What we can learn from Brexit and how to survive it

Josh Peachey's picture
by Josh Peachey

Applying the principles of ‘customer-first thinking’ casts light on the strengths and weaknesses of the Leave campaign, and offers some direction for businesses, says Ged Leigh of The Marketing Centre. Ged Leigh is regional director of The Marketing Centre, which is the UK's number one provider of proven part-time marketing directors to SMEs.


Brexit promises to shake up the way businesses operate in the UK, the EU and beyond. To say there’s uncertainty is an understatement and the markets are headed for turbulence whatever happens.

But what can businesses do to help them get through? And what can we learn from the situation?

When changes to the market occur, businesses need to focus even more closely on their customers. Businesses thrive by giving value to their customers - solutions to their problems, products that meet their needs. Those that don’t put customer needs first, lack guidance - they have no idea what their customers want. 

Customer-first thinking and its three key pillars – respect for privacy, honesty and fairness, and responsibility – can not only help us weather the storm but also provide some insight into how the situation has arisen.

Think about the campaigns before the referendum. At the time, Vote Leave seemed to be in tune with customers’ - or, in this case, electorate’s - concerns: EU bureaucracy, border control, and British identity and sovereignty. They put these concerns at the front and centre of their campaign. It paid off. 

Since then, public opinion has turned. Many Leave voters have realigned their opinions and the priorities of the campaign have become something of a poisoned chalice. Let’s look again at those three pillars...

Respect for privacy: The political process is dogged by concerns about who’s holding data and how they’re using it. Your business needs to be honest. Yes, you’re using customers’ data to provide content and suggest products to them, but they’re trusting you not to do anything else.

Honesty and fairness: If there’s no £350 million a week for the NHS, don’t put that on the side of a bus. Be open about your processes and, where possible, your pricing. Deliver what you promise and don’t mislead. 

Responsibility: Prioritise ethics in your business practice and take ownership of the customer experience. Look out for your customers and fix things when they go wrong. If there’s uncertainty coming up, have a clear plan for how you’ll see it through.

To avoid a similar fate for your own campaigning: conduct research, scrutinise your social media interactions and online reviews, and encourage feedback at and after the point of service. Those touch points will help you build up real insight. And don’t be afraid to move with the times - if your customers’ priorities are changing, you need to change with them.

Base your marketing, branding, products and services, pricing and value proposition around what suits your audience best. Don’t just say you put your customers first - actually do it.

Remember your customers are as impacted by Brexit as you are. Figure out how their needs have been changed by Brexit, help them deal with that, and you’ll retain their loyalty.

However, too many businesses assume they know their customers. In reality, demographic details and typical spend information is only scratching the surface. It’s the why you need. Why is Brexit a bother to them? What aspects concern them? To find out, you have to actually ask them.

Whether the outcome of Brexit is favourable or not, looking after your customers will ensure business success. Is your business putting customers first?