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  • John Walker

Work Life After the Pandemic: Emerging from the Cave

A year ago I stopped going to the office and hunkered down at home. I also stopped doing many of the things that sales and marketing people have done for so long- going on sales calls, traveling to see customers, and networking in person. Work became one big Zoom meeting from my spare bedroom.

Now the skies are brightening literally and figuratively and I’m thinking about reemerging. But “back to normal” has never crossed my mind because I’m not going back to the way I worked before. Some parts of it I’ve gladly discarded and others are simply gone. So let me share a few questions I’m thinking about as I stand in the mouth of my cave blinking in the sunlight and wondering what world I’m reentering.

How will networking work?

“Want to grab a cup of coffee?” I used to make a point of doing that at least once a week with a current connection or someone I wanted to know better. And over time, my network grew. But my last coffee and conversation was over a year ago and my community of business connections has shrunk. I did have Zoom cocktails a number of times and that was fun but it was not something I tried with new connections.

So what happens now? Is it time to just get back to it? Anyone want to grab a cup?

How can a marketing message connect?

I used to be a frequent blogger and social media poster. I wrote one or more business blogs per month and posted in LinkedIn several times per week. But then I slowed down and basically stopped. Why? Because nothing that I had to say seemed important enough to share at a time when people were dying of COVID, racial justice issues were surging, and our democracy was being so severely tested. Frankly marketing stuff seemed trivial. Also, some of the platforms I used for marketing were themselves the epicenters of strife- Facebook, Twitter, and email inboxes.

So where are we now? How can marketers connect with consumers in an authentic way? Does fresh smelling laundry warrant thirty seconds of attention again? Are American consumers back to their old ways, enjoying the festival of advertising and brands and consumption? Or have some perspectives and priorities changed permanently?

What about trade shows and conventions?

A client of mine in the home products category used to rely on trade shows for consumer leads, trade connections, and new product ideas. As much as one third of their marketing budget went to trade shows and it was worth it. But that was then.

Since then, sales leads have come from digital marketing campaigns. And as for business connections and ideas, those chance encounters, interesting conversations and ideas-by-osmosis that occur at trade shows have been impossible. So will we go back?

The Pros and Cons of a Zoom World

During the pandemic, I’ve never been more efficient. I haven’t visited with clients in person in a year, but I have spent part of most days in Zoom meetings with them. And for me, a Zoom meeting is more intimate than a phone call and more efficient than a personal meeting. Strangely, I have several clients who I feel quite close to who I have never met in person.

But Zoom is no way to make friends or to have those third-space interactions that are fun and warm and important. So what now? Are we back to flights and meetings?

Emerging from the Cave

While much about what work is going to be like is still blurry to me, one thing is clear. I have less patience for the frivolous- frivolous relationships, products and messages.

There has been so much bulk social media message poured into the channels just to maintain share of voice. I hope to see less content and more insight there. I also hope to see brands making the effort to provide value that goes beyond the functional. I’d like to see brands work on delivering social value, and environmental value, and value that accrues to their employees in a significant way.

Coming out of this period, I hope communications professionals can help clients find the real and the meaningful in what they have to offer and send those messages out into the marketplace. It’s the least (and the most) we can do.

This post was written by John Walker, Principal Consultant at J. Walker Marketing. Contact John to discuss your marketing challenges.

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