Graig Upton of iCONQUER and his team develop a new ‘video chat’ request platform that allows their customers to schedule face-to-face communication
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Graig Upton: Thankfully, all has gone very well. Work, as usual, having access to the likes of Zoom and Teams has been advantageous.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded iCONQUER.
Graig Upton: Exmiliary disciplines, field sales, and telesales in competitive environments have been good experiences to provide a solid grounding for a new company launch.
I used to be ‘top of the class’ and only realized late that I am quite good at this game, so I decided to take the risk and do my own thing. Best decision I ever made…scary responsibility but truly exciting times!
Setup the company in 2004, having managed sales teams for a number of years prior to that, so understood the challenge.
How does iCONQUER innovate?
Graig Upton: We have good knowledge within the SEO arena with members of staff specializing in organic search, website development, graphic design, PPC management, social media management, email management). Our knowledge allows us to offer tailored and cost-effective digital marketing solutions.
We have recently developed a new ‘video chat’ request platform allowing our customers to schedule face-to-face communication despite not being physically able to meet in person. The video chat has been a key factor in retaining good relations and communications with our clients.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Graig Upton: A few of our clients were unable to trade or work. An example is one of our clients offered ‘driving lessons’ and could not work. We had to pause a few SEO campaigns until the lockdown restrictions eased up. Thankfully we have a loyal client base and made compromises that suited both our clients and us financially. The government furlough scheme helped secure employment for our staff and expand our workforce as we shift into the graphic design and video space. We have had to take on more staff during lockdown due to the extra service demands gaining more exposure on Google for our clients.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Graig Upton: We had to initially furlough a few members of staff and work out a way in which the company could still operate with the management team that remained in full-time employment as usual. This involved a lot of people taking on more tasks than before and having to undertake their own training to do so. Since the flexible furlough kicked in, this has helped us manage the workload and rota for staff on a sensible basis in regards to the work time required in the office. Having the technology nowadays, we are on hand to support clients 24 hours a day. No bridge too far!
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Graig Upton: We have managed to retain most clients by compromising financially and still doing the works needed while the pandemic causes restrictions. We have faith that accommodating our clients now will reflect on us in the longer term once there is normality restored. Many clients openly communicated we were one of the only service providers in their chain to make such a gesture which hopefully installs the trust and loyalty to us going forwards. We are friendly with our clients as we boast having long-term relationships, some as long as 17 years!
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Graig Upton: Yes, the support has allowed us to ensure security for our staff long term. The UK government has been amazing in the financial support they have provided many of our clients as well.
Your final thoughts?
Graig Upton: We have experienced mental health challenges with isolation and lifestyle changes. We found ways to ease the burden through exercise and discussions on how we felt regarding the adjustments. The communication has increased the bond between our team members even more now, and I am grateful to be part of a great loyal team.