7 questions to Raphaël Prati, Marketing & Communications Director.
1. We are living through a period of transformation triggered by the spread of Covid-19: what is the overall situation at the moment?
The health emergency, which became global in just over a month, has had an unprecedented impact on the world, and countries, governments, citizens and companies are currently facing the resulting economic slowdown. Our everyday reality has been deeply affected, we had to change our habits and lifestyles very quickly, we have been overwhelmed with information and news, often unchecked or contradictory, circulated on a massive scale on every communication channel, and often promoting fearmongering.
In such a situation we have reacted, and faced radical changes; we have adjusted to new ways of working, like smart working, and implemented new communication strategies, both on a personal level, as individuals, and in our professional roles, as employees, customers or entrepreneurs. This pandemic has changed the way we communicate and will lead us, in the very near future, towards new modes of communication.
2. How did the Marketing & Communications area of the Biesse Group respond and what tools and strategies were adopted?
The Marketing & Communications area represents, by definition, the dialogue between company and customer, including all those activities – not just marketing ones or those strictly linked to the product – that bring the company closer to anyone who might want to make a purchase. But I wouldn't confine myself to the term “customer”; nowadays, and increasingly more so compared to a few years ago, Marketing communicates with stakeholders, addressing not only customers but also employees, investors, citizens and anyone who might be interested in the company, rather than just in the product itself. All this is due to two circumstances: the explosion of digital media and the emergence of concepts such as brand and corporate reputation.
And it’s precisely by following this path, by the use of digital media on the one hand and the increasing importance of reputation even in B2B on the other, that Biesse Group has implemented a communication strategy aimed at preserving the exclusive and long-lasting value of its brand.
During these uncertain times, the Group has promptly initiated and maintained a constant, effective dialogue, both in terms of internal and external communications: in particular, thinking about the closest stakeholders, its employees, the Group has introduced a smart-working schedule to ensure the full operativity of the Group's companies, has provided technological devices and communication tools to facilitate work via video conferencing, and has taken responsibility for their safety. Biesse Group has also maintained its dialogue with customers, countries and institutions throughout, by organising solidarity initiatives, guaranteeing continued operativity in spare parts deliveries and remote support, providing online training and webinars held by our sales people, all via digital media like the official website, social networks and the new video-conferencing platforms.
3. How did the global branches respond?
Coherence, effectiveness and promptness: thanks to the One Company approach and its unique global processes and tools, our branches’ reaction was very prompt and coherent with the Headquarters' communication strategy. All content published online was given high visibility and international coverage, training activities and webinars were progressively expanded so they could work in the same way and with the same tools as in Pesaro, communication activities were constant and coherent.
4. What needs did customers communicate with the company over this emergency period?
Our customers around the world suffered due to the business restrictions introduced by local governments, just as Biesse branches around the world did. Customers' needs reflect the desire to have some help in everyday life, and get a glimpse of how they can work towards building a better future: Biesse Group’s reaction was prompt, not only by providing webinars on business topics, but especially by communicating its business continuity, and guaranteeing, despite a production slowdown in some of the Group's plants, the provision of the whole range of services, from after sales services to shipping spare parts and to the virtual customer care provided for free and in complete safety thanks to the evolved services platform SOPHIA IOT.
5. Biesse Group is perfectly grafted into the digital communication sphere. How can communication activities support the emergency situation through new digital tools?
The question can be answered with two key words: analysis and adjustment.
Thanks to digital communication, investments in digital tools, and continuous analysis, we have the chance to scrutinise the markets and analyse contact in a digital context. Indeed, in marketing terms, there’s a great opportunity that should be exploited in the right manner: the costs involved in establishing a digital contact are lower than those arising from having a salesperson physically travelling to establish a contact; as such, supporting salespeople with digital systems during the process of customer selection exponentially increases the effectiveness of the marketing activity. In B2B, marketing automation systems, the adoption of all-embracing CRM tools or configurator functionalities integrated into e-commerce sites, are also essential. These tools must be understood as areas of convergence for sales and marketing, to be employed strategically and in a synergetic and coherent manner.
Analysing the context is also important, in order to adjust the “tone of voice”: you need to adjust your strategy, make customers feel that you are present and close to them, keep them informed with content that is relevant to and coherent with the context we are experiencing.
6. This is a global situation, and everyone is being impacted. What advice would you give to medium and small businesses to help them better address the situation?
With regard to marketing, Steve Jobs said that “Investing in times of crisis is like putting wings on while everyone is falling”, and past history has proved how important it is to keep on investing in communication. My advice to small and medium businesses is to never stop communicating, as a lack of communication damages the brand's reputation. I would also advise, especially in times as difficult as the current and forthcoming ones, to earmark part of the budget for investments in digital communication, to adjust strategies and to work with the support of connected tools. Moreover, and above all to boost an economic recovery, it's necessary to implement a multichannel strategy with an increased number of touchpoints, to ensure that the right messages reach customers when they're most receptive.
7. How will the future of companies change in terms of communication?
In terms of communication, the crisis has already had an explosive effect on our life; indeed, changes are already underway and they started when we found ourselves at home and found shelter on social networks. We had to get to grips with scaremongering, fake news, but also with digital aperitifs via video calls and meetings held through video conferencing, always in search of our virtual community. As we consumers adjusted, so will businesses, by adapting the way they communicate and taking advantage of all the digital opportunities on offer, and by embracing the cultural change: for example, new tools and methods could be employed for trade shows or events, which could be held on interactive platforms, in online meeting rooms and through live-streamed demos. Only companies that have gone digital, and not only in terms of communication, will be able to minimise the impact on their business and emerge even stronger after the storm.