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We're all technology companies now

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Kevin Mason, Strategy + Planning Director, Proctor + Stevenson

COVID-19 has realised some of the most challenging times in recent memory. Across the globe, the pandemic is proving to be a ‘sink or swim’ event as entire economies are placed under increasing pressure, while brands and businesses scramble to find new ways of working.

This ‘sink or swim’ verdict rings especially true for B2B brands who traditionally rely on face-to-face relationships to do business – if they can’t find ways to work digitally, they won’t survive.

Digital touchpoints across the customer journey are no longer optional. They're imperative.

This quote from a retail CEO in a recent article by McKinsey sums up the thinking we’ve seen in those of our clients who seem to be thriving:

“Every business is now a technology business, and what matters most is a deep understanding of the customer, which is enabled by technology.”

It’s tempting to focus on the word ‘technology’ here. You may think those who are succeeding had an advantage if they already had a digital marketing infrastructure in place. And yes, some of them may have had a head-start, but we think it goes deeper than this.

We’ve already seen successes born out of necessity. And rather than having any one technological solution to thank, it’s most often been a specific mindset which has proven invaluable to these prosperous businesses.

Here are some of the common attributes we’ve seen shared among the brands who are thriving:

1. RESPONSIVENESS: Adapting to changing customer needs has always been critical to a brand’s survival. But not even technology companies, who have always set the pace of change, will have experienced such a rapid, radical shift in society as recent times have presented. Among our clients who are successfully navigating these uncharted waters, most have re-evaluated their brand’s purpose and re-calibrated it to connect with a new set of customer needs.

2. SPEED: Small teams with an entrepreneurial mindset have been making quick decisions. In many cases, where it took months for plans to be approved, decisions have been made in days.

3. EXPERIMENTATION: Spotting shifts in customer buying patterns has been useful, but often decisions have been made with imperfect data and a higher than usual level of uncertainty. The role of data has shifted from being the facilitator of protracted, detailed planning and decision making, to the radar for testing, learning and iterating quickly.

4 CREATIVITY: Connecting with customers in an authentic, positive way has been a creative challenge. Those who have succeeded went beyond stock “we’re here for you” platitudes. They re-enforced their brand purpose by adding genuine value to their customer’s lives.

5. AGILITY: In the past, marketing digital transformation was often treated as a big-ticket, slow moving investment, often driven by expensive consultants. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital systems for many, and most systems are largely interoperable, so bolting together solutions is entirely possible. Again, clients have been making quick decisions about what they need, launching and refining as they go.

6. COLLABORATION: In the past, one of the classic barriers to marketing digital transformation adoption was cultural. Creating the ultimate digital customer journey needed collaboration between a diverse set of departments in the organisation, many of whom hadn’t had to work together before. Times of crisis often bring people together though, and in recent months everybody’s survival has relied on us all working together.

These attributes have always been typical of most successful technology companies, and are certainly evident in the marketing operations of our successful clients – no matter their sector.

What drives them is a mindset which focuses on:

· Satisfying changing customer needs

· Optimising the customer experience throughout their journey

· Launching quickly with a minimum-viable-product (MVP)

· Continuously improving commercial returns

It’s an approach to marketing technology that even Panasonic, our most digitally evolved client, has always taken. The sophisticated ecosystem they enjoy today has evolved over many years, always driven by this exact mindset.

So, as we all begin to look to the future, it’s becoming more and more apparent that things won’t go back to how they were. We’re all technology companies now. To succeed, we need to think and act like technology entrepreneurs: Creative. Responsive. Agile. Collaborative.

As Tom Peters said at the beginning of the dotcom revolution, winners have a common go-to-market strategy: READY, FIRE, AIM.

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