What's your Covid-19 recovery plan?

I hope that wherever you are reading this email you are healthy and staying safe in these unprecedented and extremely difficult times.

Irrespective of the amount of time we have available and the current pressures demanding energy, now must be the time for us all to get up in that helicopter of ours, look at the bigger picture and plan for the future, because there’s going to be some permanent changes as a result of what we’ve all been through.

We will not simply be able to return to how things were before the crisis.

Generally, in all walks of life, revolution rarely happens. Evolution is the norm, whether that is in government, business, the charity sector, academia or private life. Evolution is perceived to be less of a risk - the safer option. It often needs some sort of a massive stimulus for step change revolution to take place.

I believe that the pandemic we are currently going through is one of those times.

Not only will it accelerate the decline of out-dated activities and practices but also the decline or extinction of certain market sectors and businesses completely. It will accelerate the adoption of new ways of doing things, of new technology and ways of thinking.

If you can get up in your helicopter now and map out your post pandemic plan you stand a good chance of being ahead of the curve during the recovery phase towards a "new normal” - and marketors need to be at the forefront of this.

Whether you are a commercial or a not-for-profit business if your top line disappears because of a cessation of activity - as has happened to many of you reading this - you know, even if you are the best marketer on the planet - there is nothing you can do to stimulate sales. All you can do is cut costs and try and survive until activity resumes. We all know the largest cost spend for most organisations is people and, impressively, in a number of countries responsible governments are supporting organisations financially to help them retain their staff through the hiatus.

Let’s hope a lasting result of the pandemic is more competent, respected public and private sector leaders leading nations around the world.

Historically, in times of crisis it’s competent, purposeful, inventive leadership that comes to the fore - and oft times achieves the remarkable.

That means that in the not too distant future, we’ve got to pick up the reins again of whatever it is we do, whether we are involved in running a business or a charity, whether we are in government or academia.

I absolutely guarantee that things will not return to how they were before. There will have been some permanent changes that affect you and your business. As a result you have no choice but to think differently about your business and now is the time to do it.

To stimulate some thinking and discussion I have listed below my thoughts on some of the industries, companies, technologies, charities, practices and activities that I believe will thrive going forward, and also those where their decline and possibly extinction is likely. In many cases this is merely an acceleration of what was already in train but for others not.

So what’s your recovery plan?

One thing is for sure: your business will need to focus on marketing and sales now more than ever!

There’s a golden rule of business - sell to people who have got money - and they won’t necessarily be the same post pandemic as it was before.

Airlines

They are are already disappearing. I recall a few years ago one of the major accounting firms published a comprehensive report into the international airline industry. One of their stark conclusions was that if you actually produced the accounts of airlines as you would any other business, no airline ever in history has actually made a profit.

I suspect there will now be a big consolidation, a number of airlines will disappear and prices will increase.

There’s got to be a spinoff from that to the commercial airline business, which is really just Boeing - already, of course, in significant trouble with the 737Max, and Airbus. It's unlikely governments will allow either of those to disappear but from now on they are going to be operating at significantly below the capacity they currently have.

Bricks & Mortar Retail

This sector has been in decline now for some time as a result of the increase online buying and changes in lifestyle and fashion. The crisis has undoubtedly accelerated all that. Whilst we have been confined to our homes we’ve had to buy online for other than basics and it must be highly likely we’re going to carry on doing so.

The Marks and Spencer model has been out of date for at least 20 years and whilst they have tried to fix it it’s all been evolution and no revolution. I suspect the time has come for a massive revolution at M&S.

The Hut Group based in Manchester is valued at about £4bn - around the the same as Marks and Spencer - and has 5,500 employees with plans to rise to 10000. The co-founder and CEO, Matt Moulding, runs the entire  business from his iPhone with a dashboard that keeps him up to date with the business in real time. “With this I can develop a strategy on an immense scale,” he says.

The trick has been to build its infrastructure from the ground up. Other companies have a “colossal mixed bag of everyone else’s tech”, Moulding says, but THG has developed its own warehouse management systems, web services and logistics software. Owning the technology allows him to stay in control of everything else: production, marketing and distribution. Last year, THG earned about £40m from licensing its technology to other businesses.

Revolution! - this surely must be the model for the future.

Broadband

High speed internet providers are flourishing because so many of us are now working from home.

There’s a spinoff here on governments. Surely every government needs to adopt the attitude of South Korea and ensure that there is the fastest possible high bandwidth broadband available everywhere.

Here's what they are doing in Kenya - balloons!

I know countries where the governments have been actively resisting the rise of broadband because they fear what happened during the Arab Spring. 

I am not convinced that it’s possible for them to resist it any longer.

Maybe that’s a positive contribution to good government everywhere.

International Travel

I suspect that we have all in business demonstrated to ourselves through this period that we can have meetings quite successfully remotely and we can do business successfully remotely as well. I must, therefore, be unlikely that international business travel will ever recover to the levels it was?

