Marketing in a Time of COVID: One No-Coffee Catch-Up at a time

As the new normal continues to challenge marketers across the globe, our partner in Australia has been hunting for insights from some of the best. So,  they offered Stuart Matthewman, Global Head of Marketing Communications at IR, exactly zero coffee to tell us how he’s keeping things ticking for this global software brand.

 

Stuart Matthewman is smiling thanks to a lucky 12-days of snowboarding and 96cm of fresh snow at Perisher. But it was a trip that many of his mates couldn’t make due to the lockdown in Victoria, Australia.

“I was so fortunate with my timing so this was a blessing.”

Stuart Matthewman

 

In his role as Global Head of Marketing Communications at IRMatthewman leads IR’s global marketing communications programs across all product lines. With this unique focus on messaging and communications, Matthewman has often found himself on the crest of the COVID wave of change sweeping across the globe.

 

 

 

On change, We asked Matthewman how he felt the change was affecting marketing and business in general.

“I think it largely depends on the industry – some industries and companies like Zoom are thriving. Others are battling, like tourism and hospitality. No one really knows how this will play out long term. 

Not knowing what the future holds is akin to psychological torture for most marketers, as we’re used to creating the future for ourselves and our products.”

When asked about how to avoid falling into marketing paralysis, Matthewman shared:

“Right now is the time for Marketers to crystallize their brand’s value proposition. The create a detailed roadmap of how you’re going to deliver it. When we emerge from COVID, your customers need to feel good about continuing to do business with you. Your prospects will also want to see clearly the value in doing business with you.”

No one expects doing business in a post-COVID world will remain the same as during COVID when digital channels ruled all and video calling was king. In fact Matthewman was quick to call out the elephant in the room: that digital channels were always going to dominate during COVID as they were the only channel choice we had.

“I hear the commentary around how digital is exploding, but of course it is. This has become the only way to interact. But I believe there will still be a real need for tradeshows and the like once COVID-19 is cleared. 

But other channels still need to be considered for integrated demand generation campaigns because it’s about reaching your audience and they might need email, direct mail, TV, radio, chat and voice search.” 

 

Putting customers at the centre

Limited channel choice has caused a flood of webinars, digital advertising and virtual events clogging up the messaging. But until more channels open up, how can marketers continue to achieve impact? Matthewman asserts the key to getting impact now is to differentiate.”

Differentiating is critical for cut-through when competing for eyeballs in an environment inundated with content. Matthewman revealed great planning and good instincts have helped IR to continue to achieve impact during the pandemic.

“Over the past 18 months, we’ve been putting a large focus on SEO optimisation and now we’re seeing this pay off. Another key investment we made in the past few years has been to develop a strong customer community. 

This community has been critical in helping us maintain our customer relationships and respond quickly to challenges many have faced during COVID-19.  In fact, when remote working hit and our customer community were looking for workable solutions, we were able to quickly build dashboards for remote worker management and make them available.” 

 

Getting into an agile mindset

The ability to respond in such an agile way to customer needs is at the heart of what marketers do. But in the midst of a global crisis, with the endless digital noise competing for attention, the old ways of working don’t always work. Matthewman shared his thoughts on how marketing behaviours have changed.

“We need to find new ways to connect and learn from what’s not and what is connecting. We need to structure our programs to prioritise engagement and focus on personalising and aligning the experiences and content around a customer story.

Make sure your content quality is readily available through all digital channels as this will make it easier for buyers to gather information regardless of the buyer’s stage they are in.”

Remote working has highlighted the important role of communication and alignment between departments, especially marketing and sales.

“With the changes to how people interact remotely instead of in the office each day, we need to rethink how we can work with sales to support them with the knowledge they need to be successful in the changing market dynamics. Whether it’s by Sharepoint or Yammer, you need to make content available in channels people like to consume.” 

 

The golden rules that still hold true

COVID may have changed much in how we work, interact and consume, but the foundational tenets of great marketing remain:

  • Great content always gets through the noise.
  • Great CX and personalised experiences continue to win hearts and wallets.
  • Team collaboration even when you’re remote is vital.
  • Continue to pay attention to your buyers, especially now. Listen for changes, take note of behavioural changes, and be agile enough to adapt and align your marketing plan accordingly.

 

Is there a silver lining?

Over the past months, Matthewman, like the rest of us, has experienced the cavalcade of change within our communities and industry. When we asked about any opportunities for new advancements or capabilities he might have seen, his answer was practical and philanthropic.

“We need to focus on building brand trust with our customers and the market and find ways to improve the online presence and digital experience for our customers. 

Personally though, what has been brought into focus is the importance of human connection. We have seen wonderful examples of ingenuity as a result of the impacts of COVID on our lives – from pubs becoming local stores and people making hand sanitiser and face masks, to the speed at which collaboration tools have evolved. 

This is our opportunity to give back to the community – to be able to help those struggling be that mentally, financially or other. And I believe people are more aware of how others might struggle now and this will be important as we learn to live with COVID moving forward.”

We couldn’t agree more Stuart.

In Summary

  • One of the best sources of expert marketing advice and Intel is found by listening to your peers.
  • Differentiating is critical for cut-through when competing for eyeballs.
  • Other channels still need to be considered for integrated programs and journeys.
  • Right now is the time for Marketers to crystallize their brand’s value proposition

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