8 April 2020
Innovation is inherent to being human.
A lofty statement to start with I know, but sometimes a little perspective is handy! Since humanity first developed brains over brawn and we out-thought our Neanderthal neighbours, we’ve been on an irrevocable path of species-enhancing innovation.
Many of mankind’s greatest inventions were born from the fire of adversity, a will to survive and thrive driving progress that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We change, adapt and grow to overcome life’s challenges – this pattern has repeated for millions of years.
There is no doubt that the current Covid-19 crisis is scary. Part of that fear is of the unknown; humans thrive on patterns, information and direction, and these are sorely lacking right now. In this environment, information and innovation will be our savour. Ben Disraeli once said that ‘there is no education like adversity’ and indeed, never in recorded history has the world had to learn and adapt so fast, and for such a critical cause. If we stand still, we’re doomed.
In this context there’s no denying that Marketing can seem a little… irrelevant. I get it!
Great marketing helps people to get the information they need to make an informed decision. Done well, it removes the fog of irrelevancy and matches customers with the goods or services they want or need. Innovating in this space can create mutual benefit at a time when the status quo is shifting.
With this in mind, I’d like to make a case for the importance of marketing innovation in this climate. What do you think?
So often customers are still regarded as a dataset, a series of alphanumerical inputs. We shouldn’t forget that these are real people with real emotions! It’s amazing how many companies are failing to adapt their marketing strategies and output to reflect our new reality, at best creating brand dissonance and at worst, emotional torment.
What customers most likely need at this time is a reduction in noise. We’re in an information overload, and finding a way through that murk to deliver value will differentiate you from the mass. This doesn’t mean putting a hold on everything; breathe deeply, take a step back and consider what your customer really needs.
Now is the time to innovate your approach to customer experience and focus on exceeding expectations. Work across functions in your business to understand and adapt to the customer need, mapping their journey to ensure that communications are relevant and timely. Focus on low hanging fruit and you might find that your brand stock raises as a result!
The pandemic is having a huge impact on non-digital channels. Many call centres based out of Asia were the first to close, soon followed by Western units. Direct mail is heavily impacted and may not provide the immediacy needed in this climate. The cost of of DM will impact fine profit margins already taking a beating from a global downturn in demand (unless you work in the hand sanitiser game!).
Digital channels give us the agility needed to adapt to the ever-changing landscape in a cost-effective manner. While digital transformation has been a buzz topic for some time, it’s now been updated from a very good idea to an actual necessity!
The chances are that demand may be down during the crisis. Of course this is going to put pressure on your business, but there is an opportunity to utilise your resource for the greater good.
Focusing free time on collaborative innovation will allow you to adapt to the changing environment and set you up for success once the worst is over. Consider running workshops to identify process waste for quick win cost efficiencies, or design thinking sessions to brainstorm ideas that improve your crappy situation.
An innovative environment has a positive effect on a business at the best of times, promoting growth, efficiencies and market differentiation. In the worst of times it has the potential to exponentially benefit the wellbeing of your staff.
Working from home can feel like a challenge, with social isolation causing a strain on mental health. Focusing on business-as-usual activities may be important but they are unlikely to stimulate one’s mind in a stressful environment. Your staff may be worrying about the effect on their careers and the chances are they need to feel like they are moving forwards.
Collaboration not only within but across teams creates a positive social dynamic, and tying this collaboration to innovation increases the potential for value creation. You may find silos being knocked down with a cause to rally around. Creating a positive outcome may engender excitement and positivity in a time where we’re sorely lacking both.
Sure, we’ve all seen images of stupidity recently… people chilling out on the beach, fighting over loo roll etc. On the other hand, I’ve seen an awesome number of inspirational stories both in general life and the world of business. Innovation is alive and kicking, and adversity is creating heroes as well as villains.
Be part of the good news story and there’s a chance you’ll be remembered for your contribution to the greater good. Good news doesn’t have to mean grand acts of altruism; it could be as simple as making your customers lives easier by adapting your processes or offering, or creating a community initiative to improve customer experience.
Focus on innovation and bring your best minds together to workshop ideas and you’re exponentially more likely to hit on the winning formula at pace. Experiment with design thinking principles to help you empathise, design and prototype ideas around a table.
So there we have it. It may feel like a desperate time, but to quote Napoleon Hill, ‘Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit’.
Having said that, it would be a failure to suggest it isn’t harder to innovate remotely. To that end, the second part of this post will consider top tips to innovate remotely. As always, if you’d like to talk through any of these ideas feel free to reach out to us!