A recent article at Forbes made the argument that “virtual digital marketing events are alive and well post-pandemic.” Leaving aside the fact that it’s still too early to talk about a truly “post-pandemic” business environment, we can proudly say that we were making similar arguments many months ago. If you scroll back to blog posts we made at the height of California lockdowns, you’ll see that we were already pitching virtual digital marketing concepts as something that would be useful for as long as the pandemic went on, and would remain useful in whatever business environment emerged afterward.
If anything, the grounds for that conclusion have only grown as the situation has evolved and people have begun to think seriously about how they plan to do business and conduct digital marketing campaign in the months and years to come. The pandemic has already revealed that it is having lasting effects, and those effects will only become more apparent as time marches on. While some businesses are trying to force a return to normality, the most forward-thinking entrepreneurs have already recognized that they might need to accommodate new sets of expectations among their employees, clients, customers, and partners.
Working Remotely, Long-Term
Among those new expectations – and among the changes that we anticipated – is a greater sense of flexibility in terms of collaborative work environments. The pandemic forced many people to adopt remote work strategies, and most employers seem to have taken it for granted that everyone would come back to the office at some point and resume working in adjacent cubicles, communicating through walls or direct messaging one another from twenty feet away, and holding meetings in central conference rooms instead of on Zoom.
Recent experiences have shattered that expectation for many employers, although some of them are not willing to let it go. The input you’re now seeing from Forbes and from yours truly may prompt some of those employers to consider whether it’s actually worthwhile to keep fighting this battle. After all, the cost of doing so may be steeper than many of them realize.
There have been plenty of reports of employees quitting in large numbers after being told that they’re expected to return to an in-person workplace. Some of those departures stem from well-founded concerns about the ongoing spread of Covid-19 among a population that is still only partially vaccinated. But some of them are the result of employees deciding that there’s no reason for them to go through the trouble of commuting to and from work when their tasks are all completed via computer anyway, and have been completed successfully from home for more than a year.
Employers may have decent counter-arguments involving obstacles to effective management and the limits of online collaboration. But if those same employers were to ask for input from digital marketing firms and other companies that have been doing remote work since long before the pandemic, they might learn that it’s just as easy to overcome these obstacles and implement practices that facilitate better online collaboration than it is to swim against the tide created by modern employee demands.
Digital Marketing and Virtual Collaboration
Improvements to a company’s online workspace may prove to be even more valuable if those improvements have knock-on effects upon the company’s engagement with clients and partners. While some of those clients and partners may share the relevant employer’s preference for in-person collaboration, that employer should already have a clear understanding of how to work with them. Other clients and partners are sure to share the perspective of those employees who have developed a taste for working from home, and they may start to respond better to digital marketing and online communication than to traditional ways of doing business.
A key point that we made in earlier discussions of virtual digital marketing is the fact that once a company has been forced to adopt that approach, it’s likely to be impressed by the new efficiencies it creates. Among the examples we provided were virtual walkthroughs of physical spaces and virtual product demonstrations, both of which eliminate the need for costly and time-consuming in-person events, yet often have almost the same effect.
Of course, this approach to digital marketing won’t work for every company in every situation. It’s ultimately up to the company’s leadership and its digital marketing team to work out when that approach is and isn’t appropriate. But if there’s one positive that entrepreneurs should derive from the pandemic, it’s a sense of openness to innovations that they might not have considered under ordinary circumstances. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. And crucially, they don’t follow up on that by adding that invention should be orphaned as soon as necessity goes away.
The pandemic will hopefully cease to interfere with business operations very soon. But if you’ve been having success with virtual digital marketing strategies in the meantime, there’s no reason to assume that that success will evaporate as soon as people stop worrying about public health. Many of those people are sure to realize that they changes they made to their personal routines and business practices were actually beneficial outside of the context of Covid-19. Every forward-thinking company should be prepared to reach out to those people with digital marketing strategies that prioritize remote interactions, and perhaps with employment opportunities that do the same.
Final Thoughts… For Now
We hesitate to conclude this article with any real sense of finality. That would go against the core spirit of what we’re trying to say about digital marketing, personnel management, and business in general. While there’s a lot of value to be derived from figuring out what works and sticking to it, there’s also a lot of peril involved in becoming set in your ways.
Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to shake things up, but once you start to innovate accordingly, you should avoid the mistake of assuming that you’ll go back to living in the same familiar world after the fact. Problems are often temporary, but the solutions that they create sometimes last forever.