Communications – The New Normal
Communication has always been key in running a business, and indeed in most other aspects of our lives. In 2020 many lessons have been learned or reinforced and it has reminded us all how very unpredictable life can be. But one of the most obvious changes that should be apparent to all, has been in the way that companies are communicating.
For any business, communication covers so many things, from internal to external, trade and suppliers to customers, and basically every way that it interacts with any stakeholder at any part of its activity. As part of what has been learned during 2020 every business has had to adapt what it communicates, to whom, in what way, and how often. But the change in communication that has become most apparent to customers of every business, and the general public at large, is what businesses are actually saying. Indeed, it is probable that the type of message has changed more this year than in any other single year.
It is difficult to find many good examples before 2020 of businesses advertising quite hard – and by definition using a large part of any marketing spend – to simply tell their customers how much the business cares about them and that it is doing everything possible to protect them and put them first in every possible way. Leaders of successful businesses, both large and small, realised that 2020 was not the time to be selling product hard but it was still very necessary to be visible, and to be seen by both existing and potential customers to do the ‘right thing’. Also, as the various guidelines and regulations as to what was, and what was not, allowed kept changing, it enabled companies to vary the massage but stay with the ‘we care about you’ theme.
Many smaller businesses have been able to benefit from the new mood this year as customers that are wanting to feel cared for and appreciated are also the same type of customers that appreciate that extra level of personal service that major companies often find so difficult to actually deliver. Smaller businesses are also often better placed to get more specific customer feedback, and then incorporate this into their decision making process and communications.
It could be argued that during 2020, communication has, in many ways, returned to basics and lost that purely obvious commercial angle of sell, sell, sell. In other times some might have seen this as a retrograde step and certainly something that many businesses would not have tried or seen the potential benefits to. But in reality, it seems that communication has actually matured, and customers are rewarding those companies that treat them well and do the right thing in the right way.
What most customers have always known, but many companies had lost sight of, was the fact that we all like to feel appreciated and not just to be a meaningless number or statistic. During 2020 communication changed, and it changed fundamentally. So far it is too early to say whether companies will slip back into their old ways and focus almost all of their marketing budget and communications on promoting specific products or services, and whether many aspects will be forgotten, or whether communication 2020 style will become much more of the new normal. I for one very much hope that everyone was paying full attention in the communication lesson of 2020 and the new softer and more caring approach to customers and the communications with them will be a lesson that is retained in 2021 and beyond.