Silver linings in the year no-one saw coming
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that 2020 (and the start of our new year!) didn’t quite go as we planned.
And while it was a year marked with uncertainty that many considered ‘cancelled’, looking back on it now, I can’t say it was a bad year. It may have been a mixed bag of fortune that didn’t turn out as expected, but sometimes, the best things can happen when your plans go awry.
Here’s a few things I learned about business and life in a year that turned the world upside down.
Relationships matter more than ever
‘You never really know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity’ – J.K. Rowling
If ever there was a year that tested relationships, 2020 was it.
For our clients, it was a year of massive change. We saw eCommerce and the world of digital explode, and it’s no wonder why. Consumers spent more time online as they stayed at home and access to traditional retail channels became limited. Online sales soared and by the end of October, online shopping showed a growth YOY of 72.9%.
This meant our clients had to take fast, considered action to adjust to the new normal and not get left behind. As their digital marketing partner, we continued to provide fresh new ideas to help them survive – and grow – through this period. We went beyond our traditional role in digital marketing, helping with creative, product ideation, promotional campaign ideas - and whatever else it took to see them through.
There’s always a way
To be completely honest and transparent, things weren’t looking good for some of our clients or our own agency. The outlook turned bleak as campaigns were put on hold and advertising spend dropped across the market. It felt like much of the world had paused, holding its breath while waiting to see what the pandemic unveiled.
But it wasn’t long before the initial shock of this once-in-a-lifetime event subsided, and we quickly discovered that no matter the challenge, there’s always something you can do. We started to see opportunities for those who were brave enough to go for them, and our clients were ready. Thanks to our business model where we don’t charge on head hours or work under layers of bureaucracy, we had the flexibility to act fast and respond to the rapidly changing market.
Client wins – adapting during COVID-19
Industry: consumer electronics. Switched to promoting different product lines that supported the suddenly-working-from-home workforce.
Industry: education. Captured the appetite for upskilling and learning by offering scholarships and access to mental health programs for students.
Industry: events. Moved all events online, introduced new formats, propositions and tactics to help keep give prospects value and keep them engaged.
Mindset is everything
Prior to the pandemic, resilience, growth mindset and agility were popular buzzwords used across the business and personal development worlds. Then the year we never expected happened, and for many of us, our resilience and mindset were truly tested for the first time.
At Connected, we did what most of the professional workforce did across the country and began working from home. As a smaller agency without the backing of big brand budgets, I wasn’t sure how things would turn out. But soon after, two things became clear.
One was the impact of my own mindset on the wider team. As the head of Connected, I had to lead by example, showing positivity and resilience even when I wasn’t always feeling it inside. Though we were all working from home, I could see that energy was infectious. I wanted to make sure the team was feeling safe, secure and retained the same drive our clients had come to know us for. To help me get and stay in the right mindset, I took up exercise every day, and it made a big difference.
The second was the realisation that uncertainty is nothing to fear. As we faced unknown territory, our approach to taking ownership and getting things done proved that we can find a way around whatever challenge we face. It’s made me feel really proud of every single member of the team and confident that, together with our clients, we will keep kicking goals.
The path may change, but the goals stay the same
We started Connected 8 years ago, and I had yet to take time out to work on (rather than in) the business. Having grown from a team of two to 20+ quite quickly, my time outside working with clients was spent getting the right systems and structures in place.
While it didn’t happen the way I thought it would, this year gave me the space I’d always wanted to step back and take a strategic look at our direction. At a time where other agencies implemented hiring freezes and salary reductions, we did the opposite as I kept my eyes firmly on the long term. My focus was on where I wanted Connected and our clients to be in 2021 and beyond.
We invested in more people, hiring even at the height of lockdown, knowing that they would be an asset to our clients and the kind of business we want to build. We implemented operational projects that expanded our data analysis and reporting capability. And now, we’re here at the start of the new year with the strongest foundation we’ve ever had – and somewhere I thought we wouldn’t get to for a few years.
A year to remember
As for 2021? I guess we will wait and see.
But for now, I want to acknowledge the Connected team and our amazing clients for getting through 2020 with determination, resilience and creativity. Thank you.
Over to you: What was your biggest learning in 2020? And what do you think you’ll take into this year - and beyond?