Will virtually everything stay virtual?

That’s the question caught in the Made in Britain Twitter net: 20 May 2021

EVERY Thursday at 1pm Made in Britain hosts #MadeinBritainHour on Twitter. During that hour Made in Britain asks questions of its 21,000 followers and the results are fascinating. Previously this information was enjoyed by the audience at the time and then left to drift away in the Twittersphere, rarely read again. So, we have decided to capture some of the best comments and re-present them for a new audience and easy reference. Some of the responses have been edited but most have been left in their casual Twitter style.

This week we look ask will virtually everything stay virtual? That’s question one.

Response: Interesting question and one that needs to be answered depending on certain media. Research shows that our behaviours have changed and we have switched from certain channels to others. However, it does not show a move away from social media as a business tool - eg LinkedIn. There are new channels coming along and at the end of the day, as a business you need to identify where you audience is engaging. Talking of LinkedIn, this has not decreased and I cannot see it losing its priority as a tool for B2B. Others such as Facebook etc do vary. There are also niche channels which work very well for certain sectors.

Made in Britain: Maybe the question should be "have certain channels peaked?"

Response: yes, some of them have lost audiences, especially as a backlash to the "noise" there was this last year as a result of politics, etc.

Made in Britain: which ones are you referring to?

Response: Younger audiences prefer Instagram and even Tiktok. The new audio channel - clubhouse - has really taken off for business audiences, allowing them to have a platform and engage in real time with talks and webinars.

Made in Britain: Any suggestions as to what sort of businesses may benefit from Clubhouse?

Response: From what I have seen - and I haven't yet hosted any rooms - it does work very well for discussions around any subject...so if you want to set yourself up as an expert in a space it is worth inviting guests along.

Response: This can be done on so many video conference sites, who are pushing back. I agree with you on the rise of new platforms. How will small companies deal with the time needed to support all of them? After the trend has worn off what is left?

Made in Britain: That is a really interesting question about how small businesses deal with the time to cover all channels. Any suggestions?

Response: Research your customer, identify the 2 most suitable platforms and focus time and effort on them. If you have the need for more then get more staff in to cover it. 

Response: I re-iterrate...they need to be where their market is, and better to focus on one or two and engage regularly then on everything and use it only to broadcast

Response: Quite agree. Don't spread yourselves too thin unless you have a large department or team to work on the different platforms.

Response: Key here is: STOP thinking about a "return to normal" a complete RESET of how we live has occurred. Becoming more apparent in 2022. Social contact & conversation has strengthened online. 'Gearing-up' for online engagement would be a sensible plan to make.

Response: The only certainty is that audience behaviour will continue to change dramatically over the next months and years with all brands continuing to face challenges, which highlights the need to consistently review strategies

Response: Social media in a sense is still growing, especially when you consider the emergence of new media platforms like TikTok. TikTok is a reminder of how social media is developing, & the pandemic was a key driver for this I expect we'll see more developments & new ways of marketing

Made in Britain: Maybe social media is becoming broader? and does that make it harder to identify where your customers actually are?

Response: Many of our current customers don't use social media or often as we do. What new platforms do provide however, is another avenue to spread awareness of our brand to generate new leads i.e. reaching new markets, many of which have sent in enquiries or referred us to someone

Made in Britain : More channels = more resource required?

Response: If you make use of scheduling platforms and develop a system to create content, you can carve out your niche on new sites. We've firmly established a #MetalSpinning niche with our videos on TikTok Other sites will also include new features to compete i.e. Insta Reels

Response: I don't think social media usage has peaked, I think if anything the pandemic has highlighted how important it is to be active online to keep existing customers updated and attract new customers! I think returning to normal may well mean more attention being paid to it!

Made in Britain: More attention being paid to the right channel for the right outcome?

Response: Yes! That’s always important to bear in mind

Response: It’s a different world now. Engagement will be more varied. We see SM as a massive opportunity and are investing a lot into it.

Made in Britain: Do you see one of the great challenges being how to connect SM with in-person/offline activities to really create something special? 

Response: Social Media is very vast. It needs to be assessed Properly and you need to be where your customers are. Not all customers use the same social media platform, we have noticed things had changed in 2020 but it remains to be seen what changes now!

Made in Britain: It takes time to not just "do" SM but also to keep up with the changes. How many businesses resource for keeping ahead in SM rather than keeping up?

