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Mark Shraga – Southern Communications

Being ready to reach back is the most important thing to the customer and it’s a steep learning curve. It’s about driving more engagement and receiving information in return.

What role do you think human beings will play in an increasingly digital buyer journey?

There’s an entire book on this by Daniel Pink but essentially people buy based on emotion. And no matter what, you can’t automate emotion out of the buying process, you have to have someone who can care about that. I’m seeing evermore examples of how the audience’s attention is going where the emotional is going.

You need a human being to tune into that, to decide how to prioritise. That leads us to how do you stimulate that attention? How do you grow and mature it? The role of humans in this engagement is symbiotic, because you’re always dealing with another human being. Every time you outsource that, you’re falling into the trap of thinking about the map, not the territory.

As a marketing leader, what does a digital mindset mean to you? And what can you do to encourage and assist with that change?

A digital mindset means that we are enhancing our readiness to engage, but also – here’s the fantastic thing – you have a double-edged sword of total responsibility for the quality of any asset you present. If it’s a digital asset and it’s not good enough, that is entirely your fault. Because you control every pixel and how it’s positioned and how to present it to the audience. On the other hand, it’s like having access to a fantastic paint palette with all these tools and colours and options. You can find new levels of excellence, or you can see it as overwhelming.

Being ready to reach back is the most important thing to the customer and it’s a steep learning curve. It’s about driving more engagement and receiving information in return – maybe it’s sending a survey and then asking the user to complete one more question.

Reaching back can also mean having a presence on the website – the customer clicks and searches for a term with three words. Maybe you have a box that says, “I noticed you looked at X, would you like to chat to one of our team about this?” It’s stimulating the audience but not going too far and over-stimulating them.

The easier you make it for someone to buy from you, the more that they will buy from you. The secret is finding out what they think makes it easier.

We’re looking at taking on digital routes to market and increasing the quality of engagement by using digital to support and top up telemarketing.

How do you see the balance between digital marketing and telemarketing changing?

During the pandemic, we reduced our sales headcount by around 30%, which was a lot of people, and we’re still not through the pandemic. But we had a lot of movement across the workforce and part of that has been increasing the shift to digital marketing. Pre-pandemic, it was probably about 5% of our spend and now it’s heading towards 25%.

We are ramping back up to full complement and intend to grow further. We’re looking at taking on digital routes to market and increasing the quality of engagement by using digital to support and top up telemarketing.

We are also consolidating a lot of our presence through direct businesses into a single website and indirect business into another website. This enables us to use platforms like Hubspot, and we’re able to use features like email address engagement or IP address engagement much more effectively.

Could you share an initiative your organisation is currently taking to improve human engagement? And are there any specific barriers to achieving those outcomes that you’re having to overcome?

We’ve launched a CSR programme, which has a few different levels. We believe that if you increase employee engagement, you’ll increase the level of meaningful work, and the more of themselves someone brings to work, the better the customer experience will be.

You might start by looking at your carbon footprint, but we think the biggest print is the people, and that’s where you make an impact. We launched a mental health and wellbeing stream as part of our CSR, and we had 14 people who hadn’t met prior to joining a call. At least four or five of those people communicated far more than ever before, around things that weren’t to do with mental health. Natural pathways are emerging and they’re finding a way to help the business to evolve.

We’ve got a showcase site on LinkedIn called our CSR, which is capturing the stories of case studies and individuals in the business that have looked at becoming and have become mental health first responders.

We believe that if you increase employee engagement, you’ll increase the level of meaningful work, and the more of themselves someone brings to work, the better the customer experience will be.

Southern Communications Group – SCG is a UK-based provider of hosted telephony, voice, data, mobile and security services with more than 50 years’ experience in communications. The company is dedicated to providing the best possible advice and prices for all businesses, from SMEs to corporates and not-for-profit organisations.

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