Maybe we can say the same thing about international tourism?  Although there is the possibility that the wanderlust of individuals will - at least in the short term - increase and benefit from the special offers that will abound as the travel and tourism industry spend massive effort on getting visitors back into their establishments.

Nevertheless, will we now need less airports as a result?

Charities

Many charities are suffering badly through this crisis as they are not getting the philanthropic monies coming in as normal.

They need to revolutionise - they need to make it easy for us to give online with a minimum number of keystrokes, no paperwork, and no subsequent hassling us for more. 

They also need to make sure that we know what difference our contributions will - and have - made. Their communication skills and efforts will now be more important than ever.

I mentioned the CEO of THG earlier who operates his £4bn business from his smartphone. I would suggest that were someone like him be minded to give to charity either personally or corporately he or she would expect that to take just 5 minutes of their time and be a simple process using his or her smart phone.

Charities - I am worried about you!

So here’s my checklist of what you need to do:

  • You need to become a lean, mean, money collecting machine! -  and experts in marketing to the right people who have money to give you - and give you quickly. Make it easy for people and companies to give, forget about your fixation with Gift Aid  - it takes time and it means people have to give you personal information that many would rather not.
  • Get a local university now to develop an app for you in double quick time. They love real life projects and there will be loads of goodwill.
  • Ensure people can donate by credit card and every collecting box has a contactless credit card payment option. This is what The Museum of London have everywhere.
  • Do not let anyone, especially your trustees, stop from doing this and doing it very quickly indeed. If you don’t you may just disappear.

I recently worked with an air ambulance trust who got 70% of their income from a lottery they set up and run. Many of us are unaware the the Salvation Army gets significant funding from their own in house insurance brokerage.

I think charities need help from innovative Marketers like never before.

Innovation & Collaboration

A big positive to come out of the crisis has been to see companies and academia working together and moving incredibly quickly with remarkable adaptibility, flexibility and a ‘can do’ attitude to meet a national or international need.
Maybe we last saw this during the Second World War.

Companies like Dyson and Ford have moved into making ventilators at lower prices than normally seen. Rolls Royce, McLaren, Babcock, Mercedes AMG F1, Smiths, GKN & Thales are doing the same and with Standard Chartered bank providing finance for any such activity.
Boots the Chemist has set up walk-through Covid-19 testing centres around the UK, initially for members of the NHS.

Post crisis we must learn the lesson that that is the way forward.

‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ attitudes have got to go forever - we are in a world where things everything is changing at eye watering speed - be it technology, markets, politics or pandemics.

None of us can risk even a nano second of resting on our laurels if we are to survive, let alone thrive.

Equally are we not going to remember the crisis heroes and the crisis villains in our future buying decisions?

Home Working

I think this will be a big revolution. I still find many companies and charities big and small that have a fixation with 9 to 5 working, five days a week.

We were already aware that Millenials are really not keen on rules unless they can understand the reason for them and they cannot get their heads around universal 9 to 5 working.

I wonder if the traditional attitude of work places and times is going to be swept away now as home working with flexible hours has been proved to work. Companies will no longer be able to require people to be at their place of work every day of the week. The same applies for government, charities, indeed every sector there is because we can do so much remotely these days.

It will be interesting to see what the impact is on commercial real estate will be in the medium and long term.

Events and Professional Speaking

In the world of professional speaking, my world, I think this is finally the nail in the coffin for the original “motivational” speakers. In the industry, we often refer to them as “Chinese meal” speakers - you know you’ve had something good, but two hours later you can’t remember what it is!

If organisations have live face to face events in the future they will need to be justified and valuable and have a specific purpose - not just a jolly. That must mean that we are now into the era of high content speakers giving significant takeaways that attendees can act on immediately for the benefit of them and all the organisations that they work with or for.

Universities

I fervently hope this hiatus causes universities to finally do revolution!

They are suffering from lack of income and seeking government help but it seems to me we cannot expect students to take on the burden of the size of student debt that they do now. 

There is a very easy way to reduce that debt.

A typical degree course is 3 years with each year comprising 3 terms of 8 weeks - that’s just 24 weeks in a year or 72 course study weeks in total.

Way back when I did my honours degree it was what was called a ‘thin sandwich’ course.  I was sponsored by a company and each year I spent 20 weeks at university and 20 weeks working in-company - in other words a total 40 weeks a year. 

These courses no longer exist but it does prove what is possible!

So, simply,  let’s have universities move to a standard degree course format of 2 x 36 week years.

The improvements in productivity, reduction in student loans and benefit to all would  be massive

Cash

During this period of isolation and grocery store only visits a lot of us have got used of not using cash. Cash after all is handled by many people whereas our (contactless) credit card does not need to be touched by anything or anybody but us.

Sweden has shown how easy it is to become cashless and I suspect we will all now be moving to a cashless society even faster than we thought we were going to.

This Thought Leadership blog is one of a series written by Marketors to provoke debate and help make marketing more relevant to businesses and society. If you would like to share your wisdom, please click here for details and how to get in touch.

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