Optimising your business to deliver on a promise to customers, keeping shareholders happy and finishing the financial year with a solid profit margin is challenging.That’s why so many businesses look to outsourcing some of their tasks. It enables them access to experts for only the time they need them without the hassle of employment contracts and obligations.
To understand how to best go about outsourcing for your business, we caught up with CeBIT media partner and B2B matchmaker from Matchboard Sharon Melamed. In the interview Sharon discusses how she got to where she is and what to watch out for on your outsourcing journey.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career path and Matchboard?
I’m a passionate entrepreneur and devoted mum and wife. In my spare time (what little there is!), I write songs, play chess and surf the Net in 5 languages (I speak Japanese, Hebrew, German, French and English).
I founded Matchboard in 2012. It’s a free online platform where you can enter your needs for a business service – let’s say a call centre service, or a digital marketing service – and, presto, get connected with suppliers who meet those needs. It’s been a huge success with 2000 clients.
Before launching Matchboard, I spent 20 years in high-flying corporate sales roles which took me from Sydney to San Francisco and New York, then to Tokyo, Tel Aviv and now back home.
The decision to switch from big corporate to start-up was an easy one for me – for health, family and financial reasons. It has proven extremely rewarding in every sense.
The media has dubbed me “The Matchmaker” because every day I’m overseeing matchmaking between companies and suppliers on our platform. The part I love most is when our suppliers say, “we just won that deal you matched us with” – companies that never would have found each other if it wasn’t for our service.
It’s very gratifying. As buyers and suppliers enter their information in our platform, and the matching software does 95% of the work involved in linking the two sides together, most of my time is spent on sales and marketing. That includes PR, partnerships, email campaigns, content production to drive SEO, and face time with clients. And about 20% of my time is devoted to our UK business – we launched in the UK last year, off the back of an Australian government grant.
You established Matchboard in 2012 with $20k of your own capital. What spurred the idea and drove you to working on Matchboard full time?
The problem I wanted to solve with Matchboard is as follows: the vast majority of people looking for new suppliers for their business go online and enter a few keywords on Google. They are then confronted with hundreds of thousands of search results.
The companies listed on page 1 are often just the ones with the best SEO consultants - yet sometimes not relevant OR reputable. Matchboard solves this problem by asking people up to 10 filtering questions, creating a shortlist of between 1 and 5 “best matches” – in terms of service, budget, location, industry expertise, timeline, customer ratings and other criteria. Our matching platform, which is free to use, helps businesses save valuable time and reduces risk, as we vet all suppliers in our ecosystem in advance.
I felt so passionately that Matchboard would be a great idea for people, it was a no-brainer to invest my own savings into starting it.
Since 2012, have you seen a positive shift in the attitudes of fellow MD’s toward outsourcing? If yes, what do you think has impacted or caused this shift?
Matchboard specialises in the supply chain around the customer – all the solutions and services you need to acquire, retain, support, understand and delight your customers. Outsourcing happens to be our biggest category, so we’ve certainly been privy to trends in the way business leaders are using it.
What we see is that the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is at a turning point – automation of back office and contact centre processes is rising steadily, eating into the BPO vendors’ bread-and-butter; and client focus on customer experience outcomes is causing a rethink in location strategy. Against this backdrop, countries such as Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand are challenging the historical bastions of BPO, India and the Philippines, for a slice of the Australian market.
While many big companies are mature in their outsourcing, the last few years has seen an increase in confidence levels amongst Australian SMEs in taking the leap offshore. This has been aided by the rise in the number of vendors, particularly in the Philippines, catering to this end of the market.
What are the major benefits businesses experience when they use Matchboard and begin to outsource?
If a business is looking to outsource, the benefits of going through Matchboard are that:
- we are independent
- we offer free value-added advice in relation to which locations are most suitable for a particular business need, and
- finally, and very importantly, we only recommend suppliers that have been highly rated by clients, thus reducing the risk.
The benefits of outsourcing in general include:
- lower cost to serve
- in turn releases funds to reinvest in technology to improve the customer experience
- access to specialised skillsets (which may be in short supply in Australia)
- flexibility to ride peaks and troughs
- dipping into a best practice operational environment.
Do you have any tips for a business who is looking to outsource, but get overwhelmed at the thought of having to explain what they need to a contractor?
A good third party outsourcer will help guide clients along the way, and if you’re not getting that sense of guidance from the first conversation, that’s not a good sign.
I would caution not to underestimate the work involved in making a partnership with an outsourcer work. You can’t just say here are the manuals and off you go. Ideally you should visit the operation before you select your partner, but if that is not possible, then definitely invest in a trip there to train staff in your product, brand values and culture. Another option is to bring the partner to Australia.
I can recommend a series of free white papers on our website about problems Australian business leaders face when offshoring, and how to address them.
Is there anything else you think we should know about Matchboard and how it’s helping to improve SMB?
Matchboard also offers businesses a free tool called the Call Centre Audio Map – you can register and listen to call samples from countries like the Philippines, Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand. This will give you an idea of what it will sound like if you offshore your customer service or sales to a particular country.
And I’m personally open to assisting any SMB out there who’s outsourcing for the first time and wants some friendly advice.
What are you hoping to get out of CeBIT Australia 2017?
I can’t wait for the Startup Pitchfest, the networking opportunities, and learning about all sorts of new technologies and solutions which Matchboard clients will benefit from!
If you want to learn about more products that will change the way you do business, join us at CeBIT Australia 2017. You’ll have access to 350+ exhibitors, 8 conferences with 170 thought leaders, 6 strategic panels and so many networking opportunities. Get your pass today.