If our recent Zoom-based AGM told us anything, it was that E3 members have the resources, the determination and the imagination to work through the current crisis and emerge in good shape on the other side. It also taught us that we are collectively stronger if we share what we have learned. So let’s do just that – and find out how E3 members have been dealing with the situation…
We couldn’t show all 70 on one screen…
“We are under different kinds of financial pressure”
There’s no avoiding it. These are difficult times. But it is interesting to see how different agencies are affected in different parts of the world. Most agencies have seen projects cancelled or delayed due to the Coronavirus. Generally speaking, agencies with clients in tourism, hospitality and luxury industries have been hardest hit. B2B companies are expected to suffer something of a ‘knock-on’ effect. Nonetheless, many agencies have been supported by their governments, either by free loans or furlough schemes where the government pays some or all of staff wages to avoid them being made redundant.
However, governments are also clients, and our member agency in Czechia also noted that public sector projects are increasingly being awarded to the lowest bidder. Since the crisis began, tenders are now worth 20% less. In the Czech market at least, a decent margin is hard to find.
Agencies are also playing their part in helping clients deal with the downturn. Brandbar in Hungary, for example, has offered deferred payment to clients. It will no doubt affect the agency’s cashflow, but the reward will come in client loyalty; people remember those who were there for them when things got difficult.
But is it all doom and gloom?
“Stay negative. Live positive!”
For many agencies, the most important thing was to remind clients that they were still there and keen to help, and to remind employees working from home that they were not alone. BDB in Manchester, UK, sent “lockdown hoodies” to all staff to keep them warm (and give them a sense of togetherness when they attended video calls, all dressed in BDB merchandise).
Anton Loos, managing director at BBC, Belgium went a step further and sent all 52 colleagues and 88 most favourite client contact persons a gift every 10 days – ranging from a box of sweets (“Home, sweet home”) and Easter bouquets (“Flower up your home office”) to a coffee mug (“My office is where my coffee stands”). BBC employees were so impressed by the gesture that they got together to send Anton and Jordan a postcard from each of them, showing them working at home, to say thanks for the gifts. There is no direct financial return on these investments, but it is important to show employees and clients that you care. It is also showing confidence in the future and that you still are strongly connected even working from home. Times like these, you realise who your friends are!
Saying “Happy Easter” with flowers…
Postcards to say thank you…
“A lot depends on the work you choose to take on…”
Some agencies have ridden the Coronavirus storm by focusing on what they do best. Paris agency BB&B has picked up new business and is having a much better 2020 than 2019. According to their CEO, Marc Diran-Boehm: “We focus on a specific market instead of a specific skill. For us it is industrial. We provide a wide range of services for a specific industry, and we can do this through relationships with freelancers rather than keeping a lot of full-time employees. But we focus on industrial. This narrow positioning has helped us to become stronger this year.”
By contrast, other agencies have enjoyed the positive experience of working for different clients. Many agencies, such as Oz Global B2B in Israel, put their recent success down to a balanced portfolio, while Bernstein in Bremen, Germany, are amongst those who have taken on work of a different kind. With its main client delaying projects, it has taken on work from smaller, local clients – and is enjoying the change.
“Find opportunity in adversity”
Most agencies have been busy despite the lockdown. Brandigo, for example, are in the fortunate position of having few clients affected by the situation; indeed, Brandigo China’s largest client is a wholesale retailer, whose business is booming. Brandigo has also been using the time to work on its own re-brand, and is developing a new offering of detailed market research. The research itself is a profitable exercise, which also yields further work to action the opportunities that it reveals. Moreover, it is an answer to many clients’ immediate problems during the crisis. Markets are suffering from uncertainty over what will happen next, and Brandigo’s research offering helps them to get a degree of that certainty they so desire.
“Don’t do trade shows. Do TV shows!”
Many agencies are preparing clients for an increased use of digital tools, driven by the Coronavirus crisis. BTL Africa are developing new digital offerings, aware that electronic customer engagement will grow rapidly in this part of the world.
Other agencies are developing specific digital skills, notably virtual studios. BDB and Cordovan in Sweden have been working together on virtual product launches, while Jon Cohen of Innovation Protocal in California says “Our clients aren’t doing trade shows any more – they’re doing TV shows.” C&Com in Prague used the E3 Zoom meeting their “virtual office”: a platform that enables client companies to recreate a live 3-D, virtual experience, from their home studio. Physical, personal selling is central to many of C&Com’s B2B clients, and tools like this enable them to continue (almost) as before. As a virtual offering it is also something that C&Com is able to demonstrate directly to clients, and early take-up is very strong. Watch this video to find out more.
“New ideas can come from anywhere”
They say that necessity is the mother of invention – ie that in tough times, people can get more creative. E3 agencies have proved that adage by adopting a number of new initiatives.
Happy in Denmark have changed the way they do brand proposals by doing them on video. They find clients understand the concepts more easily – and the client is usually so impressed at seeing their new potential brand movie that they ask the agency to create one for them. Hey presto – more revenue!
Our friends in London – B2B Marketing Labs – found time before lockdown to re-brand as they merged with another agency to form an exciting new outfit called Huble. They also shared a useful tool for sending personalised video emails. As digital channels become more prevalent, standard emails perform less well. The video emails are easily produced and show open rates of 59% (compared to 24% for standard emails) and a 17% response rate (compared to the usual 1~%). Get in touch with Huble if you would like to know more.
The Marketing Practice have kept their profile high by sharing their considerable expertise with fellow B2B marketers. During times when many people were struggling to help their own children with schoolwork, TMP launched its Home Schooling for B2B Marketers, including sessions with fellow E3 members such as Brandigo China. Check it out here: you may learn something!
A smart lockdown initiative by The Marketing Practice
“Ready to go back into the office?”
As the lockdown eases, many agency workers are gradually going back into the office. The next challenge is to ensure the office environment is safe – and various measures are being taken to ensure this. BBC, for example, encourages social distancing by using alternately red and grey chairs around meeting tables; the red chairs always have to remain empty.
Moreover, the world of work will be changed by the experience. E3 agencies are more digital in their focus, and many have taken the opportunity to either re-brand themselves, develop new skills, or start new initiatives to help staff or clients. These are difficult times, but we are confident that many E3 agencies will be stronger as a result.
A Happy report from Peter in Denmark
We’re in it together
The success of the recent ZGM (Zoom General Meeting?) proved the value of E3 to its members. It was good to have a chance to see how other agencies were dealing with the situation: a different country, but the same issues. Participants left the meeting armed not only with good ideas, but reassurances that they were not alone. Moreover, E3 has shown that it is also prepared to help financially where it can. We are a self-funded network but, following years of prudent financial management (thank you Anton), we were able to take the decision to waive membership fees for the second half of this year. It is a small gesture, but it will help – and that is what the network is there for.