Green tech and services advisor Vicky Wilding highlights the importance of an effective marketing strategy to bounce back from lockdown and capitalise on the green recovery agenda.
Whether directly or indirectly, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, and the green technologies and services sector is no exception. Many companies have faced projects being held up during lockdown or delayed as customers put a temporary pause on investment plans. With the economy facing recession, it may seem on the surface like non-essential green investments will be an area where organisations will look to curtail spending, but dig a little deeper and there are reasons to be positive.
The Green Recovery
The movement to spur a green economic recovery is building traction. Lifestyle changes during lockdown have led to a greater awareness of environmental issues, and there has been a noticeable value shift in the economy as major companies accept their responsibility to wider society in the recovery effort.
There is also growing evidence that businesses that perform highly on sustainability issues are more likely to emerge from the pandemic successfully, which has not gone unnoticed by the financial sector – experts predict that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues will play an increasingly decisive role in investments going forward.
The government is beginning to respond to lobbying from business groups and NGOs with green recovery policies, and pressure to take further action will continue. Here in Greater Manchester, mayor Andy Burnham has been a leading figure in the call to ‘Build Back Better’, with a particular focus on sustainable transport and low carbon homes. Greater Manchester’s plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2038 remains unchanged and is continuing to progress.
History is also on our side: growth in green tech and services has traditionally outperformed the rest of the economy in recent years, including during the last recession. Within Greater Manchester, the sector has consistently experienced annual growth rates of around five per cent.
The importance of effective marketing
If we’re to have a green recovery, it will be fuelled by the green technologies and services sector, so businesses in the sector must be ready to adapt their message and relaunch as vigorously as ever as the economy begins to rebuild.
In June, we ran a focused webinar for green tech businesses with the support of specialist B2B marketing consultancy Mike Pye + Co. The ‘Review, Reimagine, Relaunch’ session explored how businesses can pick up where they left off pre-lockdown and build an effective marketing strategy for growth.
Here are the key takeaway points:
1. Review your strategy
Most participants in our session had experienced a decrease in sales during lockdown and the majority were also unsure whether their previous approach to marketing was successful. Taking the time to review your marketing performance should therefore be the first port of call for bouncing back.
Mike’s team recommended five key areas to review:
- Which marketing channels (website, social media, advertising, networking, events, etc) have been effective?
- Which channels haven’t been tested to their full potential?
- Does your use of channels match your target audiences? Think about suppliers, referrers, investors and other stakeholders as well as existing and potential customers
- Are you clear on what’s important to measure? Use tailored KPIs for each channel: one might suit targeting new leads while another may be better aimed at building brand awareness.
Messaging and content
- Does your message resonate with your target audiences? Are they engaging with your content or are you just shouting into the wind?
- Have you asked your current clients what they think about your marketing? What would they like to see from you?
- Is your message consistent and authentic – does it accurately reflect your brand, or it could it apply to just any business?
- What’s different now compared to before COVID-19 with regard to technology use? Perhaps there are opportunities to adopt new technologies for remote interaction, such as video conferencing, live chat or video and audio content
- Are your competitors using technologies you aren’t? Do a market scan, looking at market leaders as well as your direct micro-competitors.
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- Have you got the right skills in-house or the right partners to deliver your ambitions?
- Are you making the most of your team’s personal knowledge and experience? Do they have untapped creative skills going to waste?
- Are you and empowering them to be creative and innovative?
What are you tracking, and how? You can’t know how successful you are if you’re not tracking things like website traffic, engagement on social media and other measures via platforms like Google Analytics. Speak to our digital specialists if you’re not sure where to start
- What metrics are you using to measure success? Are you measuring lead generation? Can you measure return on investment?
2. Reimagine your brand
Given the unprecedented times we’re living through, it’s very possible that the concerns and motivations of your target audience have changed during lockdown. Mike’s team recommended taking time to step back and consider whether your brand message is suitable for this new normal.
In light of the coronavirus, your audience may respond more positively to communicating your values rather than just your services. One of the examples raised during the webinar was Bulb Energy – they have repositioned their brand message to come across as ‘humanly’ as possible by sharing insights into their own personal experiences of lockdown. This sort of ‘behind-the-scenes’ content can be really powerful in building a closer relationship with your audience.
You can use the three ‘C’s to guide your brand message:
- Clarity: Are you being crystal clear and direct about what you stand for?
- Consistency: Is everyone on the same page when communicating your brand? Are you consistent across all your channels?
- Connection: Can your target audiences relate with your brand? (The majority of our attendants admitted they weren’t sure how their brand was perceived by others.)
3. Develop a plan to relaunch
A clear marketing plan is crucial for bouncing back ahead of your competition. During our session we learned that companies who continued to invest in marketing following the financial crash tended to vastly outperform others during the last recession.
An effective marketing strategy for life after lockdown should include the following:
- Set a target goal: What do you want to achieve? Is it number of units sold, increased brand awareness, engagement with a specific product, or something else? Build your plan around this target
- Understand what success looks like: Have you decided on KPIs and set milestones along the way to evaluate progress?
- Understand your different target audiences: Are you tailoring messages for different audiences? Do you know what you want them to think, feel and do?
- Set a budget: Are you linking your spend to your targets and KPIs?
- Decide on content and collateral: Do you need physical collateral like brochures, or digital content such as landing pages, email newsletters and blogs?
- Make sure you have the right skills: Do your staff have the right technologies, resources and skills to deliver your plan cohesively?
- Ensure accountability: Does your team understand who is responsible for what and when?
How we can help
In light of COVID-19, we’ve revised our services to prioritise helping green tech and services businesses come out of lockdown as positively as possible. Our advisors can work with you on a one-to-one basis to solve the challenges you face, whether that’s getting onto customers sites for surveys or understanding how your market is changing.
We also have a Switched On masterclass series to help you build your skills in sales, business planning and marketing, and our virtual Low Carbon Network gives you access to tailored tender opportunities and other notifications.
Vicky Wilding, Low Carbon Sector Advisor
Vicky has over seven years' experience working in the low carbon and environmental goods and service (LCEGS) sector, both commercially and as a business support advisor assisting in the development and growth of companies in the sector. Vicky has a sound understanding of the LCEGS sector and its capabilities and specialises in supporting companies in the sector to identify new opportunities and raise their profile in Greater Manchester. Vicky holds a Master's degree in Landscape Planning and Management.