How To Reconnect After a Crisis

"The decisions people and governments take in the next few weeks will probably shape the world for years to come."

Happy Easter Break! It’s a celebration with pagan origins with universal themes of rebirth and new beginnings. This year it feels particularly timely. Just like the change of season doesn’t imply it will be sunny from here, the break doesn’t mean the crisis is over. But it is an excellent time to think about what’s coming next.

It’s also a time when there can be too many “expert opinions” so rather than adding mine, I have mainly curated quotes and articles that have helped me think through this pandemic.

Welcome to the April Fintech Marketing Newsletter, what a difference a month makes.

How significant are the changes that we are going through?

The only thing that truly matters in a pandemic is the human toll. While we are all trying to minimize it, the economy, our behaviours, and our mindset are shifting at unparalleled speed.

Humankind is now facing a global crisis. Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation. The decisions people and governments take in the next few weeks will probably shape the world for years to come. They will shape not just our healthcare systems but also our economy, politics and culture. We must act quickly and decisively. […] Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive — but we will inhabit a different world. 

This quote from historian Yuval Noah Harari in the FT felt like an overstatement at first. Yet, it is hard to fathom the magnitude of changes that occurred in a matter of weeks.

By now, you probably have heard enough about remote working, online shopping, distance learning. In all areas, the digitalisation of the economy has accelerated. A month in lockdown has transported us in the future. The technologies have been around for a while; the place they take in our routines is new. It took eight years for Google to become a verb, but I suspect new brand-verbs are likely to creep in the dictionary soon.

The stock market and economic indicators are reminding us that:

There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen. (Vladimir Lenin)

The changes in our mindset can be as significant but less visible. Like many of you I guess, I write while in confinement. The situation is very similar to what in justice, is called house arrest (also called home confinement)—a measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to their residence. What seemed absurd a couple of months ago today feels just and the right thing to do.

Business may be slowing, but culture is accelerating. (Concept Bureau)

For marketers, this means that it’s not business as usual.

How is Fintech affected?

While Silicon Valley startups are getting “pummeled in the great unravelling” (NY Times). The same article explains that gaming, food delivery or online learning are booming without mentioning fintech. However, the industry could benefit from the accelerated march towards digitalisation.

Digital infrastructure, Robo-advisors, Next-generation payments should be among the winning subsectors, according to Hirander Mistra, CEO of GMEX.

For VC Andreessen Horowitz, Fintech could hold the key to effectively allocating the help packages that are being set up by governments around the world.

Firms I’ve connected with are experiencing the expected slowdowns from clients and a few stalled projects. Overall they are holding well, which is a relief.

As an industry, we'll emerge stronger than before, but even if you benefit from the changes, this will not be an easy path.

What is the right short-term response?

Over-reacting looks like the best option according to NYU Professor Scott Galloway (his latest piece on higher education is worth a read):

There are only 3 things, just 3, to remember about crisis management:

1. Acknowledge the issue
2. Top guy / gal takes responsibility
3. Overcorrect

In other words, it is wise to apply the WHO advice to your own company/career/startup idea.

I also found the advice of David C. Baker, a consultant to agencies, helpful for all business owners:

  • You have to take care of yourself or you can't take care of other people.

  • Being smart means that you make decisions before there is complete clarity. If you wait for the clarity, you've waited too long.

However, giving up on established or nascent connections would be the biggest mistakes. We need new ways to connect.

How to stay relevant when people deal with more pressing issues?

As we all primarily want to stay safe and take care of each other, business comes second. Nike, which operates in one of the most challenged sectors, managed to find the right words and remain part of the conversation.

But that’s Nike, a marketing powerhouse. For many of us, it can be a struggle to stay relevant during a crisis. Going back to the fundamentals is an excellent place to find inspiration.

A crisis is the true test of your company’s mission.

You can’t have a business without customers, so your mission will clarify whom you’re serving and why you’re serving them. If it doesn’t sound important or relevant, maybe it’s time to find a mission that is and work on that. (Dave Bailey)

If you’re looking to reformulate your mission, you can start with this simple format: “We’re on a mission to help __[customers] __[achieve an important goal/outcome].”

My business’s mission is “To help businesses with a technical, complex, financial offering to communicate with impact and reach their audience.” It used to be fancier but less clear, back to fundamentals.

How should your B2B communication evolve?

There is a benefit to the quarantine: as we are all in the same situation we don’t need to keep up an image as polished as our usual professional persona. Business to Business (B2B) is transforming into Home to Home (H2H?)

Three years ago, a video where kids walked in their father’s home office during a BBC interview became an internet sensation. Today you can be professional while being yourself and it’s even ok (I think) to have the kids on screen:

As we drop the tie and business attire, there is a necessity for a more personal and meaningful conversation. Two years ago, I wrote about how ditching the product pitch and creating customer-focus content instead could be the easiest hack for new fintech players. Today, I'd go even further.

What are some new ways of reaching out from home?

Teaching (via webinar, online classes, live streams) is a great way to stay connected and demonstrate your ability to contribute in times of crisis. I was late to Zoom, but it’s great. The technological solutions abound, here is what Google offers:

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t sell: It may be tempting when your audience is here, but this is not the right time. Your impact (even commercial) will only be higher.

  • Add value: I have received many mailshots from businesses that I barely know that offer to “reach out” and “have a chat” that I think a more added-value approach is needed. It’s ok to just focus on going through this if you don’t have much to say.

“With me” has become a trend on YouTube. Hosting “Office Hours” or “Live from my home” is the professional equivalent.

Ark Invest are leveraging it with their new series “Stay at Home with Cathie Wood” (CEO).

Putting the senior management on the frontline is a way to show your audience that you are here for them.

Podcasts are great for a lengthier, more personal and in-depth conversation. Online video is booming, probably because it fills a void of personal contact. But you don’t need to be visible.

  • Interviewing someone for a podcast is easy when you are both at home

  • They are intimate, it’s easier to open up in front of your computer than in front of a camera

  • They allow multitasking, often a requirement when you combine household tasks with your work.

Podcast listening has dipped during the crisis with the disappearance of the morning commute, but they are here to stay.

One of the changes we are making here at Orama, during the lockdown is to launch a podcast. It will be called “Fintech in the Twenties”. Each episode will feature an interview with a fintech executive or thought leader, discussing topics like marketing, growth, sales, culture, career and more. It’s something that I have had in mind for a while. I am grateful that the crisis has accelerated the decision to launch.

Uncharacteristically for the UK, it looks like the Easter weekend will be sunny. The Coronavirus curve seemed to be flattening in many countries. Governments are taking unprecedented measures to fight the economic impact of the crisis. Stock markets are bouncing off from the lows.

But this is not the time to slack off. For health reasons, we need to stay at home. On the business side: overcorrect, look at your mission to remain relevant, adapt to Home to Home communication.