Konavi is a ten-year-old digital marketing consultancy in Munich, working primarily with B2B clients. We originally planned to talk to Claudia Beauchamp, Konavi’s MD, about digital content marketing. However, on March 13th, the German government closed all businesses for an unspecified time, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, therefore, we found ourselves talking to Claudia about the impact of COVID-19 on her client base and digital marketing during a pandemic.

How does Konavi operate?

Konavi operates on a network principle. Freelancers come together on projects, and we create teams for particular projects. We focus on online and our clients are typically from the Mittelstand. Our model has low or even no overheads, and low cost, flexible, agile ways of working, so it is particularly attractive to this group. 

How has COVID-19 affected your clients?

For many, COVID 19 wasn’t an opportunity to rethink their business, it was imperative, and has driven very rapid change. For example, one of our clients, eMBIS GmbH, is a training company. It was founded 20 years ago and delivers up to 32-course modules across eight German cities every year. The company trains and certifies thousands of marketing and business people via public or in-house courses. In 2018, we developed a long-term strategy to evolve its business model and add a digital offering. It took a long time to convince them that this would add to the brand, but eventually, they agreed that we should define and create a digital learning platform for them.

By 2019, we had eight courses ‘online ready’ with a high-quality video and supporting materials. The company had planned to launch its digital training business in 2021, complete with a brand redesign and relaunch. However, coronavirus changed everything. Travel, public seminars, and events were banned. The company faced a disaster if it did not accelerate its digital transition. 

What have you and the company been able to do?

We rewrote and accelerated the transformation plan. The company is now a functioning online marketing training academy with modules available in offline and online formats. Phase 1 has provided live online training, to be followed by the interactive learning platform. The first courses were launched by April 20th with supporting campaigns on LinkedIn and Facebook, and the first seminar was fully booked within days. The client is now actively involved in understanding and improving user and trainer experiences.

Our next priority is to ensure that the virtual offering delivers a professional virtual learning experience. We’re educating trainers on staging, dress, delivery, and scripting for online webinars and training sessions. We’re also experimenting with social media ads to better understand two key audience segments: individual course delegates and managers responsible for training. 

What’s the biggest challenge you encounter as a German B2B agency? 

Digital marketing sometimes threatens the status quo. In some German companies, for example, the biggest objections to our engagement and a move to digital are from sales teams. They feel threatened by digital marketing because they perceive that their ability to make deals and drive relationships is being challenged. They often don’t appreciate that today’s customers take the initiative, and don’t want a face-to-face relationship with sales reps.

This shift in thinking leads to the ‘great debate’ about who really owns the client and the customer base: is it marketing or sales? What’s preferable, a CRM system, an ERP system, or a good old sales rep?  In the past, we’ve lost projects because digital CRM platforms will affect the business structure and marketing efficiencies. Sales departments perceive them as competition and don’t always welcome them. 

What message would you send to organizations that feel threatened by digital? 

Enjoy life while you can, because it won’t last long! Digital is here to stay, and those that don’t adapt will struggle. The pandemic may have accelerated things, but the change was already inevitable. One of my clients is a 125-year old manufacturing business. Obviously, over its lifetime, a lot has changed, in terms of buying and technology landscapes, but the company’s practices have not moved with the times. Germany is experiencing a massive social change.

Thirty-year olds are replacing Baby Boomers in the workplace. They work differently. Sales teams need to engage these buyers in new ways. They need to become more efficient and re-invent their approach. As I say to my clients, “Your company maybe 125 years old, but your buyer isn’t.” It’s a case of adapt or die.

Revolutions view

“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress’ said  Charles Kettering and without a doubt, it’s true crises can drive great disruption. With CV19 the world experienced a catastrophic event which precipitated accelerated digital transformation – will the Hackathon participants ever be the same again? Will they want to be?

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

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