Laila Sonntag, Founder of artViper Marketing Agency tells us about websites & Social media marketing.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Laila Sonntag: Luckily, my family and I are safe. We avoid non-essential errands, and we’re getting cozy at home. As long as the WiFi connection is stable, everything is fine One of my employees got infected with Covid at the beginning of January 2021, and ever since then, she’s still sick and unable to attend work. Even after overcoming the infection, she still has severe inflictions – I guess that’s what you call “long Covid. ” She is getting better now, but it will take a few weeks until she’s a hundred percent fit.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded artViper Marketing Agency.
Laila Sonntag: I have established artViper back in the year 2006, at the age of twenty-one. By now, I guess that’s long enough to learn and improve many things (and to learn the hard way, too, haha). From the very first moment, I focused on digital media. Web design, social media marketing, and online marketing are since then the centerpiece of the agency. Fifteen years ago, I already realized that there is considerable more marketing potential on the web than in print. By now, my team consists of 6 employees, ranging from programmers, social media managers, graphic designers, and of course, online-project managers and marketing experts.
How does artViper Marketing Agency innovate?
Laila Sonntag: We pay close attention to high-quality standards and transparent communication. In order to ensure those standards, we have introduced quality management (ISO 9001 – Qualitätsmanagementsystem), which is independently certified every year. Enhancing innovations and developing creative ideas with standardized processes as a foundation is no contradiction. To tweak and optimize processes and spot problems and flaws from the get-go, those standardized quality management instruments come in very handy.
In addition to that, we grasp every opportunity to put the ideas of our customers into action. There are so many great ideas and concepts out there that are worth being realized. Those “mind sparks “and the creative power behind it amazes us every time. And this is how many of our innovations come about.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Laila Sonntag: In March 2020, when the pandemic started, we indeed had to cope with countless cancellations and projects that were put “on hold. ” A lot of our customers didn’t know how the future will be and how this whole situation develops. There was a huge amount of uncertainty at this time because nobody actually knew how long the lockdown will be in effect. It appeared like a state of shock, and we were all rather paralyzed. It was a really strange feeling – for me personally and also in regards to my agency and employees. Surely, we have reserves, and we also canceled out non-important stuff, and we also put orders on hiatus. But the main question that I asked myself was: how long do our reserves last? How long do we have to sit this through?
After about 3 months the situation in our sector calmed down a little bit. Our customers suddenly had free capacities on their hands, especially for projects that usually take up a lot of time. Very crucial things like marketing in general, new websites, developing online shops that needed to be realized for a long time, commencing social media activities… – all of that had to and could finally be implemented. In order to continue to be “the talk of the town “midst the target group, the digital and online presence became more important.
Currently, all employees are working from home for three months now. All the common tools and applications for digital communication are used more than ever. We Skype, meetings take place online via Google Meet, and the adjustments via email and the project management tool in general work flawlessly.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Laila Sonntag: During the first lockdown, we were working from home for 2 months. As a boss, I definitely had some concerns in regards to that. Are tasks really being done, or is the dirty laundry being washed along the way? I am a little control obsessed, so I had issues with not fully being in the picture about the daily workflow, what was arranged in conversations with customers and contractors alike. When the second lockdown was imminent, we went into “home office mode “again, and we still are today.
Honestly speaking, I have to admit that as an employer, you should really give it a try. Not one project got stuck, nothing was left aside, the communication among my team is extraordinary, the creatives supply wicked ideas. For me, as a boss, there is nothing that bothers me whatsoever. I think my biggest learning curve was to have trust and to rely on my people. Now I don’t care if lunch is prepared along the way or the laundry is being washed – I was proven that the projects are being handled to the utmost satisfaction. And this is what it boils down to.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Laila Sonntag: Our most important tool is our project management software “awork. ” We had already introduced it in January 2019, and we were absolutely glad that this tool is by now perfectly integrated into our daily workflow. With that tool, we coordinate all of our projects, including time management. Any requests to particular projects or communication around tasks are happening all within this browser-based application. I have an overview of what projects are currently processed, what projects have been accomplished, and what’s the overall state of affairs. The exchange among the team is fairly easy and much more comfortable.
Right now, we cannot change the situation. What we can do, on the other hand, though, is to think about the future. What will happen when the Covid crisis is over? What opportunities can be taken to further solidify placement on the market situation? What can be done to improve the overall performance? We need to look ahead and grasp the opportunities that may pave the way to success in the future.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Laila Sonntag: At the beginning of the pandemic, we were aware of the fact that the online presence of some businesses was not up to par. This problem had to be solved, though. For a certain period, we granted customers very attractive terms in order to make their online access a little easier, so they can generate at least a little revenue, for example, 25 % immediate discount, 1 month of social media marketing free of charge, payment by installments for all online projects, 90 days payment break, etc.
I actually don’t know what our competitors do. I concentrate and focus on our customers and our market. In fact, I don’t care what others do; I never did. Our customers are my number one priority. Almost 70 % of our customers are regulars. If I have an open ear for their concerns and hardships, I usually have an appropriate solution right up my sleeve. Finding honest and helpful solutions for our customers’ needs – that’s what matters most in my opinion.
Your final thoughts?
Laila Sonntag: I state that not the business with the biggest budget is the most successful but the one that reacts swiftly to alterations and is the most flexible in terms of adjusting to changes. We are mostly working for middle-sized and small businesses that are in a favorable position if you ask me. They can implement new things a lot faster and can easily start test runs; if it works, fine! If not, then not really much is lost. This “trial and error “procedure can be especially applied during this corona crisis. Hands-on, without thinking about it! Covid showed us that smart ideas and walking new paths are inevitable to be successful.