Vic Miller, Brandwatch

Vic Miller, Brandwatch

Vic Miller is Vice President of Global Comms at Brandwatch, a digital consumer intelligence company that helps brands listen to and understand what is being said about them and their markets online. She speaks to businesses of all sizes every day and shares her insights.

There is a simple way to improve your chances of survival in the current uncertain climate, says Vic Miller – listen carefully to what your customers are saying.

She says: “Businesses are having to step up their game in terms of getting insights quickly and understanding their customers’ changing needs and attitudes, not just in terms of providing the right services and products but also in getting the right tone of voice and knowing how to be supportive. The companies that are doing really well have taken the time to listen, learn from, and act on what they are hearing.”

Marketing is one area in particular where it is vital to get the tone right, Vic says. “In the first part of the pandemic there was a feeling that it was not the right time to be monetising anything. It felt very uncomfortable and we saw marketing budgets cut. We have come through that to some degree now but there is still a nervousness about getting the tone and the timing right. It is really difficult unless you are selling an essential product. A lot of people are feeling very anxious about what is to come and it is irritating when someone tries to sell you something when you are worrying about the basics such as having a roof over your head. You need to tread carefully and think about what is genuinely helpful at the moment.”

Vic says that as well as listening to customers, it is also more important than ever for businesses to start listening to their employees, especially now that many of them are likely to be working remotely for the foreseeable future.

She says: “Some companies are doing very well at calmly and regularly communicating with their employees but others are scatter-gunning and that feels panicky in a business. It is critical to keep people up to date on what is happening so that they feel comfortable about where the business is at and how it is adapting. And don’t underestimate how hard it is for some people to work remotely. Looking after your team’s mental health and wellbeing is critical because it can take months for the cracks to show.”

She says businesses should also make the effort to discover ways of working remotely that work best for them, for example by using online collaboration tools. At Brandwatch, for example, they have found they are much more productive when they meet in smaller teams to tackle specific tasks rather than meeting in one large group.

Vic says: “I find that if you have more than three or four people on a video conference call, it is really quite hard to get value from it. But having small working groups which can quickly come together and make decisions is really helpful.”

She says that while there has been a lot of talk about businesses needing to pivot, it is really important not to panic and pivot too far. “Believing that you have to completely pivot your business or that there has to be some great new answer is extremely dangerous. Completely changing what you do is rarely going to be successful.”

Despite the challenges, however, there are benefits to being an entrepreneurial business at this time, she says. “Entrepreneurial businesses are able to quickly jump on things and think about what they can do and how they can react, whereas for a big business it is very hard to quickly adapt in that way. When the pandemic hit, a lot of people turned to social media because they couldn’t get hold of companies and it was the smaller, more agile businesses that tackled that really well, because they are used to operating that way, with just a couple of people at the other end of a phone or laptop. They were able to very quickly hold the hands of their customers whereas bigger businesses have really struggled with this.”

Vic’s Top Tips for businesses right now

  1. Listen every day to what your consumers are talking about. The power of understanding what is being said that you didn’t know you needed to hear is invaluable.
  2. Don’t lose sight of what your business is all about.
  3. Be protective of your employees, look inwards into your company and think about what you can do now that is really going to help people to be ok.

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