Since COVID-19 entered our lexicon, business continuity has been the subject of many fraught boardroom conversations. No longer is the meaning just confined to cyber risk and IT systems. Our relationships with clients – indeed our whole sales and marketing effort – has required fresh ways of working to remain relevant in these unprecedented times.
Mining and mining services largely have been cushioned by the blows felt by other sectors. While it hasn’t been business as usual, with site visits limited, the sector has fared well. Nonetheless, the impact of COVID-19 has highlighted the benefits of a digital business strategy.
Chris Dodd, mining industry expert with PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that for an industry used to flying around the country COVID-19 has proved just how efficient it is to have the sales and marketing team engaging on digital platforms.
“We've discovered a thousand ways we can work digitally all of a sudden, and actually I think people are finding it's pretty efficient on both sides of the equation,” says Chris. “I can meet with you for 20 minutes, and when I hang up I'll meet with the next person for 20 minutes, I'm not traveling in between.”
He believes the pandemic has encouraged innovation in an industry which traditionally ‘wants to see the whites of your eyes and make you squirm in your chair,’ paving the way to build a more integrated digital sales and marketing strategy.
Isaac Carroll, channel manager with HubSpot, a global inbound marketing software specialist which has tracked global sales marketing trends through COVID-19, says recent months highlight the fact that businesses simply can’t afford to coast.
COVID-19 has utterly changed the way people work, source goods and research businesses – and he doesn’t see it changing back any time soon. From remote working to online research before engaging a business, we are entering a digital realm that’s growing in importance and sophistication.
“If you don’t have a long-term business continuity plan around sales and marketing, how do you prepare effectively as a business?’’ says Carroll.
For mining services companies, where face-to-face contact remains important to clients, the benefits of having a deep-rooted online presence may not be obvious. But some are learning fast.
Primero is one such company. An engineering group specialising in the design, construction and operation of global resource projects, with offices in WA and Canada, the company has relied largely on word of mouth. So far that has served them well. Almost 10 years ago, three partners started out with a $10,000 stake each. The company is now turning over $500 million a year.
Managing director Cameron Henry says COVID-19 has opened his eyes to digital business strategy. So far, their efforts have been confined largely to building brand awareness on LinkedIn with a combination of thought leadership posts and feel-good content.
‘’Since we started posting pictures of sunsets it has gone through the roof. We picked up about 150 new followers in three days,’’ says Cameron.
He is keen to learn more about how a more streamlined digital sales and marketing approach would benefit his business. But, like many owners, he is concerned about cost and scope.
Isaac Carroll says an easy first step would be to learn more about followers to ensure content is reaching the right people for the right reasons. This can be done, he says, without a large investment in systems and software.
“Number one, you want to have a really clear idea of your customer personas. You are looking for the right person to communicate with, and you need to know what the right person looks like.
“I’m talking inbound marketing methodology. That’s the idea of giving something of value upfront before you ask anything in return. You may have thousands of people visiting your website every day. People subscribing to your mailing list. That’s fantastic. But all you really have is a list of email addresses and first names. You don’t know what their role is, you don’t know what’s important to them. You just have a big database.
“So you develop some gated content. At the bottom of a top performing blog, for example, you have a call to action. Offer them some valuable content - an infographic, a video, a white paper – something that you are happy to give away in exchange for just a little bit more information about the person. You might ask about the size of the company, their role within it, the industry. The trick is not to ask too much.”
Gradually a more nuanced understanding of your database emerges, making it easier to engage and tailor content accordingly.
Isaac Carroll says that for many traditional businesses, such as those in the mining services industry, a customer relations management (CRM) system is an Excel spreadsheet, a little black book or a project management tool designed for a different purpose.
“That’s fine when everyone is working in the office,” says Isaac. “But when suddenly your sales and marketing team is working remotely from home it doesn’t quite cut it. How are you possibly tracking your end-to-end customer journey with a system like that?
He recommends finding a free CRM with an integrated system that allows you to add on tools as the business need develops.
“No piece of software or platform is this magic bullet. There’s nothing you can buy and install that’s suddenly going to fix your problem…you need the right strategy to begin with,” he says.
Chris says digital tools have enabled mining and mining services companies to maintain existing relationships and sales paths. “What's harder to do is to generate that new lead, that new opportunity. How do you demonstrate what the next innovation on site might be? How do you meet a new person this way if they don't accept either your cold call or a request to do a Zoom meeting, which they might not?”
Cameron Henry has the same concern. For companies like his, it’s a matter of dipping toes in the digital waters and waiting to see how the industry responds as the world continues to change around us.
Isaac Carroll’s advice for business owners is to plan and prepare. Take advantage of the many free tools and platforms out there to help companies pivot to a digital business strategy.
Adapt 2020 was one such online event for companies to learn more about finding new strategies and pathways to conversion. It covered tools and tips on such topics as how to sell remotely, how to pivot your website and refining your content marketing.
PWC’s recent report is called Mine 2020: Resourceful and Resilient. To remain that way may mean networking in new and innovative ways. For who knows what 2021 will bring?