At Econsultancy we’ve been talking to marketers and digital professionals about how they are adapting in the coronavirus crisis. Today we’re visiting agency-land again, and it’s the turn of Paul Jarrett, Founder and MD at Sonin.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the Founder and Managing Director at Sonin. We’re a digital agency working with ambitious companies to build digital products, platforms, and experiences that delight users.
As the MD, I work closely with our clients, advising them on their digital strategies. My main responsibility is to make sure they get the most business value possible from their products.
This often involves talking to a variety of different stakeholders across different divisions and sectors. Usually, though, no matter who I’m talking to it falls into one of two categories: they’re either looking to make money or save it – sometimes both!
My job is to then make sure that every product decision supports those goals, the KPIs we put in place, and the overarching vision of the client.
How has your typical day been impacted after recent events?
In many ways, it’s been an easy transition for us. As a digital agency, a lot of the tools we use are cloud-based which makes collaboration easy.
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen though is that human contact piece. We’re all so used to working with each other on a day-to-day basis and the normal office interactions that come with it. That 3pm slump where everyone instinctively gravitates towards the kettle!
It’s why we’re doing our best to replicate those moments where we can. Just because we can’t physically be together, doesn’t mean we can’t have a scheduled video call at 3pm where anyone from the team can drop in for a chat.
It’s really anything you can do to make sure people still have the same interest you have in one another that you naturally have when you’re all together.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
When we start working with a new client, we always like to kick off the journey with a discovery workshop. This gives us a defined direction for each product and a detailed roadmap of how to get there. We also love presenting back to clients in-person too.
We’ve done presentations remotely before and we’ve run workshops where certain stakeholders have had to dial in. Since the lockdown, though, everything has obviously moved to remote. Because of this, my favourite tools at the moment are the ones that help us to get the same level of collaboration and communication as we would in-person.
I’ve been particularly impressed with Freehand by Invision which is the whiteboard tool our Design team uses. It plugs into Sketch so that everyone involved, wherever they are, can view, comment on, and annotate product designs together in real-time. In a similar vein, other collaboration apps like Teams and Slack which we were using before have only become more crucial in our day-to-day work.
Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?
The companies that have had to pivot or drastically change their operations very quickly. On the one hand, you’ve got distilleries supporting key workers with hand sanitiser which is amazing! At the same time, you’ve got entire sectors like the events industry that have had to completely rethink what they do for the interim.
For a lot of companies having a hard time of it at the moment, it’s meant essentially shutting down shop until things bounce back. The companies that have impressed me the most though are the ones who have maintained their mission and what they do while being able to quickly adapt how they do it.
What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
For us, there’s very little change from a brand marketing point of view. Changing your messaging to suit short-term problems and trends, especially when they’re as serious and problematic as Covid, just isn’t something we’re interested in doing.
Instead, we went back to the question of value. How can we use the resources we have to help people? Just because you can’t pivot to producing PPE doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference!
For us, we knew that there were a lot of people stuck at home without work who were being forced to reconsider their careers. We’ve got in-house product developers. Put the two together and you’ve got an e-learning course to help aspiring developers use this time to kick-start their careers – or at the very least give people something to strengthen their CV.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
As an agency, a lot of our goals are tied to those of our clients. The products, platforms, and experiences we build have to provide business value for them. To make sure this happens, we work with clients to find the most suitable metrics to track.
One that’s universal though is the ‘North Star Metric’. This is the number that best reflects the value you provide to your customers. It’s how you drive growth and measure success long-term.
Once we understand that client’s North Star Metric, we can start defining the metrics that matter for the product we’re building. So, for example, an e-commerce brand’s North Start Metric might be monthly sales. But for the loyalty program platform we’re building them, the metric that matters is the number of vouchers redeemed.
Internally, our main metric for measuring success is how likely our clients are to refer us. Making sure we understand each client’s vision and their product’s success criteria drives that Net Promoter Score (NPS) up.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
Everything is around collaboration right now – video tools especially. You’ve got every company trying to replicate online the same level of visibility and the same energy that we get naturally when we’re working in the same space together.
What advice would you give to agency owners right now?
If you’re an agency or any business where your offering isn’t being forced to change, then this is the perfect time to plan. Many businesses, of course, are having a really hard time of it. Things will inevitably bounce back though. Business as usual will return.
There aren’t many times where you get this level of disruption or the chance to revisit what you do. Every business will have frustrating processes and unchallenged bottlenecks. When you’re working in the office, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision and put off addressing them.
Working remotely, it’s easier than ever to identify those problems and their impact often multiplies. The time we have right now is a great opportunity to revisit what you do, how you do it, and the value you provide. The agencies and businesses that do that will be in a prime position coming out of this the other side.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your agency?
Long-term? No different than before because what we do isn’t impacted by remote working life. We build bespoke digital products, platforms and experiences that delight users wherever they are.
That will never change. How we do it might but that’s always been the case. It’s the product mindset, after all. As long as we keep our direction and goals front-of-mind, our approach will iterate and improve as we adapt to the way our clients work.