How we came out of the corona year: stronger despite setbacks
We’re somewhere in the first days of March 2020. We just talked about the possible acquisition of Bammboo in a restaurant of a hotel in Belgium. In a hushed tone, we tried our best to talk about sensitive financial information, because there were other guests in the restaurant who might be able to listen in.
Back in our hotel rooms, we were confronted with the latest news: a lockdown took effect immediately. The next morning, a panicked vibe dominated the hotel, which suddenly looked at its future with uncertainty. The trip back home – through deserted streets, closed stores and news of the impending crisis on the car radio – felt dystopian.
Meanwhile, the year 2020 has passed. The dystopian feeling has given way to pride in the growth we have experienced, in the middle of these weird times. The fathers of Bammboo (Bart, Thierry and Jonard), tell you about their retrospective and prospective.
When the lockdown took effect from March, the (near) future became very uncertain. At the time, no one could predict what the impact of this crisis would be on society and the economy, given that the cause was beyond our control. In addition to that, it was unclear how this would affect our company. Therefore, our focus shifted more than ever to our customers. Top of mind was the question of what we could do for them at that moment.
Another important question at this time was how we look at growth in times of this enormous crisis. We did that mainly by brainstorming together about possibilities. Thanks to a good sales period before Corona, there were a number of project requests in our pipeline. Unfortunately, the uncertain situation meant that a lot of them were rejected, but also that a lot of things were postponed until the moment when the situation became more predictable. And nobody knew when that would be. It created a lot of uncertainty and restlessness for us.
At that time, we were also in the middle of advanced negotiations about a takeover of our company. Of course, we had to put that plan on hold. Partly because of the effect of such a big takeover process: it forces you to look into to the future.
We didn’t move into panic mode, but decided to see this as an opportunity to develop ourselves as well. In 2011, we started doing business. At that time, there was an economical crisis as well. So in 2020, we often thought about how we handled things back in those days in 2011. Staying calm, focusing on real important matters and analyzing what the market asks for at the moment. But to make good judgments, we first wanted to see how the world around us dealt with the corona situation.
The Internet was overloaded with companies and entrepreneurs offering plenty of webinars and workshops to help them keep their heads above water. But that quickly became an overload, as did the daily, disturbing corona news with which we were inundated.
We decided to stay our own course and work on something we always have control over: focus on existing customers and optimize and standardize our company’s internal processes. This ultimately resulted in 80% renewal of our current projects. A huge difference from the years before.
A NEW PROPOSITION
For example, the demand for digital professionalization in the market led us to become a certified partner of Hubspot. Because we frequently experiment with inbound marketing processes, we saw an opportunity to raise this part of our service to a higher level. And because experimentation runs through our veins anyway, we are also stepping up our expertise in the area of proposition validation. That means we can better help clients with the further development of their current products/services, or the launch of completely new products – before we help them scale up.
Fortunately, we were already used to flexible and remote working, as we regularly work with international clients. So adapting in that area was not a big challenge for us.
THE IMPORTANCE OF QUICK EXPERIMENTATION AND VALIDATING ASSUMPTIONS
Due to the corona crisis, many business models are under pressure. Companies need to start organizing their operations online. This, of course, goes beyond digital meetings. Companies that were already preparing to bring new services and products to market digitally, or to switch to online, suddenly had to speed up this process.
We are currently receiving a huge number of requests from customers who want or already have a SaaS product. With SaaS, we actually mean digitizing products or services. We help them launch their products and services online and introduce users to these services in a way that they continue to use them.
With an online service, the introduction and experience has become more important than ever. The advantage is that nowadays everything can be measured and therefore you can quickly gain insights by experimenting with new ideas. The demand for our help with this has therefore also increased enormously. Where companies used to come to us with the sole purpose of growth, in 2020 it was not only about growth but also about validating new or optimizing existing propositions.
Growth Hacking exists by the grace of rapid experimentation, using tools that make this low-threshold and cost-effective. During a crisis – where budget and time are scarce – you quickly need to prove whether something works or not. The Growth Hacking method is very applicable and valuable in this regard. On the one hand, you get insights into your target group faster, and on the other hand, you use the learnings to shape your products and services as well as possible.
