We talked to Mark Taylor on how eSales Hub is helping marketing managers and business owners generate higher converting sales and here is what he said.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mark Taylor: Thank you for asking. I’ve got two children and a wife, so lockdown and the covid-19 has enabled us to spend more time together as I haven’t been travelling as much as I normally do during the week. My only concern is my daughter’s education. She’s 14 and had so much time off from school with education almost coming to a standstill for many months. Its a really important two years with her GSCE’s so came and worked for us as an intern for three months to ensure she didn’t just waste time off school she had.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or eSales Hub.
Mark Taylor: eSales Hub was founded 7-years ago. I was marketing director of Hilton Hotels, then at Virgin and then got into Private Equity, spiking sales using my online skills to support the successful sale of several businesses. I’d always worked at service-based companies, so the phone was always the major source of business and tracking the sales from online clicks to offline sales was a nightmare. I went on the Marketing Forum in 2013 (it’s an event that’s on a ship for 3 days where you meet marketing suppliers in 40 x 30-minute meetings). It was at this event I decided to leave my job and set-up eSales Hub. I was first off the boat on that Saturday morning, ran to my car, drove to the Newbury Services Mcdonalds, ordered breakfast and told my wife I was going to leave my job. I think she thought I was mad but has supported me so much over the last 7 years. I must admit going from working in a company with over 500 employees to starting eSales Hub in a spare bedroom was a shock.
We started as a consultancy to where I’d drop into companies to help them drive their sales online, but I quickly spotted a gap in the market to provide a lead generation service for service-based business – driving sales from online through the phone. But the problem was tracking those sales and being able to work out the value of the leads we generated. As part of Google’s European Accelerator programme, we started to explore the idea of generating our own phone tracking system that could work out what had happened on the call, without the client having to tell us, so we could generate our own conversion data from the call to optimise clients campaigns. This led us to develop our own artificial intelligence-powered call analytics platform that was a real game-changer for us. In real-time, we use AI to determine the outcome of the call. Not only whether it was a sales or customer service lead, but we can also categorise the call so it can be mapped to a client customer service outcomes or sales funnel. Today, British Gas, Europcar, RED Driving School and over 250 other companies use our platform the determine if a call hs resulted in a quote, booking or sale, or if the customer was registering a complaint, they’d had a broken promise or were indeed leaving good feedback.
I’m not always great at looking back, but I do have a sense of pride when I look back 7 years from that Saturday morning at Newbury Services and now see a profitable software company with 15 employees in 3 European countries with over 250 clients.
How does eSales Hub innovate?
Mark Taylor: We are all about solving problems with innovative solutions. Tracking sales, not just calls, from online clicks through sales calls isn’t easy. That’s what led us down the AI route as it was the only way we could gather data reliably from each call.
As we offer a managed service to our clients as well as a use-it-yourself platform license offering, we use our own analytics platform every day to drive leads and sales for some of our clients. This gives us a unique insight into the problems and challenges marketing professionals, eBusiness Directors and Company Owners have in generating more sales from online by bridging the data gap that online clicks to offline sales can generate. We also get feedback every day from our clients – my view is the more you communicate with your clients, the higher the retention will be (we currently operate at 98% retention rate). So we have a lot of feedback channels that drive our innovation.
I’m also lucky that we have a great CTO who puts innovation at the centre of everything we do. We’ve just started R&D Fridays – every Friday the engineering team have an R&D day to give them the time to think through solutions and come up with innovative solutions for our clients.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mark Taylor: It affected us in two ways, both positive and negative.
Positive in that it gave time to pour CTO and myself to spend some quality thought time thinking about where we wanted to take the company from a technology stand-point. We came out a lot stronger from the first lockdown as we were able to improve the accuracy of our AI model up to 97% with some pretty big technology developments that we were able to bring forward because of the lockdown. We also switched our sales efforts to now being fully telesales led. This has offered considerable cost savings on our previous sales model, but I do think meetings and events will come back next year as I think people are Zoom’d out.
The negative side was the initial impact to our revenue, although it feels like it was more like a delay in revenue than a switch off. Our 2020 accounts have still seen us grow considerably both at a revenue and EBITDA level.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mark Taylor: Yes – we had to furlough some of our staff, which was really hard. The uncertainty that putting people on furlough created took some managing, but after the first lockdown all our staff came back, and we even ended up hiring more staff as we’ve grown so much over the last few months.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Mark Taylor: By talking to my wife and finding a hobby that took me away from the business so I could have a break, create a time for me to think. Not being able to go on holiday and recharge, which was may way before of giving myself a break, meant I had to find a way to recharge over a shorter period more frequently. I took up go-kart racing which I used to do in my 20’s, but it’s my chance to get away from it all one weekend a month and not think about work – just think about how to go faster!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mark Taylor: We have a range of competitors from phone tracking platform to lead generation companies. As we use our platform ourselves on behalf of our customer through our managed service, we stay ahead by constantly innovating off the back of the feedback we generate along with the feedback we constantly get from our client communication strategy. I never want to offer what the competition has, I always want to be better and one step ahead.
Your final thoughts?
Mark Taylor: Whenever I’ve been faced with a challenge I always like to meet it head-on, learn from it and comer out stronger. Covid-29 and the two lockdowns in the UK so far really have been the biggest challenge I have faced as a business owner. But we’ve come out stronger, both from an innovative technology point of view and financially. This is down to the great team of colleagues. I have a brilliant platform we’ve developed and great client support.
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