In the first six months of 2020, we have all experienced enormous changes in the way we live and work due to the coronavirus pandemic. Kicking and screaming we have had to embrace the “new normal”. But are there any benefits to the new way of working for a digital marketing consultant?
I’ve been mentoring businesses since 2007 and I have to say that I always find it really enjoyable. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of meeting many business owners from a very diverse range of organisations. From drain cleaning companies, artists, cafes, hotels, photographers, florists, fitness instructors, gardeners, b&b owners and many many more.
What happened before Coronavirus?
Once a date and time had been agreed with the business, my day started with a drive to the business or a nearby coffee shop. As I have been working with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on their Amplify Business Support Programme over the last few years, I could be travelling to Larne, Carrickfergus or Ballymena to see a business. So I could spend an hour travelling from Aghalee while listening to BBC Radio 2 and enjoying our beautiful County Antrim countryside. (By the way, I also deliver mentoring for Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council as well as Lisburn City and Castlereagh Council.)
Talking is thirsty work so coffee and scones was how the digital marketing mentoring session usually started. Then the challenge was to log on to the wifi so we could have a look at how to help the business with marketing on digital channels. After the meeting was over and action points agreed upon, I started to drive back home. Of course there had to be another coffee shop stop to catch up on emails and missed calls as well as writing up my report.
Sometimes the meeting venues were lovely and cosy but other venues were absolutely freezing! I have very fond memories of mentoring Brendan McKay at the Glensway Tavern in Martinstown (near Ballymena) and sitting at a cosy fire in the corner of the bar (pictured above). Visiting the premises did allow you to get a very good understanding of the actual business and its products. Plus sometimes I had the pleasure of chatting to customers too.
Working as a digital marketing consultant after the coronavirus peak
On 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson announced the start of the Coronavirus lockdown . With this announcement, the days of travelling to meet business owners ended and initially I thought it was the end of the mentoring work too. But I was pleasantly surprised in mid April to hear that the councils were introducing online mentoring with the businesses.
The new normal for a mentor is now meeting the business owner by Zoom but does it actually work?
In a word, yes. Although you can’t actually shake hands with the business owner, you can still have a very productive meeting by Zoom once they have got to grips with using the technology! As I am helping businesses with making changes to their WordPress websites, helping to set up events on Eventbrite, creating new backlinks or writing targeted Facebook advertisements, it is very easy to show how to do these things by sharing my screen.
What are the pros and cons of digital marketing mentoring by Zoom?
With good planning in advance of what you have to cover, time flies. It is very easy to share information by sharing your screen with the business owner.
No time is spent ordering refreshments so more time is spent on discussing the business needs.
Extra people from the business can join the meeting as the need arises.
No diesel costs or no time spent in travelling to see the business owner.
Sometimes it can be hard to get good wifi at business locations or coffee shops. It is very hard to demonstrate digital marketing without wifi so the wifi at home is usually good.
It is safer for both the mentor and the business owner as we are not in the same place.
As you can’t actually see the business, meet personnel in the flesh, it is harder to get a grasp of the real issues facing the business.
I have to make my own tea and toast! But sometimes my husband will pop in with refreshments during the meeting.
From time to time, I can get interrupted by other family members who forget that mum is on Zoom.
So what do business owners think about talking to a digital marketing consultant by Zoom?
For everyone, the Coronavirus pandemic has led to huge changes to the way in which businesses had previously received mentoring support. Some business owners were very experienced in using Zoom. But for others, it was a completely new world to them and they needed some help to get cameras and microphones sorted out.
We asked two businesses for their thoughts and this is what they had to say.
Government guidelines during COVID-19 meant I could not receive business mentoring face to face. Lynda Willis, however, mentored me via Zoom, providing amazing advice as well as sharing readily available resources with me. By pointing me in the right direction and spending time on research specific to my business, Customer Sense Training has magnified the online platform of my business.