We talked to Thomas Lapperre, the founder of Bloeise, a Dutch B2B content marketing agency, and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Thomas Lapperre: It has been stressful at times, the impact it has on our day-to-day activities and social life. We are happy to see the silver lining ahead of a post-COVID world.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Bloeise.
Thomas Lapperre: I met my wife in Bulgaria, and after some time of long-distance relationship, she joined me in the Netherlands. After three years, she wanted to go back to Bulgaria. But I was only willing to join her if I could build a Dutch pension and keep my Dutch house. Founding my own marketing company was the way forward, allowing me to work from a distance for Dutch customers. Bloeise now works with various partners and freelancers to ensure quality, availability, and coverage of the full marketing spectrum. We focus on digital agencies, financial organizations, and medium businesses.
How does Bloeise innovate?
Thomas Lapperre: Innovation is essential to keep your business relevant. When we noticed platforms offering cheap content, we started working with one of these to be able to offer lower prices while keeping quality on a good level. We continuously look at friction in the business processes and introduce small improvements, such as setting up appointments directly in our agenda or working via Google Docs. We use the Three Horizons Model by McKinsey to develop new revenue streams and say goodbye to some old ones on time.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Thomas Lapperre: 2020 was the best year ever for Bloeise. As the pandemic forced physical businesses to go online, there was a growing need for quality content to attract new audiences and try new business models. Companies looking to create content themselves still need professional support to nail it.
Additionally, the coming death of the cookie means companies will focus more on owned media at the expanse of paid media. This is, again, a trend that is making content marketing more important than ever before.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Thomas Lapperre: In the second half of 2020, there were a lot of signs that we would be hitting the biggest depression in living memory. So, I decided to rapidly expand our SEO portfolio by buying and setting up websites. That train basically halted as more clients and work kept pouring in. Now it is plan B, waiting for time and attention in the far future. Still, it has been a good decision to invest back in the business.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are helping you navigate the crisis?
Thomas Lapperre: Bloeise was already a digital company from the start. So, using Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams was nothing new. Essential to running a good business as an owner is understanding the big difference between working in your company and working at your company. It is extremely easy to stay stuck in only one role, but you will need to fulfill both. I typically take half a day a week to analyze trends and reports, adjust the business plan, and separate projects accordingly. When the crisis hit, I did an assessment of the impact on the business. How many clients work in travel? How is payment behavior? What can we expect in the coming months?
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Thomas Lapperre: One of the bigger threats I see is a platform that connects clients with writers. It has the potential to really claim the market with cheaper texts. But that shows in lower quality too, and the self-service approach is also putting clients off. Our approach is to aim for clients who focus on quality first and who are willing to pay for that. Knowing our customers and maintaining a personal relationship is key to stay in business.
Your final thoughts?
Thomas Lapperre: It may be best when change comes from passion, but urgency can also work very well. The pandemic accelerated digital transformation across all industries. For many businesses, it was a matter of swimming or sinking. In the coming period, companies should focus on two things.
First, it is about bringing your business and processes online, either 100% or in a hybrid form of some other. If you have suffered revenue loss, you should focus on being able to make revenue growth in the next pandemic.
Secondly, you will need to rethink how you create value for your customers. Employees that worked from home during a lockdown prefer to keep doing so for at least a few days in the week. Your whole team can be site-agnostic, working via the cloud from another state, country, or even continent. If you have struggled with finding the right talent in the past, consider hiring remote experts on demand. This works especially well if you are working on innovation since you can also keep the teams flexible and change it after each sprint.
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