We may have long ago grown weary of Brexit but at last things appear to be happening. That helped ensure this morning's PM Forum event was well attended because most firms have at least informally discussed the implications of an exit, in whatever form it takes. Having said that, Scott Addison, from Infinite Global who chaired the session highlighted that only 39% of firms have implemented or planned a Brexit Marketing Strategy. He then went on to introduce the rest of the panel.
I've extracted some of the key points from our panellists here for you.
Alex Deane, ex chief-of-staff to David Cameron and now Snr Managing Director and Head of Public Affairs, FTI Consulting
The main risk for professional service firms is that clients fear there may be an interruption in service.
It's key to reassure them that's not the case, so they don't look at alternative suppliers. As part of this, the ability to go to market with colleagues/ partners in other countries is more important than ever. He voiced a positive note, telling us to look at the opportunity this throws up, as he said consultancies and lawyers thrive on uncertainty.
According to Alex, the government are keener than ever to talk with businesses but Nick (see below) queried how keen firms are to speak to the government at this time? Alex responded that whether or not it’s done publically it makes sense to engage with them so you have the information available, regardless of whether you publicise the fact you are doing so.
When asked about their plans for the coming year Alex said they will be doing much more "high and low" marketing, which means more social, more small events and fewer big events. The exception to this is attending Web Summit again in Lisbon, which has been a tremendous success previously. He mentioned it's growing each year yet has a small number of professional services firms in attendance, which astounds him as the tech sector has consistently been the fastest growing sector over the last decade and more.
Nick Hughes, Director of Marketing & Comms at Segro (UK's largest listed property firm)
Despite "project fear" things look good for the UK over next 24 months where growth is still forecast.
Whereas things in the EU are forecast to contract over the same period regardless of what happens with Brexit. The Segro CEO is fond of saying "the internet trumps Brexit" and if you're in the business of building warehouses then that's undoubtedly true. As an international business, he told us that they are more interested in planning their long term than worrying about the UK's long term.
Claire Gosnell, Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Comms at Clifford Chance
Brexit should be viewed not as a point of crisis but as one of change.
It will see marketers in a sector who are often portrayed as laggards having to up their game. There are more important factors than Brexit to consider in the medium term, including shifting stakeholders expectations, new technology impacting old working practices and wider Geopolitical shifts.
She added, there is a dislocation between business and society which brings risks to the sector. Ordinary people in the UK don’t understand what value professional services bring. Professional Services firms need to consider how they promote themselves to the wider public or otherwise face potentially losing their licences to operate.
Claire thinks that prof services firms are good at educating their staff but should now consider how they can help wider society by potentially offering them education opportunities.
Claire summed things up neatly by advising us to get over certainty, it’s simply no longer the way of the world. Don’t wait to be certain, don’t wait to be asked, get on the front foot.
Brexit is a key topic of discussion for nearly everyone at the moment, and rightly so. Many may be growing weary of the political wrangling, but the reality is that our profession has yet to fully get to grips with what it will mean for our respective firms, how they may need to change how they ‘go to market,’ and how such marketing and BD efforts may be organised and resourced in the future.