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Is Coronavirus a catalyst for the future?

Is Coronavirus a catalyst for the future?

This blog was written by Competitive Advantage.

This article was scheduled to be about the future, reporting on the recent Futurebuild exhibition and looking to the long term influences on the construction industry. But as the UK goes onto a war-time footing and prepares for lock-down in response to Coronavirus, a word we did not know just three months ago, most people’s concern is with the near future – perhaps 4 to 8 weeks ahead.

Normally sales and marketing management roles are very pressured with people racing to meet deadlines. A good example of this is the Construction Marketing Awards which I help organise. The awards are open for entries between April and September, yet 90% of our entries are submitted via the online system in the last 24 hours, many being completed in the early hours of the morning. I’m sure that this is because they only become sufficiently urgent when the deadline is looming.

Another example is market research projects, a key element of our business. A major challenge for us is that although marketing managers know they need to conduct research they don’t have the time to write the brief, or in many cases read our proposal. Many of the projects we receive then have deadlines of ‘yesterday’.

So how will Coronavirus change this?
Feedback from our clients suggests that many are in the first work-related reaction to restricted socialising. Making decisions about which meetings and events to cancel and then notifying people and making alternative arrangements. This will lead to more online meetings or webcasts.

Others have moved onto the second phase – with less meetings to travel to and attend, they find that time pressures have eased. And they are getting a chance to consider the less pressing issues. The number of requests for proposals for research and training that I’ve received in the last week is equivalent to a typical month. Clearly people are having more time to plan ahead.

So, while the Coronavirus brings with it very many worries and concerns, try to take this opportunity to plan ahead. Think about how our industry is changing due to digitisation, offsite manufacture and the Hackitt Review. Has your company adequately prepared for these changes? Do you understand the implication of these changes for your business? Should new processes be put in place? And what can you do about it in advance?

And here are a few thoughts on why I think Coronavirus will be a catalyst for change:
Retail has been struggling with the death of the high street for some time. The lock-down will probably bring this forward. Retailers will shed staff and take the opportunity to restructure their businesses. I’m sure the use of self-service tills will become more established. Perhaps there will be less high street stores and more virtual showrooms, or novel ways of creating the retail experience? And with this comes an opportunity for construction.

After some weeks of increased use of virtual meetings will people want to return to a situation where they spend more time travelling to and from meetings than actually attending? Or prefer to reduce their commute and work from home on a regular basis?

And if sales and marketing management have more time to plan and give consideration to how the industry might change, perhaps we will we soon see more innovative approaches and solutions.

Further Information
Competitive Advantage Consultancy specialises in helping building product manufacturers to be more effective at getting their products selected. Offering more than construction market research, we can work with you to inform and develop your strategy, with a range of sales and marketing tools all designed to help with your specification strategy.

Sign up to the Competitive Advantage newsletter for an overview of construction market activity as well as construction sales and marketing advice.

This article was written by Chris Ashworth the founder of Competitive Advantage, a consultancy which specialises in helping building product manufacturers to be more effective at getting their products selected.

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