We talked to Etienne van de Boel of vdBoel Online Business on how Covid-19 boosted their innovation as a digital marketing agency and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Etienne van de Boel: Mostly good! We do see however that December is going to be tensive, as of rising numbers. People have the natural tendency and desire to be together, especially during traditional holidays. So let’s hope it will be fine!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded vdBoel Online Business.
Etienne van de Boel: In my first years I worked as a marketer and team lead at a big agency in the Netherlands. I took the opportunity to learn as much as possible about running an agency from them; where most of my fellow colleagues just did their job.
In 2018 I took the chance and founded my own agency; based on the base principles I learned, thought with some improvements of myself.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Etienne van de Boel: Although the initial years went alright, I always knew there was a financial crisis heading our way. That it would be in the form of a pandemic, was quite unexpected though. It meant a lot for us: I had to let employed personnel go; and clients became very guarding on their budgets, cutting our revenue drastically.
It was a rollercoaster at the time, but also very, very good for us, as we changed our business model drastically in a matter of months. The end of an era and the start of our innovation.
How does vdBoel Online Business innovate?
Etienne van de Boel: We adapted our model according to the new needs of our clients. Most clients actually wanted to do more themselves instead of outsource everything. Most of them had more time to do this due to corona, in combination with lower budgets. So we shifted more towards a “marketing coaching” way of service. The client does most of the work; we coach and advise so that the client does the exact right things.
On a human resources level; I had to adapt to a new way of hiring. Many Dutch entrepeneurs living abroad and working in tourism i.e. saw themselves unemployed for an unforeseeable future. So I started hiring flexible VA’s and Marketers all around the work on a freelance basis. A great flexible shell that helps us adapt to current and future needs.
The best thing of all? It provided us the opportunity to scale in a way I had never imagined before Covid. Whilst helping people we could automate more, thus helping more entrepreneurs with their marketing.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Etienne van de Boel: Absolutely. Lay off personnel is the hardest thing someone can do. I helped them as good as possible to find a great next job, but there is just so much you can do. The flexibility to shrink and grow with your staff is definitely something that I learned during the year.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and vdBoel Online Business in the future ?
Etienne van de Boel: In my opinion; the power to change is key. Both on business level, and also personally. I started working out more to deal with the stress, in covid-proof ways. This also boosted my health and energy. This proved a win-win in the long term.
Just like nature does: we as people and business owners should be able to adapt to new worlds we find ourselves in.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Etienne van de Boel: There are many; but we don’t focus on competition right now. I have the feeling that we are all in the same boat; and need to strive for the best solutions for our clients. As long as we shift with our clients’ needs we can stay in the game.
Your final thoughts?
Etienne van de Boel: I believe strongly that covid-19 was a horrible thing that happened to us, but also provided – sometimes much needed – change in our world. Every downside has it upside. Stay safe, stay positive!