Before the UK left the European Union, we published our comprehensive Export Ready report with PwC, urging British businesses and their marketing teams to ready themselves for Brexit and the opportunities and challenges that it posed. We spoke to leading industry figures and across government to offer actionable advice.
We warned that Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses could be wrong to expect an upturn in exports after Brexit. Our research found that seven in ten UK exporters expected to increase exports over the next three years, yet the majority had no export strategy and were instead passively waiting on orders from existing customers.
Britain has left the European Union, but under more challenging circumstances than any of us could have predicted. Brexit has been overshadowed by the Covid-19 global pandemic, which looks set to change the way marketers around the world trade internationally for the foreseeable future.
With international travel extremely difficult, the traditional routes we use to take products to new markets have been closed. Market research is more challenging, as is building relationships and rapport with potential clients, when you are unable to meet them face-to-face.
The effects of lockdowns and new international legislation are being felt across our sector. Perhaps clients have been holding back on spending until there is more certainty in the market. In-house marketers told us that they have had budgets cut as businesses opt for a more cautious approach while customer buying processes are disrupted.
One of the very few potential upsides from the pandemic is rapid digital adoption. LinkedIn’s analysis of its 29 million UK members found that digital marketing and social media roles grew by 52% last year. This is a trend our own research with Target Internet echoed, with digital skills continuing to grow in importance as brands shift spend to digital channels to reach customers.
I would urge you all to keep faith in your training and the fundamentals of marketing. Yes, some of our traditional channels are not as effective as normal, but I have been incredibly impressed with the creativity and innovation from across our sector. From leveraging new technology platforms to reach a locked-down customer base, to national above-the-line campaigns like Marmite’s ‘Hard breakfast? Soft breakfast? No breakfast?’ slogan, or HSBC’s ‘We are not an island’, our industry’s campaigns are still turning heads.
It’s also been amusing to see sporting brands strengthening their link with fans by placing life-size cardboard cut-outs of them so they can still ‘sit’ in the stands while games carry on behind closed doors. At the same time, other brands have developed emotionally intelligent strategies to address customer fears about change as we move out of the EU – and all should be commended as we adapt to this new reality.
As the UK government negotiates new trade deals, they will inevitably meet obstacles. The learning curve I am sure will be steep.
“ But opportunities like the rapid rise in ecommerce will enable businesses to expand into new markets quicker than ever before.”
The firms that make the most of this opportunity will be those who proactively develop marketing strategies to open up new markets. But they need to do it now.
This article was originally published in The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s member-only magazine, Catalyst, in April 2021.
Produced quarterly, Catalyst collates career-enhancing content from a global network of business leaders and leads the conversation on key topics affecting marketers and businesses today.