Response: That’s true ! Keeping up is another challenge with SM 

Response: Several major changes in the next few years will alter the internet landscape, engagement will be more difficult. Building audiences now, will require both online and offline activities. Google and Apple will be restricting third party cookies.

Made in Britain: What sort of offline activities are you suggesting?

Response: Networking, seminars, exhibitions, trade missions and all the great things that we were doing only 15 months ago.

Response: Social media has not peaked ‘for us’ but we’re not using it consistently or effectively. Not sure it is commercially effective for us in of itself but it may help as part of a specific campaign and help improve the visibility of our website through search

Made in Britain: A few have commented about bringing it all together in a coordinated way. That is the next challenge for many?

Response: Yes, what message etc. Is very challenging and deciding what to carry on with! 

Response: I don't think SM has peaked. Some platforms may see less/more activity as people try out new offerings & feel they should jump on various bandwagons etc but that's always been the case. As usual, business' need to post where their customers are active

Made in Britain: and businesses need to know where that is which is sometimes a challenge?

Response: Analytics and the simple action of research can identify these aspects of customer behaviour. How many invest time researching?

Response: As younger demographics come in to business, they will bring along their preferred channels. The social media arena is dynamic, and I expect it to remain so.

Response: They will also have to have training in "How to have a conversation face to face"

Response: That brings to mind...have we forgotten how to do small talk?

Response: I think it is a concern especially when building a relationship. I was on a call with a senior college manager this morning and the subject of interpersonal conversation came up relating to training. They are looking at starting them for post 16 students.

Response: And that is the demographic suffering most...they are not learning how to read those vital behaviours to help them develop good business relationships.

Response: Good old Non verbal communication, body language. You don't see all the cues on a 2-dimensional screen

Response: Social media is here to stay and British firms have had little choice but to embrace it over the past year or so in order to continue to build their brands and engage with customers. It needs to be evaluated and incorporated into a more strategic, long term, marketing plan now.

Made in Britain: Has it peaked though?

Response: Not in my opinion. But, it does need to be integral to marketing and communications and used as a platform to engage and not be just a publishing channel. I think more strategic engagement and 'networking' will benefit users in the long run and help generate rewards.

Made in Britain: That is an interesting point about engagement rather than publishing. Do you think a lot of businesses have things to learn about how they use SM, especially those who are new to it since the pandemic?

Response: Totally - for many a good starting point would be to make sure they are filling engaged with their customers and suppliers.

Question two: How effective has digital networking been? How keen are businesses to get back to in-person networking opportunities?

Response: We've stepped up our social media marketing of late and enjoyed some successes, especially in reinforcing customer relationships Networking and sharing content to let our customers actually see their products being made has been really popular

Response: Digital networking has been effective for us both in maintaining existing relationships & also creating new ones. We are keen to get back to face 2 face meetings so we can actually show people around our newly refurbed factory & lines. We will however continue to use digital.

Response: Focused digital / social media networking gives good return and its always good to do in-person networking. 

Response: As effective as the people using it. The people are as effective as they've been trained to be, plus growth with use. It' not for all & not all are keen for in-person activities. We're all in new realms, everything having a high degree of personalisation.

Response: We’re keen to see customers and prospects. What the ‘forced’ introduction of Zoom has done is give an alternative for some visits that do not need to be made. To have a balance but then a phone call also did that before

Response: Do you qualify your prospects and contacts?

Response: We do. Made easier when you’re in a niche market and know your strengths.

Response: People are now very keen to get back to 'physical' meetings, for a while there architects and contractors were happy to have digital meetings, but now I think everyone is kind of done in with Zooms and Teams?

Response: Agree. A Zoom is as distinct from a (physical) meeting as a meeting is from a phone call.

Response: I have made & met with many new contacts, & the relationships feel as real online as offline although I cannot wait to raise a glass in person & enjoy face to face interactions. I have found them effective & will continue to network in a hybrid environment

Made in Britain: Do you think some people find doing it virtually easier than in person

Response: "Different strokes for different folks" I have secured over £80k worth of muggi sales in the USA in the last 3 months all over zoom between 8 people in 3 organisations! It’s a yes from me!

