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POST-COVID: The song remains the same?


There’s a natural temptation to reduce complex political and economic circumstances to a few simple soundbites. But as, at different times around the world, we begin to emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic, it seems reasonably certain that business-as-usual is unlikely to be resumed. Not in the short term, and quite possibly not ever. The commercial landscape today differs radically from the one we left behind three or more months ago. And the new landscape is quite possibly here to stay.

While all of us could probably write books assessing the general impact of the pandemic, the question here is “what does all this mean for marketers?” and specifically for marketers in the telecommunications industry. I’d hazard a few guesses:

  1. How you communicate is going to be more critical than ever before. Simplicity is attractive to marketers for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it makes for better soundbites and in a world where news feeds are designed to meet rapidly diminishing attention spans, exaggeration is attractive. For marketers, complexity and messaging are hard to reconcile. However, COVID-19 has taught us that patient analysis and measured action is, if rarely a hallmark of government policymaking, often the most effective approach. It may be that this reality filters down to marketers who in future will spend more time structing more informative messages to their subscribers and engaging in conversations with them rather than, perish the thought, relying on spam.

  2. We all know there will be unavoidable economic realities to face in the wake of COVID. For one, it seems certain we are entering a serious, global recession. While the depth and length of the downturn cannot be accurately predicted (not least because which interventions happen remains to be seen), that the next twelve to twenty-four months or quite likely longer than that will be fraught for enterprises is a safe bet. For marketers, this will mean making every dollar has to work hard. The sources of new business generation activity that will survive the cuts won’t be linked to their cost so much as to their results. Campaigns that get funded will be those that have a track record of delivering leads. Ironically, that means sources that rely on conversation and depth of contact (such as telemarketing) are more like to flourish despite their cost than cheap, scattershot, mail campaigns.

  3. When the pandemic hit, the communications industry was in the midst of a sea change towards 5G and digitisation. This remains the case, COVID-19 or not. In terms of bottom line, successful 5G is all about knowing what your customers want and then giving it them. It’s not about winning business so much as building long-term relationships. To do this has, in commercial terms, always been a matter more than anything else of literally picking up the phone. Because telcos by definition control the means of communication and because as a result their importance has become clearer than ever in recent months, they have an enormous opportunity not to capitalise on their centrality in their subscribers’ lives. It’s vendors who will provide the infrastructure for those relationships and they have a rich seam of opportunities to help build innovative infrastructure for digital telcos as the pandemic slowly abates.

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