Let’s be optimists without delusions

From a potential vaccine, the economy and making virtual connections, MD Richard Hadler shares reasons for optimism.

In a week dominated by the US presidency, I'm reflecting on a quote by JFK. When his fiancée Jacqueline Bouvier asked how he would define himself, he replied:

“An idealist without illusions.”

It's a great quote. And a fantastic mindset. It leads directly to the emotion at alan. right now. As the headline suggests, we are optimists without delusions. And we think you should be too. 

Here's why.

The current unease is about to change. Today it was announced that a COVID-19 vaccine in phase 3 of its clinical trials was 90% effective. If approved for use by regulators, the UK expects to receive 10 million doses from Pfizer/BioNTech by the end of the year. Overall there are 11 vaccines in Phase 3 trials, with 52 vaccines undergoing clinical trials and at least 86 further down the pipeline.

It is overwhelmingly likely vaccinations will be available by spring next year, first for NHS staff, then the vulnerable, and then the rest of us. We'll be back to normal.

Furthermore, the economy is in surprisingly good shape. Before the virus hit in February the UK was enjoying the lowest unemployment in 45 years, inflation on target at 2 per cent, and the highest output per head in history. All trend lines plotted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies point to a v-shaped recovery. Household savings will be the engine: households saved an incredible 28.1 per cent of income in Q2, compared to 6 per cent in a normal period. That's a tremendous amount of pent up buying power.

Updated economic forecasts by leading banks forecast GDP growth next year at between 5.3 per cent and 7.5 per cent.

Best of all, recessions eliminate complacency. Too often companies do things a certain way “because it's always been like that”. A recession forces them to rethink. For B2B companies this is a golden opportunity.

Take finance. There's been a boom in interest in B2B banking startups, as companies rethink how they operate. Pressure on the balance sheet forces legacy vendors to re-tender while new suppliers have been winning hearings.  For example, spend management platform SpendDesk raised a further $18m boost the $38m already raised in its Series B round in September 2019. This was fuelled by the realisation that boards want to scrutinise every penny spent. 

In addition, digital business bank Starling won more customers in the last quarter than any other bank as corporations hunt for better banking.

If you are a B2B innovator there will never be a better time to pitch, and delivering that pitch will be easier than ever. 

Research from McKinsey shows that 70-80 per cent of B2B decision makers prefer remote interactions or digital self-service, for reasons of easier scheduling and eliminating travel costs.

The head of sales at DHL Express, Michiel Greeven, observed in Supply Chain Digital, “...B2B Buyers changed significantly and shifted more and more into the online world. From an e-commerce perspective some might even say that Covid-19 brought 2030 to 2020.”

The old rules have been torn up. This is a radical new landscape.

If you want to expand – then hiring will be easier than ever. An upside to the current unemployment spike is that talented candidates are going on the market. Graduates in particular are going to be fired up.

At alan. we’re always on the lookout for top talent. We'll be scouring the market for outstanding candidates. You should be too.

One last reason to be optimistic. Although this year has torn families apart and closed offices, it has also brought us closer together. I've Zoomed from home and seen CMOs working in their spare bedrooms. I've had long, emotional chats with MDs about their job and their life. I've made friends. And I've got past that stiff formality of the pre-Covid period.

Although this year has torn families apart and closed offices, it has also brought us closer together.

It's now socially acceptable to do a BBC News interview with a six year old child behind you. I love it!

This informality is a blessing for B2B marketers. We can talk to customers as human to human. It makes B2B marketing so much easier.

So let's be optimistic. There's a notion this may imply a lack of realism – I disagree. It implies only that we filter out the dramatic headlines and focus on the facts. 

Yes there will be turbulence ahead. Yes, some sectors are in for a bruising.

But for B2B companies with a great product and thrilling story to tell, 2021 can be a sensational year.

Richard Hadler 

Managing Director, alan.




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