing.
Jon Payne (50:14):
Yeah. And what I'd like to do is in the next sort of four to seven minutes, so we don't overrun too much. And obviously anybody who needs to go, you know, we record these, we'll slap it up in the next couple of days I would think so you can catch up later, but let's find out let's, let's ask what how, how things have changed. But what I'd really like, or how your approaches to marketing have changed. And we'll start with, which is difficult because poor old Pravanya has already said she's not a marketer, so let's get you out the way quick and done. So you don't feel too under pressure. But, and if you've got anything what's key for the next six months and maybe you don't have anything for that Pravanya. But it's good because even if you feel the air with nonsense for a few seconds, you give Nic and Crystal, and Lord Nick versus lady Nic enough time to think about what can we do for the next six months? Just give me one tip from there. But yeah, how's your, how's your approach I mean, you've described actually how your approach has changed a lot. So what do you think is going to, how do you think is going to change further in the next six months? What do you think is essential?
Pravanya Pillay (51:23):
Well, this is sort of what I would say to like any industry, whatsoever, but I generally think that the way things need to change is they need to become more like, this might sound like, but they need to become more youth led. Like I work with young people all the time and like, and that's why I think that we're so adaptable that we can respond to things really quickly that we like, when we, when we put them first and when we put their ideas first, I think it makes us a better organisation. And I think it does that, like any organisation, any industry. I think having that at your centre is like really important and also just like diverse perspectives as well. People from different backgrounds, people from different, I dunno of different sexual orientation, like everything. Like they are, those are unique perspectives and from unique perspectives comes unique ideas.
Pravanya Pillay (52:10):
And I think that's why. Yeah. So I think for me, it's like the way marketing, the way everything, I don't even think just marketing, but the way everything needs to change, it needs to be like really youth led. And we need to be like investing in growing the skills and the talent of young people. And sort of what you, what you said Nick, about social media being the focus, like who owns social media, like it's Gen Z, for sure. They're like in charge of it, they know how, like they know what works in it. So that feels sort of counterintuitive, not counter intuitive, the other one. But yeah, so yeah, so that's my thoughts on it, but that's always my thoughts on every industry is that invest in young people, they're the future, diverse perspectives, but I think it's still very applicable and should still be taken on board.
Jon Payne (52:56):
If I was quick enough to type, I was going to write down what you said in the middle there, but we'll, we'll have something transcribe it. We'll have some AI transcribe it, your quote about inclusivity and all of that kind of stuff from diverse perspectives comes something, was fucking magic. We can, we can that all the way. Brilliant, brilliant. Nicola, I'm gonna come to you next if I may. Before I get there I can't remember the lady's name. I only know her as the Beyonce of marketing on Twitter. I don't know what her name is, but Nic, to your point about organic growth on Facebook she did marketing joke of the day yesterday by, and follow this lady, she's great. Beyonce of marketing. She said I put a joke on Facebook about organic reach. Nobody got it. It's a perfect, perfect social media marketing joke. Nicola, talk to us about how you're approaching...
Nicola Payne (53:54):
I'm not the demographic, am I.
Jon Payne (53:54):
Man can you hear that guy knocking a hole in our sewer, by the way? Sorry about the noise guys. We've got builders in and they are, they're really going at it.
Nicola Payne (54:06):
So I feel very under qualified to answer this question, because obviously we've got Claire in here and Jon who really should be talking about marketing. I think though, in terms of our approach, it hasn't changed because for us, we've always been trying to answer questions from our community. So I think where, you know, so we were doing Digital Gaggle. We're now doing these kind of webinars, the content that we do and that, you know, the, the mechanisms might change, the tactics might change. So we've ironically just started doing paid for the first time ever really. But I think the strategy is the same marketing strategy is about building community and being responsive to the digital marketing community. And hoping that business follows that it's just the tactics and the tactics are constantly changing. If you're not, if you're not changing up your tactics in a digital marketing perspective, when everything is changing all the time, you're, you're really missing a trick. So I think our approach has changed. I think our tactics have changed and will continue to change. Is that, is that the right answer, Jon, Claire?
Jon Payne (55:19):
Hey, I'm an old white guy on a fucking webinar. Don't ask me if anything's right or wrong. I won't shut up. Let's, let's ask Crystal.
Crystal Carter (55:29):
Yeah, I think it's along similar lines to what's what's been said, but if anything has become particularly apparent to me is, is that in the last little while, is that that you should be 100%, 150% customer focused in everything you do. Absolutely. Look after the customers that you have, the customers that know you already. New, new customers in some, in some industries are tricky to come by. But what we are often seeing, particularly with traffic is that we we're seeing maybe lower than usual traffic, but much higher than normal conversions. And the people that know you are like, really want to hear from you and really want your services. And if, and you know, if you're a client based business or if you're, if you're a product based business, the people that know your products and know your services, they are, you know, they, they are so, so, so, so, so important and, and do everything you can to look after them. And you know, you'll get, you'll get through this alright. And I think that that's, that's important for, for now. I think that's important for three months from now. I think that's important from six for six months from now. And yeah, to the end of the ocean back, honestly, just look after your, look after your clients, look after your customers.
Jon Payne (56:47):
Isn't that great that we end a very nearly end, we'll come to you Nick in a sec, Lord Nick, we end a marketing a webinar with a, be better at customer services.
Crystal Carter (57:04):
It's what it comes to, what it comes down to, you know, if you don't have customers, what are you doing?
Jon Payne (57:09):
Exactly. Nick, a final word from you, mate.
Speaker 3 (57:13):
Yeah. I, I, I agree pretty much with what Crystal was saying. I think it's, it's an emphasis on your customers and your potential customers. Really. I have noticed a difference between brands that are based around a product and brands that are based around a purpose. And I mean that in not in terms of like, you know, saving the rainforest or whatever, but we are here to do this for people. This is the problem we are solving. And those are the brands that are doing really well because, okay, the product that they were using to do that is no longer fit for purpose. And they're going to have to change that. But because their entire business mentality has been about solving a problem, they're fine. They just need to just come up with, kind of like what you were saying, Nic, that it's a different tactic. It's a different way of doing it, but we're still solving the same problem. The brands that are really struggling are the ones that have a very product mind, you know, mindset and that product is no longer applicable. And then trying to change the way you're thinking about that is actually really difficult and it's hard to do from the inside. So as much as you can focus on what you are here, what problem you are here to solve, whether it's for existing customers or for new ones coming in the door.
Jon Payne (58:24):
Brilliant. Brilliant. Nick, thank you for doing the survey and sharing all of that useful data with us. Crystal lady Nic, and Pravanya. Thank you so much for your insights. That's been really useful. The people who have stayed over, thank you for staying, the people who came earlier. Great. If you're watching this and recording. Thank you again. Thank you for sticking with us. There must've been, some of you who've been to, thanks Claire Dibben for putting the Beyonce of marketing's Twitter handle in the chat. There are some of you who have been to nearly all of these. Thank you for coming to all of these and supporting us. We'll see you in the autumn. Thanks again, everybody. See you soon. Bye panelists, you stars. Bye.
Founder and Technical Director of Noisy Little Monkey, Jon blogs about SEO and digital marketing strategy.
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