Technology thoughts

The last 10 weeks has seen us adapt at a rate we have never been seen before. Technology has been the lifeblood of this innovation, the fuel in commercialising “not being together” and, we hope, in supporting each other. Zoom, Go To and Teams, we salute you (well, maybe not Teams quite as much).

However, the ease with which these bits of kit enable us to communicate comes with a dangerous side effect: they might just be causing memory failure!

Do we run the risk of forgetting that, at its heart, our kind of marketing is a human-to-human discipline?

I suggest you never Google “define marketing”, unless you want to spend quite a lot of time being confused by myriad definitions. Some of them are super-simple, but others would have you believe marketing is more important than politics, and can solve global warming singlehandedly.

The point is that different sectors and disciplines need different types of marketing. If you are selling a one-off widget, your marketing has a transactional focus. But we are in the business of high-value sales: successfully marketing a service, a site or a building rely on us creating not just a connection but a relationship between people.

The tech is allowing us to communicate with ease, but with risk: we’re in danger of forgetting that interaction, storytelling and experience are what build those relationships. We have had to rely on video technology and it’s likely that, in the brave new post COVID-19 marketing world, that tech will remain a key tool. But in that new world, we’re going to need to have thought about how crisis technology like Zoom can be a tool in relationship building, not just communication. As we embark on the bewildering, hazy and uncertain voyage from lockdown to recovery, this is not about creating a mission for the future: it is about focussing on improvements in the here and now.

The key is to make using the technology a more human experience. Think about it not just as the only feasible way of meeting, but a way of meeting well and enjoying the experience. Preparing the way for it to be a choice rather than a necessity. And, no, this doesn’t mean having a range of amusing backgrounds. It means a change of mindset. It means not just “jumping on a Zoom call”, a mechanical response to keep the wheels of business turning. It means remembering we are meeting other humans. The meeting between humans is the beginning, middle and end of relationships and it’s what we need, not just to survive, but to survive well.

You could be forgiven at this point for thinking that this marketing blog has turned into an advice sheet on “how to have a good meeting”. It isn’t, though: it is making the point that a business’ marketing function plays a leading part in nurturing the mindset, and the tools, that make interactions the best experiences they can be. It requires creative thought, so it falls naturally into the realm of the marketer.

So, let me leave you this week with a few questions:

  1. Does your team share a common organisational narrative and messages about now and the future?
  2. Have you adapted your presentations and collateral to make the most of online formats?
  3. Are you using all of the technology to best effect, to create interaction?
  4. How are you researching to make sure the team is focussed on attending the right events and webinars, which can lead to the right conversations?
  5. How can you improve the meeting experience by thinking about what happens before, during and after an online meeting?
  6. How is your brand personality and identity coming to life in the online meeting setting?

And, one final thought:

It’s difficult to show you care about someone though a screen; but now empathy is more important than ever. Perhaps “how are you?” is a cue for us to really listen to each other, rather than simply the beginning of another call.