MAKING INVESTMENTS, ESPECIALLY IN TIMES LIKE THESE
We chose to invest in our team, especially in these times of crisis. In order to deepen and broaden our expertise, we added six new top performers to our team (Roy, Britte, Angela, Frederic, Jonard, Michel). We’re looking forward to 2021 with great confidence.
GROWTH IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
In the second half of 2020, we made a huge development spurt and now look back – almost in amazement – on a year of record sales with more than 40% growth compared to last year. Even in despite of a strong sales dip in the beginning of the corona situation! An outcome that we did not even dare to dream of in April.
We saw that certain decisions by (potential) customers were actually taken faster after that initial shock. Clients who had mainly focused on the further development of their online presence or their digital propositions, caught on and saw opportunities. Thanks to a good collaboration with our customers, we were able to get through those months while brainstorming with each other. As a result, the relationships with those clients became stronger.
EXPECTATIONS FOR 2021
In these last couple of months, we’ve seen a big increase in the demand for our services. Many companies need skilled experts as a sparring partner to help them achieve their growth ambitions. Within this area, our data-driven and hands-on approach is essential.
FOCUS, SPECIAL ATTENTION FOR YOUR TEAM AND EXISTING CUSTOMERS
An almost boring message when we thought about it, but looking back on 2020, focus, special attention for the team and existing customers is exactly what contributed to this successful year. Writing down our successes – in a year with so much suffering and setbacks for others – almost feels inappropriate.
By the way, the predicate “successful” is certainly not only applicable in the area of sales. The focus on existing customers meant that we also examined our existing processes. One of the questions we asked ourselves was: what can we do to go the extra mile? The resulting plans were: sharing more knowledge among ourselves, putting the right people on the right projects, making sure our team has the right skills and experience to grow along with our customers’ demands and adding good people to our team.
As a result, we not only saw more renewals of our projects, but also a broadening in the area of technical solutions.
We are extremely proud of our team. Despite the fact that everyone is working from home and has had quite a tough year, the team spirit remains strong. This is due to our knowledge sessions, virtual walk-ins, weekly closures and the growth we are experiencing together. It is clear that paying attention to the team spirit and connectedness is crucial in times like these. When we see that reflected in our team’s performance, it makes us extra proud.
Of course, we are also proud of achieving another milestone: our 100th customer. In the past 4 years, we have seen many different customers. We are happy to see that the collaborations are getting stronger and the processes more sustainable. This helps us to improve these processes to get better results.
OUR AMBITIONS FOR 2021
This crisis makes it clear that online propositions and digital skillsets can make a difference. It also demanded a lot of agility and creativity from entrepreneurs and businesses.
Bammboo (and many with us) expects that the digital transformation will continuously accelerate, even when corona will soon be a thing of the past. We are grateful that we’re getting through this period like this and have the opportunity to strengthen our foundation. In doing so, we are focusing on our added value in the digital domain. This consists of providing the right insights (data-driven), agility (growth and validation sprints), our skillset and knowledge. In 2021, we want to take these steps forward, to continue to offer this consistently and on a larger scale.
OUR TAKE-AWAYS FROM THE CRISIS
It’s ‘’funny’’ how you only realize what’s important when it’s not there, even only for a while. We’re talking about self-evident things that are suddenly special and something you can long for, such as spontaneity, physically working together and celebrating successes with each other. This crisis makes those things clear, as well as where your focus really needs to be, new opportunities, dealing with uncertainties, paying attention to your team, vitality and the atmosphere within your company.
Cliché or not: challenges (dealing with unexpected events) still provide the most growth. Even if one is not always aware of it during the ride. There are always solutions, and therefore prospects, which give confidence and strength. Confidence to develop Bammboo even more in 2021 and to assist companies with their growth challenges. And strength to rely even more on our approach and expertise.
We are happy to be able to share this knowledge with you. We’re looking forward to the old- and at the same time the new – normal!