Tracey Shirtcliff, founder & CEO at Scope tells us how agencies & advertisers are using it to better manage, price & track their scopes of work & budget.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tracey Shirtcliff: It’s been challenging. In the beginning, like everyone, it was mostly a bit of a shock and a little scary. We had to adapt quickly, like most businesses, to working online; this was the easiest bit. As a business, we had already been engaging with support online, and our product is an online SaaS tool, but we moved to sales and everything else all online. The challenge has been more mental and juggling the life-work balance, with homeschooling and being a single mom with a 10-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl. But we are working at making it work for us daily. Online schooling has gotten easier, and the team is now enjoying being more flexible and patient. We talk a lot on zoom and chat.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Scope.
Tracey Shirtcliff: I started my journey in marketing technology back when digital was called ‘electronic.’ I was the head of Electronic Marketing for Forte Hotels. Some years later, I launched an electronic person-to-person (P2P) payment application for NatWest and, in the intervening years, I founded and ran my own content and web agency. The Virtu Group was born out of the success of my first software business, Sohnar, which I sold to a large global software solutions provider in 2015. I saw that project management was well catered for, but the management of pricing and budgets — not so. It was an epiphany that I simply couldn’t stop having.
How does Scope innovate?
Tracey Shirtcliff: Broadly speaking, we innovate in three different ways. Disruptive innovation is probably what most people would associate with our brand as we focus on developing tech that solves problems in a very different way from anything existing in the market. However, we also innovate by evolving our existing technology to add value to our customers and by applying our learning and technology to different markets facing the same issues. Doing what you do manually – but better and smarter for speed and clarity.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Tracey Shirtcliff: It’s been tough, and I expect it to be so for some time to come. While the pandemic pushed forward decision-making, for others, it slowed enormously. Some prospective customers had budgets frozen for a time, so there were hiccups in the sales pipeline, and we had to adjust our financial forecasts. We have seen the pricing debate – thankfully – heat up. So the clarity of scoping is more important and being able to really manage budgets and outputs for marketing as every brand in the world’s requirements changed overnight.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Tracey Shirtcliff: Yes, some really hard choices had to be made, and still are. The effects of the pandemic are going to continue to affect business for a long time yet. For example, back in March-20, when decided to move the team to a 4-day week. It was a precautionary measure but preserving the team is key. We also changed the mix of resources to scale up the sales department, and we’re all about learning into the situation rather than recoiling. And finally, we have focused on diversifying from simply agencies, working with brands to develop taxonomies and opening up to media and other sectors. We are learning a lot. Anyone who sells time and people should be using SCOPE.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Tracey Shirtcliff: We were already online. Zendesk, teams, zoom, Jira, this is how we operated before. But it just meant we didn’t have any in-person client meetings — like all of us, we lost the personal interaction. It works, and the upside is that now it’s the new norm for us.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Tracey Shirtcliff: We opted to take the government business bounce-back loan, which we took in May when we were unsure how it would directly affect us. We’ve not needed it, but it was great to have the backup if we did.
Your final thoughts?
Tracey Shirtcliff: This will change the shape of business. Businesses need to be nimble, responsive, and real-time. It’s acceptable to buy smart business automation software from a company you have never met in person. That’s a benefit for our global plans; even though we cover the US, Asia, and Europe, it certainly makes the globe feel more accessible.
Finally, people really do believe that technology can and will solve the current business challenges to add value.
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