Jenny Sagstrom

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I’m the CEO of Sköna Advertising, a B2B creative agency focused on transforming tech companies into brave brands. Our clients include fast growing SaaS companies like Snowflake, Funnel, JumpCloud and Sigma. Some days, I work on our expansion strategies and some days I take the trash out. As CEO, there’s no job too big or small. Really, my most important task is to clear the way for my incredibly talented staff to do their jobs in the best way possible.

Talk us through a typical day…

What I love about my job is that no two days are alike. I usually have four to five client meetings each week and at least one or two pitches. In addition, since our office in San Francisco has been closed for nearly a year, we’ve had a lot more internal meetings. I’ve found that not meeting in person requires me to be a lot more intentional with my word and my communication. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it has actually been a really effective exercise for strengthening my communication skills. When you see each other in person, you believe – rightly or not – that a lot of communication within a company happens through osmosis. Not meeting in person means you have to take extra care with that communication.

Early on in the lockdown, our team maintained great energy. But, as the months have dragged on, I’ve noticed that energy seeping away. People are still working just as hard, but things that used to take an hour to finish now require a few more. In addition, not being able to collaborate in person on creative projects has generally been an energy-suck.

Given that, I’m working hard right now to ensure nobody gets burned out – that we’ve divided the workloads more or less evenly. I’m also having to be far more creative in maintaining our company culture, which I’ve worked hard to nurture over the years.

How do you maintain an effective work/life balance?

Having become a mother to two daughters while launching and running a company means that my work days have always had to be flexible. I have always made my kids a priority. For me, this means setting my work aside from the time they finish school until they go to bed. This usually means picking up where I’ve left off at nighttime.  This strategy clearly isn’t for everyone, but I love the flexibility that technology allows and it’s worth it to me to lose a few hours of sleep sometimes. This is something that was just starting to become an option when I opened Sköna 15 years ago.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve also learned to accept that not everything on my to-do list is going to get done every day. Like every business owner, when I first started my company, I had to do everything myself, which translates to a lot of hours. Today, I’m fortunate to have a great team of people around me, many of whom are better at certain types of work and can pick up and help out.. I’ve just had to learn to be better at asking for help!

How has strategy changed at your company?

Overall, working in B2B marketing with clients whose business models centre on  helping other companies move to the cloud, our agency has been less impacted than we first anticipated.

We were already set up for working from home but have had to adjust our growth strategy. We have sharpened our focus on maintaining our clients vs. acquiring new business. Internally, we’ve spent more time refining our processes as well as making sure everybody is trained in how to best do things.

How has customer behaviour changed during the pandemic?

The biggest change has been the end to all in-person events, which used to be the number-one driver of leads within the technology sector. In the absence of these events, our clients have shifted their focus to digital and providing great digital experiences that can deliver on both brand awareness and engagement.

Our clients have also shifted their budgets from channels such as outdoor and direct mail, to paid social, programmatic and third party content syndication.

We’ve also seen a bigger focus on branding. Clients are taking this time to get the branding basics right across all marketing materials, but especially with their websites.

What do you predict for the future?

I think we will go back to our offices, but rather than five days a week, we’ll work two to three days in the office and the balance of the time from home. People still need and want to be together in person – for collaboration on projects, but also for social purposes. Generally, I think I speak for everyone at Sköna when I say that skipping the daily commute has been a silver lining of this experience.

With the accelerated shift that happened to digital this year, I believe we’ll see the return of the “Big Idea”. In order to stand out, it will no longer be enough to just look the part. Your marketing also has to be grounded in something bigger, the Big Idea that will be heard above the noise.

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

This is the time to make sure you have the basics right. Is your brand positioning where it needs to be and is the visual interpretation of your brand strong enough to help you expand and grow. If not, take the next couple of months to beef up on your strategy and when it comes to the visual design, make sure your brand has enough to pull from to last through your next growth phase.

Given the amount of marketing noise happening at the moment, I recommend trying lots of different things to see what works and then quickly shift your spend to where you’re seeing the most success.

If you’re already producing video content – great, keep at it! If you’re not, make sure you’re creating engaging video with high production value that truly reflects your brand and your vision.

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