If you’re stuck with a design challenge, just Ask Phill
Amsterdam, July 3rd, 2017
Having been founded only last year, Amsterdam-based creative agency Ask Phill is in its infancy. However, the company is already playing with the big boys. Amongst its clients are: Bijenkorf, the number one department store in The Netherlands; Bugaboo, one of the most iconic baby pushchair manufacturers worldwide; and Heineken.
Ask Phill is the brainchild of Paul Veen and Martijn Wijsmuller. In April 2016, the two friends visited the Canton Fair in Guangzhou. Also known as China Import and Export Fair, the Canton Fair is the world’s largest trade fair connecting entrepreneurs from around the globe. This mind-opening event gave them the final push to set up their own thing.
“During the fair we were especially inspired by new kind of interactive technologies used in retail environments,” recalls Martijn and adds, “the VR departments were amazing as well as other innovative products for AR. We furthermore got inspired to meet with entrepreneurs from all over the world and share ideas on technologies, innovation and how to market products when bringing to market.”
As they return from the Far East, they thought their aim was going to be towards disrupting traditional retail environment, such as supermarkets, which have been the same for 50 years.
Martijn explains: “By making use of new technologies and using these throughout a store, a customer would be able to let the store ‘do the thinking’ for him/her. Imagine you walk into a store and you are welcomed by a large screen which offers you a couple of choices for your dinner that day – or if you wanted something else you could browse at leisure on a touch screen. Your app then tells you where you can get which products and what the optimal store route is. You can also choose to just pick up a product, scan it, and automatically find out everything you need to know about the product, what you can make with it and how to cook it.”
“The idea was to inspire, advise and guide the customers in retail environments with the use of innovative technologies.”
However, Martijn and Paul soon found out that as a start-up company, getting into the big corporations with just a concept is not the easiest way to start a business. So they looked at other opportunities. They weigh their strengths and considered their prediction for the future, and saw that their path needed to be linked to creative concepts, design and market development. Paul has a background in IT and Martijn in Marketing, so the sky is the limit.
Today Ask Phill collaborates with brands and directs them through the challenging digital environment looking for ways to leverage technology, build brand loyalty, increase revenue and attract new customers.
There are currently six people working at Ask Phill; Paul is responsible for all the development and design and Martijn is the Commercial Director. We talked to Martijn to find out more.
Who is Phill and what’s the story behind the name?
Phill is a young and eager innovator, which aims to create stunning, designed websites, (e-commerce) platforms and (web) apps. We’ve chosen to include “Ask” in the name in order to create an immediate call to action as soon as someone’s sees our name. So if you’re stuck with a design or digital challenge, don’t hesitate, just Ask Phill.
Can you describe your agency in three words?
What is the best way to earn trust from customers?
The best way to earn trust from your customers is to always be open. Be the first to contact the client if there is a question or an issue.
Even if you have to give bad news, bring it straightforward and as soon as possible. By doing so you are able to anticipate much earlier on challenges and secure deadlines.
The other important thing for us, is to be generous with our knowledge. Never hold back in providing information and advice for free. If the client has the feeling that you can help them, and you’re not protective about your knowledge, they will come back to work with you.
Can you give me an example of when you have worked with multiple clients at the same time and how did you managed?
We work with multiple clients and projects all the time. It’s important to structure what is need to be done and by when.
You also have to make sure everything is documented in the project management software you’re using. We use a mix of Trello (to keep track of our “to do” lists), Slack (for internal comms and to communicate with the project manager of our client) and face-to-face meetings to keep the personal touch.
Can you share an example where you have had to resolve an issue between a creative team and a client? What did you do?
We’ve once had a project where we created a design for a new application, which took us quite some time. We had weekly feedback sessions and were working toward closure of the project by the end of the eighth week. The day we were hoping to sign-off the project, our client turn around and said that the final design was not what they expected and they were not happy.
Since we only want to have happy customers, we decided to redo the whole design and at no extra charge. Even though the client had eight weeks to provide feedback and waited until the very last day.
We believe it’s more important to have happy customers, even if it means us working extra hours.
How do you motivate other members of the team to achieve more?
The best motivators are: a good working environment; give due recognition to people for the work they do and be open so that everyone can provide their input along the whole project.
How do you ensure you and your team delivers or exceeds customers’ expectations?
Under promise, over deliver.
What is the communication style within your team? Do you use any apps or tools?
Our communication style is open, a mix of face-2-face, Slack and Email.
Name a challenge your team is currently facing
As a new digital agency, we are currently doing smaller projects (under E20K). We are now ready to take on bigger projects, which have a longer throughput time. So our challenge is currently to get into the larger tender projects.
What piece of advice would you give a recent grad looking to work in digital marketing?
Learn to code, understand what the newest technologies are about and make sure you know how to run a project from a management standpoint.
Are there online publications, professionals, industry leaders you follow?
I am a big fan of podcasts, especially Jon Nastor from Hack The Entrepreneurs, this is a general podcast which zooms in on businesses of different entrepreneurs active in different industries. Besides that, I enjoy reading articles on Techcrunch and browsing Linkedin.
Please list a few of your favourite digital brands:
Good e-commerce brands from the Netherlands: Parfumado.com, Bloomon and Coolblue.
What do you like doing in your free time?
Cooking, producing house music and going to food and music festivals.
By Geny Caloisi.
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