20 years of Brightvision
So, here we are, almost exactly 20 years from the inception of Brightvision. As founder, and still going as CEO of the company, I felt it went quite fast. Even though 20 years is a long time in some ways, it’s not in others. I just wanted to quickly reflect on some of the things we have learned over the years, and some other things that we probably have not learned – yet.
We took the idea of helping tech start-ups defining their go-to-market strategy, starting out as a small niche marketing consultant, to becoming a full-service B2B Agency specializing in tech clients.
What have we learned from all these years? Is it interesting and relevant to others as well? I think so, and that's why we’re writing this blog post with some reflections on this.
The love for tech marketing
It all started back in 1997, when I was doing a short summer as an intern marketeer at a start-up called Kreatel, in Linköping, Sweden.
I was struggling to put together a good marketing plan and felt, as many other tech marketeers have, over the years, that the traditional business school models didn’t apply especially well to Kreatel’s situation and market.
I started to browse for inspiration and ideas to use, to see how other people have approached similar tech products when doing marketing plans. I went to Amazon (which had been around for a few years at that time) and already had a great review function. I found the book ”Crossing the chasm – marketing and selling disruptive products to mainstream customers”, by Geoffrey Moore.
By the reviews, I could tell that this was the book I needed to get the marketing plan in place. And it was. It solved my immediate problem, enalbing me to write what was, in my view, quite a good marketing plan for Kreatel that summer. When I returned to school after the summer, I wrote my thesis based on the theories around ”high-tech marketing” and especially that book. And then I helped another start-up who had heard about the “awesome” marketing plan I did for Kreatel. And then another startup called. And so it went on for a few years.
I worked on quite a few startups' go-to-market plans for about 4 years before the big IT crisis of 2001–2004. More or less all my clients were VC-backed companies, and now they all found themselves on their own. No more investments would be made. The need for another marketing plan was, at that time, slim to none. I found myself, businesswise, between a rock and a hard place.
All my clients were dying, some others were fighting, and dying slower. But they all were in big trouble. I called around and asked if there was anything I could do to help, and the surprising answer I got from one of them was, well, if you can bring in a paying client to us, that would be interesting.
That was all I needed to pivot the small company from being totally focused on strategic marketing plans to instead becoming a tactical marketing and lead-gen partner to tech startups. And the result was that both Brightvision and the client survived, and we felt that, yay, we’re quite good at this.
Let’s double down on lead-gen and marketing campaigns, but keep our focus on what we know best, B2B tech companies. Fast forward 15 years, and that’s pretty much still what we’re doing. We’re larger these days and offer our services in most regions of Europe (back then, only Sweden) and have a broader range of services (we now offer outbound, inbound and martech services). But one thing remains the same: We’re still focused on being the best marketing agency partner to tech companies because they have a unique market challenge. And that’s very likely to be our focus for the next 20 years as well.
Lesson: listen carefully to your clients’ needs, and don’t be afraid to pivot the services you offer. But never turn your back on your clients alone in tough times. If you stick around, they will reward you when the times get better.
After a few years, we started to get projects from more established tech companies that were beyond the start-up phase. Now we actually work with many global tech companies, who are our largest clients.
Learning the hard way
Failure is never final, as the saying goes.
That couldn’t be truer for us at Brightvision. We have probably made more than our fair share of mistakes, both large and small, over our 20 years. But ultimately, they have made us stronger and better as an organization, and we learned some things along the way. Here’s a few of our mistakes:
- One year, we thought that opening a local office in Chamonix, France, would be a great idea in order to attract better skills and offer a nice place to work. It was not. If there’s one place in the world that turns ambitious people into slackers, it’s Chamonix. So, after a year, when it became apparent that the idea was based on totally incorrect assumptions, we closed the office. And it did cost us quite some money. We learned that it’s a lot of work to open a second office, and your first ”great” idea is sometimes not that great, and you need to pick the right place to be successful.
- Another time, our financial director called me and said that we had made a mistake earlier that year in our bookkeeping. It turned out that for the last 6 months, instead of making a nice profit, we were on our way toward a major loss and we needed to turn things around quickly, otherwise it could have been game over for Brightvision. We had to question every single cost for the coming 6 months, saving on absolutely everything and still going full speed ahead on business development. That was hard. We survived that mistake as well and this time we learned at least two things: Always have your numbers in order, and make sure you can handle a few dry months without going bankrupt.
So, experiences like this, which we will continue to have, keep us humble and prevents us from making ”bet the farm” mistakes – which we have before. That makes these mistakes ”learning experiences”.
