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Chris Kean

The Lockdown Lowdown

Advice, dodio

Here we are 6 months since we entered ‘The Great Lockdown’ and swan diving into the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression. If the Covid-19 pandemic was a film (and it often feels like it is… terrorise yourself with “Contagion” back in March anyone?), it’s likely we’re barely past opening credits, but it does feel like a good time for us to share our experience, what we’ve learnt and hopefully some useful advice.

For those of you unfamiliar with dodio, at director level we’re a husband and wife team. When lockdown was announced, while we didn’t panic either personally or professionally, it’d be fair to say there was some…alarm. We were quick to take advantage of what financial support was made available to us while moving to reduce our overheads to protect ourselves and staff as best we could. We reached out to our clients to offer any communications support they needed and then the world ground to a halt. You know, you were there.

Now here we are, caught between a growing euphoria regarding the easing of lockdown restrictions and the sobering reality of the worst recession in 300 years.

Remember those early days in April, when Murphy’s Law delivered a month of glorious weather just when we couldn’t go anywhere? It was then, among what was frankly becoming an all too often afternoon beer in the garden (I’ll touch on mental health and productivity later!) that we decided to see this as a once in a business lifetime opportunity to Stop. Reflect. Think. And where we needed to, adapt and even reinvent ourselves.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. By that point we were deep into a comprehensive homeschooling schedule, as Alfie (our son) became one of our only clients and his plan meant we had to be in that “student of the week” Facebook post every week! Our dog, which suffers from acute canine ADHD could no longer visit his grandparents. The question, “Can we afford to pay our bills?” kept us awake at night, oh and between all of that, the damn sun was shining and the beers were damn cold!

Having never had to work without a dedicated office and without the luxury of a fairly stress free life (if only we realised) it was inevitable that productivity would be affected, and as our mental health was tested, the guilt, worry and a penchant for procrastination just made matters worse. I’m sure we weren’t alone.

During that first month or so, perhaps on reflection we couldn’t have done much more than we did while coming to terms with what this is.

Then something started to happen. They reckon it takes 21 days for a new habit to form, 90 to make it a lifestyle change, and sure enough the ‘New Normal’ emerged on cue. Like a stubborn weed, with different hours, in a different environment with different distractions grew a familiar mindset. We were back at full speed. The fact that this occurred at the same time the weather turned wet and cold is purely coincidental.

Since then, while it’s always a priority to deliver for our clients first, the extra time we had allowed us to donate our skills to local charities, work on streamlining our processes, improve our products and services, develop our business plan and totally remodel our marketing strategy. We did the groundwork to be a better business and a better agency. We’ve implemented improved accounting systems, built reporting into all of our work and tightened up legal “things” (erm a lot of this was Senga’s work! ). We’re working on adding value to clients, making sure we’re ahead of the game with innovative industry trends and improving our own internal communications. Every part of this work was vital to ensure the strength of our position and reveal the insight needed to give us the confidence to invest and grow, which were all things we couldn’t find time to do pre-lockdown. This may have actually solved our chickens and egg problem!

Our clients seem to have been on a similar journey. Recent weeks have seen a definite upturn in enquiries from potential new clients and an increase in activity from existing ones. We consider ourselves very lucky to have lots of clients that we’ve worked with for years, ranging from those in the UK holiday industry to those who count on physical contact to operate and each have very different practical decisions regarding reopening and marketing. Almost all will now be adapting their pre-lockdown strategies, either because of changes in budget, the market or the environment.

Before even considering the all round economic downturn and consumers having less money in their pockets, questions arise; Will outdoor\bus\train advertising reach the audience it once did? Will consumers want to revisit exhibitions? Are less people listening to the radio now there’s no mass commute or are more turning on from home?  Will leaflets make a big comeback? I could go on…

If you’re lucky enough that your business has survived so far and you have the added advantage of being able to think about investing in marketing, then at no point has it been more vital to make every penny count. Being able to restrategise, replan and reconnect to your customers in this new landscape has never been more reliant on data and research. Make sure you set smart objectives, utilise the right channels and measure your activity and return.

While most of us will have to rethink how we go to market and engage with potential customers, there are lots of opportunities out there. Online sales are growing to the highest level in history, consumers are looking to engage with brands on social media more than ever before, businesses are innovating and discovering their agility and it’s these guys who will not only survive, but thrive. Now could be your once in a lifetime opportunity for change.

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