Made in Britain: That's great, excellent to hear success stories like this

Response: A really good question but difficult to generalise. Our #familybusiness community have expressed a view that in person is important but costs/benefits of long distance travel/hotels etc will be looked at with more scrutiny going forward

Made in Britain: That's something we have heard a few people say now about more scrutiny over attending in-person meets etc and even a triage type system for them

Response: It is my feeling that we will continue this hybrid model, as it does allow a lot more businesses to participate without incurring massive costs for travel. I think we will want meaningful interactions, where if we do travel, we are getting maximum value out of that meeting/event.

Response: What is the value of the business? does it warrant meeting in person? can it be done through the internet? These are new considerations for business especially as we have seen benefit from the activates in the last 14 months

Response: Despite the growth in digital technologies especially recently traditional networking isn't dead. Face-to-face interaction is still important to win trust & establish quality contacts. Traditional networking can be enhanced by social networking & enable you to widen your reach.

Made in Britain: Do you think this may vary by country/culture?

Response: Yes. Overseas exporting has become easier and faster.

Response: Yes it will vary by region and culture - and broadband quality and bandwidth!

Response: I would very much think so

Response: Certainly  we notice that our distributors in the US and Italy for instance are even more eager to have physical meetings. There have been so many restrictions to deal with in the UK and Ireland.

Response: I have noticed this in Malta too. They have coped differently with the pandemic and also are by nature very social people and enjoy meeting in person.

Response: Our agents prefer being out on the road and we do miss live events but we've had great success with virtual events too. We definitely don't want to go back to travelling across the country for a meeting when it can be done online now!

Made in Britain: Has the customer expectation changed too?

Response: Yes, video calls are normalised now. Recently NigelTPacker put us in touch with a fellow member and suggested we have a virtual coffee....and we did it! This isn't something I think either of us would have considered pre-covid!

Response: Networking is about introductions as well as sales. I have always introduced people and it was an obvious step to do the same online. I hope your meeting went well.

Response: It did, thank you!

Response: It will be beneficial to see customers in person, but there would be an increased cost for travel. Sales teams will need to justify costs of clients visits versus zoom calls.

Made in Britain: That will be an interesting activity for a sales team but for a business it is going to be easier to look at projected RoI vs actuals. Sales Teams will have more time if they stick to zoom rather than travelling

Response: For Unity Group digital networking was extremely important at the outset of covid. More and more, people want to meet up, that has to be positive?

Made in Britain: Is that what you are finding? more requests for in-person meetings?

Response: Yes, perhaps because we're more of a bespoke offer, but yes clients are more keen to meet up.

Made in Britain: Do you offer them a zoom call first or are you just keen to get to see them in-person?

Response: We do lead with digital first and then follow up quickly with an in person meeting. We're scheduling a fair few for June!

Made in Britain: That's something that seems to be becoming more usual, zoom first and in-person next. Triage system. Wonder how sales reps like it? less travel more prospects?

Response: From what we've seen and heard internally sales dev't are equally as keen to get back on the ground. Working in kitchens and bedrooms with shelving covered up is becoming wearying! ;-) 

Question three: Will virtual exhibitions/conferences/trade shows become a permanent offering or have they just been a temporary fix? How good are they?

Response: We were pleasantly surprised at the success of the virtual trade event we took part in. The biggest downside was the lack of buzz about it. Watching the stats for 'visitors' on your screen isn't the same as seeing a big queue of people excitedly gathered around your stall!

Response: Personally I'd much rather attend in person events than watch them over zoom. It's a totally different atmosphere.  That being said, we're yet to find an event that it suitable for a Metal Spinning organisation like ourselves

Response: In person is what we prefer too

Response: They will definitely enhance some events and will probably, in some instances, become a permanent offering but they do need managing extremely well and to give the attendee a great experience money has to be spent and time given to do them well.

Response: Exhibitions need to be attended in person to get the benefit. You can touch and feel products as well as see the trends !

Response: I've found them quite poor in general. I'm looking forward to "real" ones again! Maybe fewer but nothing beats face-to-face, esp. for all the networking!

Response: If you are a people’s person nothing can beat the face-to-face interaction and networking. The touchy, feely of a product at exhibitions which can’t be done “virtually” 

Response: Yep. Try selling a tractor online... ;) Or even a drone, harvester or, even harder, something no-one's ever seen before (truly innovative for that market). I want to see it in my field, I want to have a go, I need to see how robust it is, how it works.

Response: Virtual Events: A temporary fix for & by the Event Industry. Companies should have used their 'investment' (every penny) to promote/develop their website. What was the difference? Live Events won't return as was either. Too much success came without them.

