The implications of Brexit for B2B content marketers

Andrew Rogerson, co-founder of Grist, explains why B2B marketers should view Brexit as an opportunity to get closer to their clients

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Given Winston Churchill’s words contain a recognisable truth it’s little wonder they have morphed into an aphorism to be deployed at times of uncertainty.

The words have been appropriated on many occasions since the banking crisis of 2008, not least by Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to the US president. During Barack Obama’s first election campaign, blighted as it was by financial collapse, Emanuel noted that a crisis provides “an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before”.

Now that we are entering another period of uncertainty following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, it’s time to evoke those words again. Whether we are about to enter another recession is a matter of debate. But uncertainty requires a response. Uncertainty requires action. The alternative is inertia, procrastination and stagnation.

Reducing spend is a false economy

It is tempting – seemingly sensible – in times of trouble to sit it out on the sidelines and reduce spending on ‘non essentials’ such as marketing. In reality, it’s a false economy.

A study by market research firm Millward Brown into the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath shows that those companies with a strong brand fared far better than those who had neglected their brand. Analysis of the S&P 500 showed this to be unequivocally so. “Conversely,” the 2011 report noted, “brands that were already weak going into the recession tended to suffer disproportionately.”

A Harvard Business Review piece entitled How to market in a downturn, made a similar point. Its authors wrote that “failing to support brands or examine core customers’ changing needs can jeopardise performance over the long term.” The piece went on:

“Companies that put customer needs under the microscope, take a scalpel rather than a cleaver to the marketing budget, and nimbly adjust strategies, tactics, and product offerings in response to shifting demand are more likely than others to flourish both during and after a recession.”

Time to show you care

As it is with recession so it is with the potential implications of Brexit. And as it is with marketing so it is with B2B content marketing. Now is the time to show your clients that you care. Moreover, now is the time to demonstrate your utility – to answer their questions, to allay their fears where possible and provide sensible mitigation where necessary.

Irrespective of what happens to the UK over the next two years or more, clients still have problems that need resolving whether it’s about taxation, regulation or employment etc. In short, now is the time to provide guidance, a consistent message and calm authority. That, after all, is what good content marketing is all about.

Content marketing means talking and listening to your clients. If you want to know how not to do it, simply review the three month referendum campaign. It was the antithesis of good content marketing. Neither side wanted to really understand the UK audience preferring, instead, to talk to their base. At best they were singing to the choir. At worst, they were shouting at each other.

Stop talking, start listening

There has been far more articulate commentary on the implications of the Brexit vote after the fact than there ever was before. During the campaign few participants engaged in proper dialogue. Few were willing to listen, let alone act on what they were hearing.

If Brexit has taught us anything it’s that we should avoid assumptions. One size does not fit all. Every client is different and you can only find out the real story by listening. This takes time and investment. But it’s worth it because the alternative is irrelevance. Or, worse, invisibility.

Brexit is an opportunity to get closer to your audience. It is an opportunity to refocus efforts and be genuinely helpful to existing and potential clients. It’s an opportunity to do B2B content marketing better than before. Do this and you will reap the rewards. Do nothing? It’s not an option.