What should organisations be doing to improve customer acquisition?
Most organisations like ours need to work harder at market segmentation to improve customer acquisition. We need to look closely at the buyer journey, and the information people are consuming, to better understand their needs in order to position the right service. We then need to make sure we’re communicating relevant messages according to the sector and workplace that they are in.
To what extent can you rely on digital for customer acquisition?
Increasingly we’re seeing millennials and people younger than millennials want to buy goods and services digitally, without engaging with another person. That's really what we're talking about today. The key enabler in that space is a website where the consumer journey matches the expectations of the buyers, or those in the buying team, so that they find it easy to find the services they want, at the price they want to pay.
However, we’re bidding for high value, multi-year contracts that are complex ecosystems, so this is a specialised and detail-driven selling proposition. Yes, I think it will become increasingly digital, but there will be some big challenges. You can give a fantastic customer journey but if the customer doesn’t trust you to deliver these large complex ecosystems of services then that’s a problem. On the other hand, how do you validate clients without being intrusive, and also without potentially giving competitors a very detailed outline of what you offer?
What we’re planning for is an interim approach – parts of the journey will become more digital, perhaps at the front end, while I think it will still be some time before a potential client will want to give enough detail about themselves to be able to buy a fully integrated service digitally. You need to have a human point of contact to build that trust.
You can give a fantastic customer journey but if the customer doesn’t trust you to deliver these large complex ecosystems of services then that’s a problem.
You don’t have to do a lot before you learn which social platform works and which doesn't. It’s instant.
How important is it for your organisation to track buyers’ digital activity, before proactively trying to market or sell to them over the phone?
It’s very important. When you set out on a campaign, the question is, are the buyers engaged enough with you that they will open an email? Do they believe you’re an authority on the subject? How many buyers would know which companies are an authority to an extent that would make them want to engage?
Besides using email marketing stats to prioritise follow-ups, we invest in brand-building and engagement tracking through paid media. There are real question marks now around trade media because everyone’s working from home, and are they really sitting around reading The Caterer at 6pm? Paid media offers an alternative and can be a really useful marketing channel when executed well.
We also work with companies that use scraping technology to tell you what people with our target roles are consuming. We utilise that technology along with some trial and error. You don’t have to do a lot before you learn which social platform works and which doesn't. It’s instant.
How do you see the balance of digital marketing versus telemarketing changing over time?
I think that the buyer experience will be increasingly oriented towards a technology-enabled environment. At the moment, we are largely skewed towards human engagement, in terms of how we sell, because that's how we've been effective.
We believe that over the next three to five years we will see prospect sentiment shift to be more on-demand & digital. Although the last two years have been a reminder that the shift to new technologies and ways of working often evolve in bursts, not a linear evolution. Therefore our learning is that we need to be expert at current, effective selling methodologies, but have the strategy and roadmap for new selling models in progress, to be responsive to our client needs.
We need to be expert at current, effective selling methodologies, but have the strategy and roadmap for new selling models in progress, to be responsive to our client needs.
We’re ensuring that what we offer, and how we offer it, will meet their expectations.
What techniques do you currently use to select your target audience?
We deeply understand the types of clients and services we serve exceptionally well now and therefore where our competencies and growth opportunities should be focused for our sales pipeline. That tends to be the springboard for who we choose to target in future. It’s not to say we don’t target other sectors, but we recognise demonstrated success in approaching similar sectors. The UK and Ireland services market is large, meaning there is a lot of headroom to grow into sectors.
We also use a wide variety of research from people like Forrester, Garner and IDC to understand the needs of specific sectors. So we’re ensuring that what we offer, and how we offer it, will meet their expectations.
In the UK and Ireland, Sodexo employs around 29,000 people and partners with clients across many sectors, including business and industry, schools and universities, sports and leisure, energy and resources, government and agencies, healthcare, justice and defence. Corporate Services provides services designed around creating a Vital Spaces ecosystem which is experientially-designed, data-led and technology enabled.