Response: That was our priority too. We invested in setting up an e-commerce site last June (2020) and started webinars in the autumn, then took part in our first full virtual trade show in Feb (2021).

Response: It will be interesting going forward how exhibitions of the future will be attended? Online saw more attend than the normal way in person, it’s beneficial for those who have to travel from another country as well.

Response: Around the world, there are already many examples suggesting that selling space to exhibitors in 2021, isn't the issue. Visitor attendance is.

Made in Britain: The website comment is so true. Did you attend any virtual events as an exhibitor and spend ages filling the stand with media, images, links etc it was like building a mini website

Response: Yes, it really was. At least we have them ready for the next one now!

Response: They have had their place, but it will be much better to get back to traditional networking and seeing peoples faces in person.

Response: For people with time pressures, and know what they want , virtual exhibitions have been useful. That said , when going in person to an exhibition you may come across ideas and products that you hadnt considered before.

Made in Britain: It does make you wonder how many stands attendees visit virtually compared with at an in-person event. How many opportunities missed?

Response: Agreed - Im sure there would be software to monitor. However much of the demo and sales process is lost in virtual events. Not many giveaways at virtual events either!!

Response: If you have created an exhibit at a virtual event then it can be used on many platforms to demonstrate. Invest well in its creation. 

Response: Giveaways sometimes work? some really innovative and engaging ones at events. There is a real skill in picking the right one

Response: I would consider they would be [part of an additional offering for live events, so those who could not travel can get some benefit from watching online. It is another commercial opportunity for event organisers. 

Made in Britain: There is a financial challenge to that? it will be cheaper to watch remotely and it may cannibalise the market of the affect attendance and revenue for the organiser?

Response: I don't think they will replace actual exhibitions etc moving forwards as I think too many people prefer attending a physical event & getting goody bags(!), chatting face 2 face and browsing. I do think they will still exist, on a smaller scale, to supplement actual events.

Question four: How effective has virtual training of staff/customers/users been and how important is it to get back to doing it in-person? 

Response: Virtual training is great for masterclasses or specific tasks, eg. learning new software, but you can't beat in-person training for team building and understanding WHY we do what we do. I challenge anyone to talk to the LINIAN family and not get excited about the company!

Response: Our clients internationally find virtual training useful and we will continue to do it that way for overseas clients and UK clients if logistics are an issue.

Response: Online training has been useful in some instances but you can't beat interacting with other students for a deeper level of understanding. Product training for instance delivers a much better experience for the user when you can actually see and touch the product.

Response: Virtual training for staff/customers has been great but sometimes you cannot beat actual face 2 face interaction. Moving forwards we will continue to use whatever method works best for all involved.

Response: Computer software training has been quite a positive way of doing online training. Physical training is still required in person. Its easier explain when doing person to person training

Response: Effective or not, it is now a permanent part of the mix. If it was effective for you, then keep doing it. If not, learn how to do it better. Some countries borders will remain closed for a long time yet. Can you afford to ignore all of those export markets?

Response: Virtual training has been particularly useful for our CNC team learning new techniques and refreshing what they already know. It's also been great to learn from MarketAccents in her webinars for example. Learning something new and trying methods that work for others etc.

Response: We’ve made use of virtual training and in some instances, it’s saved losing people all day(s), saved travelling and hotel costs so has been good. Delivered in the right way so effective too. And on @MarketAccents training made a few connections to boot

Response: With four learning styles of •Activist •Pragmatist •Reflector •Theorist There is a vast cavern to cross to satisfy all types on a 2 dimensional screen. Live training is best as we all spent 10 years doing it in school. 

Response: Yes Nigel that was exactly what I thought ! School

Response: Although it's been a must have solution, digital cannot beat in person training... We tried a linkedin training session and it wasn't the easiest, everyone was talking at the same time and it was difficult to manage digitally with 20 people on a Zoom.

Response: Training has been excellent online for us and our clients. We need to go back to doing it in-person esp. for some areas that require a lot of field presence (eg agriculture, livestock, mining, etc) esp. if trainer doesn't speak the language (relying more on demos).

Join Made in Britain on Twitter at 1pm every Thursday for #MadeinBritainHour. We engage with everybody, members and non-members alike (some of whom become members as a result). Hopefully, see you there.

This page has links to all the previous Twitter conversations we have 'caught in the net': CLICK HERE.

By Made in Britain 3 months ago | Made in Britain news

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