Social media is seen as a risk to people in tall shiny buildings. They are secure, locked down, corporate enterprises where Facebook and LinkedIn are banned. They just don't get it. We give them the security of dipping their toe into social media, taking a look at what their customers, potential customers and rivals are saying about them, without having to remove their Firewall. For my customers in the big banks, some of whom might only just have got their first BlackBerry, this is a much more comforting route.
HSBC currently track 1,000 customers through us and we filter through 5.6 million articles and 500,000 social media sources to bring them results. If there's a single mention by a customer, we pick it up - and the context. Last week, we found out that a customer we'd been tracking for Santander has signed terms on a new industrial estate. A guy from the bank then called the customer to congratulate him. He was totally stumped: 'The news wasn't public knowledge,' he said. Anyway, Santander secured an £8m facility with the guy in eight days. And with financial organisations like Santander desperate for market share, trying to grow from 3% to 14%, that's not bad going.
We're a decent-sized business now - we raised £2m in VC fundng back in December. So at the moment a lot of my time is spent trying to hire new people. We've just got a new chief marketing officer, which is great. Our website was always more of a brochure than a sales tool, and hopefully that's all about to change. But 'm having more trouble expanding the sales team. I told my VC that we'd have five or six new sales people by the beginning of this month, but it looks like it'll be May before that happens.
Many of the sales people in the technology/software space are, well, average. They are overpaid with a sense of privilege they don't deserve. They think, 'I earn this much money now, so if I come to your company, I want a chunk more,' they don't think, 'Let me join the company, do a good job and be rewarded'. It never ceases to amaze me how spectacularly average these people are.
But, it's very important that through all the ups and downs in a business, you try and show a consistent face to your staff. If you come into the office with the weight of the world on your shoulders, people will read into that. You have to hide the lows and, of almost equal importance, compensate for the highs. That was something I learned when we were raising money last year. It's tough on your staff when you're spending a lot of time in a room with the door closed, with people coming in and out of the office doing due diligence and going through the books. The lesson learned was this: You should never underestimate the impact your mood has on the company.