Nick Rappolt, CEO of Beyond, Speaks About the Effects of the Pandemic on the Digital World

Nick Rappolt, CEO of Beyond, has answered our questions regarding digital transformation in the coronavirus era.

We discussed the effects of the pandemic on the digital world today; how client perspectives have changed and how the agency has gained new customers further afield – Australia and Hong Kong – as proximity is less important in a remote world. We also chatted about how Beyond has been keeping colleagues connected during the pandemic.

You can enjoy reading the full interview below:

Q1. The last two quarters have been challenging for the world. How has your team been faring? What’s next for them and for your agency?

It’s been a huge shock for the whole world. Naturally, there are concerns about the impact on all industries. Design and technology is an area that many businesses are focusing on in this time of digital transformation and we’ve been fortunate enough to continue winning new work. We’re focusing on our brand, our sales, our services and making sure we keep in close touch with clients, who are also navigating their way through new ways of working.

We were pre-prepared as a remote-ready agency that already offered flexible working so the transition was swift.

We’re very focused on our people, and making sure that our colleagues are okay. We’ve always had a big focus on mental health but now, more than ever, we’re taking the time to make sure we’re looking out for each other. That can mean spending a few extra minutes at the beginning of a call really asking how someone is, or becoming conscious of video call burnout and restricting calls. We’ve blocked out everyone’s calendars from midday until 2pm so people get a break from meetings; we also encourage flexible working so people can plan their days to work around children who may not be in school and daylight as we come into winter months.

Q2. What challenges did you meet during the COVID-19 outbreak and how did you overcome them? What do you advise the ones facing the same?

We were very aware of keeping morale high and the cadence of our communication with the entire agency became hugely important. People want to feel informed and up-to-date, and that’s especially true in a time of uncertainty. I fixed a one-on-one talk with every colleague across our hubs in New York, San Francisco and London and found that I really enjoyed connecting with everyone on a personal level, which can be harder in a larger group meeting.

So my advice would be to keep talking – and even more importantly, to keep listening.

Q3. Thankfully the majority of the digital agencies were already equipped and trained to work remotely. So during the outbreak, they were all able to work from home. However, we assume that you have clients from different sectors that are not familiar with online meetings. How do you manage video calls instead of in-person meetings with them? And how do your customers feel about it?

Well, a lot of our clients work in technology, and many we have long standing relationships with so in that way we’re fortunate. While video calls are great for work, they’re less good for building personal relationships, though, which we appreciate with all of our clients. We’re still learning how to improve on that front.

Q4. What were the top three remote working tools which your team has been using, internally or externally, during the outbreak? And what are your thoughts on them?

Miro: This workshopping tool has been fantastic both for our teams and for ideas workshops with clients. We’ve learnt that we need to get everyone comfortable using Miro before we start, or the technology becomes a barrier rather than an enabler. So we will typically start with an interactive icebreaker using sticky notes, so if anyone has questions about how to use them they can ask in a safe space. This helps to create a climate where we’re focused on ideas.

Slack: We already used Slack, but more now we’re not in offices and it’s a great way to keep conversations going throughout the day, from award wins to favourite snacks.

Amazon: We’ve been sending out packages to our teams with gifts, plants, books: we want everyone to feel cared for even if we’re not catching up face-to-face.

Q5. What industries are your clients mainly focused on? How has COVID-19 affected these industries?

Technology, learning and development, wearables and health.

These are crucial industries but we’re conscious that every company, every industry has been affected by COVID-19 and this virus is still very young; no one knows what the next years will bring. We’re trying to keep steady and help all our clients steer their way through but this hasn’t been an easy time for anyone because of the impact on our lives, our communities, our friends. We’re looking to the future.

Q6. The companies which have survived the first few months of the coronavirus outbreak have been getting back to business. We would love to hear your observations and experience regarding actions by different sectors during the post-COVID-19 era.

We’re finding that geographical borders that businesses and sectors observed previously have been broken down by remote-first work. So, on a positive note, we’re finding that we’re gaining clients from further afield – Australia and Hong Kong, so far – who perhaps wouldn’t have considered us when proximity felt more important.

Q7. Digital marketing is evolving every day. And digital agencies are the ones who need to adapt quickly so as to success. With this fact in mind, can you mention some of your investment plans for business development in Q4?

We’re investing in our people; in virtual events with interesting speakers; in our own thought leadership; in easy-to-buy service approaches.

Q8. As an effect of the coronavirus pandemic, investments in digital marketing have been rising, which promotes higher competition between digital agencies. Considering all these, what are your plans to promote your business in the last quarter of 2020?

I believe it’s critical to invest in our own clients: even when we’re pitching and starting new relationships, we make sure we don’t lose sight of our existing clients and the importance of those relationships.

Q9. How does being a DAN member contribute to your agency’s success?

Being a member of DAN has really helped us connect with the design and agency community. It’s also made it easier for people who may not have been familiar with our work or our agency to discover us.

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