Try to find the humor in everyday life
Sometimes, if possible, I think it’s good to take a step back have a laugh at yourself, and try to find the humor in the day-to-day work situation you’re in. If you’re good at doing that, it will make your job easier and more fun. That’s why we at Brightvision have a culture of cherishing and telling good old stories of classic mistakes, awkward situations and other funny episodes that we’ve come across while we have been doing our job, serving our clients and growing the company. After all, who doesn’t love a fun anecdote?
So, remember the fun incidents, talk about them openly, and share them with colleagues and clients. Just because it’s fun.
We have a motto that we should take our clients and their business seriously – but we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. We don’t want to become a company of pretentious and arrogant people. We want to be able to have a laugh and be silly sometimes. Brightvision has probably had more than its fair share of pranks between colleagues over the years, to most colleagues’ amusement and appreciation.
Lesson: see the humor in everyday life and remember classic mistakes and blunders. They often become a popular story to use at coffee breaks and after-work get-togethers.
Becoming a “people first” company
What has become clear to us over the past years, is that, if we take care of our employees first and hopefully offer a good experience working for Brightvision, they will take care of our customers really well. That’s the way it needs to go if you want to offer stellar quality and great service. Therefore, the cornerstone of our business flywheel model is “happy and motivated employees”. Everything starts there.
We’re in no way done improving our company culture and employee experience, and we’re constantly working hard to become a better workplace. But we have the logic in place. If you want to grow as a company, make sure your people will grow and thrive first. Then the growth of the company comes as a biproduct, since they will do a great job working for the company's clients.
Therefore, we always put our people first, and thus have become a “people first” company.
Teamwork – our most important strategy
Teamwork is important in business, and this is something that we have learned along the way. As the saying goes, ”it’s not the team with the best players that wins. It’s the players with the best team that wins”.
That’s one of the reasons why we put high emphasis on building great teams. And we have many great teams at Brightvision, doing extraordinarily well, since they put the team first. To be able to do that, we need humble, team-oriented but ambitious people. And that’s something we have succeeded with. We’ve been looking for ”humble winners” for the last 10 years, which is a person who really wants to win, but as a team.
To become a strong team, we need to be team players, which we prefer to define as humble winners – people with a strong drive to win, to create great things and to make our clients very satisfied using world-class methods – but they also want to win as a team. That’s a humble winner! A humble winner is humble, hungry and smart. ”Humbition”, Humble + Ambitious, is another word describing the kind of culture we strive to build at Brightvision.
Premium demands excellence
After 20 years in the business, we really take pride in being one of the best tech marketing agencies in the regions we serve. And we aim to become the best of them all. That’s why we always strive to deliver high-performing services and campaigns (service quality) with excellence (perceived quality).
Over the years, we have learned that when a client gives us a ”Very Satisfied” rating in general for our performance in our customer satisfaction survey, there is a 77% probability that they will bring return business to us within 6 months. That’s why the satisfaction of our existing clients is the lifeblood of the company. Returning happy clients give us the stability we need to become a better company and a better employer.
But that is not the only thing shown to be important for them when returning. Many clients also tell us that they love working with us because we’re a humble agency, which many of them really appreciate.
If you create lifelong relationships with your clients, a bonus is that many of them become good friends. And that is how we want to see our clients. Not as business generators, but friends we really want to continue to work with, for many years, and we’re interested in helping them to succeed in their roles, and see their companies flourish and grow.
We have learned that the less we think of ourselves and instead focus on helping our clients in the best way possible, the better the company performs. It’s just like in any team sport – you don’t win the game by watching the scoreboard. You win the game by helping your team play really well and do your part as well as you can. And if you do that, when the referee blows the whistle, you’re most likely to have the winning score.
So, to summarize the first 20 years of Brightvision, I can’t help but say that it’s been a great pleasure to have had the opportunity to meet so many great people.
I hope everyone who's worked for or with Brightvision has enjoyed their experience, learned some things along the way and made some real friendships that will last for a long time. The interactions with people, getting to know people, and building relationships is truly a great privilege.
Do we have a Bright future?
We believe so. I’m very optimistic about our future, both as a company and for society at large.
Brightvision supports two areas we are really passionate about: Technology startups and people who love learning about technology marketing (in other words, interns!). To show our support for tech startups, 2 times a year we give a grant for a seed stage startup who's just starting to communicate their offering to the market, with marketing support in the form of both workshops and strategy development.
We also love to have ambitious interns joining us, so we can pass on the passion for helping tech companies become more successful. And by doing that, helping young marketeers to start an inspiring career path.
We call this initiative BrightFuture.
Hopefully, Brightvision will be around for another 20 years, by building awesome teams that help tech companies grow and “cross the chasm” to their target markets.
Thanks for reading.
All the best!