Women in business

Women in Business - Interview: Victoria Searl of Datahawks

8 Jul 2019

We spoke to one of our long-standing clients and previous candidate, Victoria Searle, about going it alone and launching her hospitality marketing data consultancy "Datahawks" and what she has learnt throughout her marketing career. 

How long have you worked in Marketing? 

12 years as a ‘pure' marketer, but my previous operational roles involved the implementation of national campaigns and lots of relentless local marketing!

How did you start your career? And which brands have you worked for? 

I’d found a niche opening bars and restaurants for independent clients and realised I’d been developing brands & concepts, and their marketing strategies without even thinking about it. Once I’d decided to focus on marketing my first client was The Restaurant Group, heading up a project to drive footfall and loyalty into their airport concessions. I was then suggested for an interim role at Casual Dining Group, which led to a perm appointment as Marketing Director looking after their Cafe Rouge & Belgo brands. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to work for some amazing brands including TGI Fridays, All Star Lanes & most recently Byron.

Tell us a bit more about We Are Data Hawks - what made you want to start your own business? 

I was frustrated at the subjectivity, gut instinct (and on occasion ego!) driving marketing within hospitality and I wanted to revitalise the industry with some different thinking. For me, using data offers certainty in what are proving to be very uncertain times. I’m also conscious that I do not represent the target demographic of many of the brands I’ve worked for, and I wanted to trust the opinions and behaviours of the people I’m marketing to rather than my own, probably not very relevant views! 

Do you feel that a lot of businesses still don't utilise data effectively enough - particularly within marketing? 

I’d go further and say lots of businesses still aren’t even aware of the sheer amount of incredibly useful data they have available to them, and teams are often lacking the resource and understanding to make sense of it when they do. It’s also going to require a real cultural shift to not default to finding the data which supports a subjective decision rather than letting the data inform the decision in the first place

a barrier to the use of data is that it can sometimes feel overwhelming and it is difficult to know where to start - what are your key tips to making a start with utilising your data more effectively? 

It’s really natural to feel overwhelmed when thinking about data especially as it’s often perceived as being so complicated! I’d encourage anyone starting their data journey to start small; have a look at the tech partners you already work with such as CRM, wifi etc, and see what they are generating. Then pull it all together to form a clear picture. But the best piece of advice I can offer is to call ME! 

What are some of the best or most powerful uses of data that you have seen? 

The Tesco Clubcard (created by Edwina Dunn & Clive Humby) revolutionised how transactional data was used, and helped Tesco outperform its competitors.  And the second-best example would have to be how We Are Data Hawks (if I don't say so myself!) recently used data to re-define a clients restaurant’s offer, which has already led to a significant increase in sales, profit and even digital engagement.

What advice would you give your 21-year-old self from a career perspective? 

As a woman often working in very male environments I’d say, don’t allow yourself to be silenced or dismissed, don’t wait until you are 100% ready before taking the next step and don’t be shy in pushing yourself forward. And that even the people you think are incredible and totally on it, worry about the same things as you.

How has marketing changed during your career? 

The short-term thinking of many Private Equity houses has been hugely responsible for discount culture, taking the focus off-brand to the detriment of many hospitality & retail brands. And technology is driving a pace of change previously unseen in marketing. 

We often hear that the high street is dying - what do you think the future holds for the hospitality sector? 

The government has to make radical changes to massive operating costs like business rates to make running a hospitality business viable. Assuming that the government do the right thing, there is absolutely a future for hospitality. For restaurants particularly, people will always want to eat and drink and they will always need spaces to do it together. The operators who can consistently offer an experience worth leaving our homes for will win. However, I suspect the age of the big restaurant group, operating huge bricks & mortar sites with investment levels that mean little change in environment or experience for years at a time, is over. 

How did you first come across Stopgap and what has your experience been like with us?

I interviewed with you for a Marketing Director role several years ago and was really impressed by the way you got to know me. You’ve also supported me with interim team members since, and it’s clear you have a genuine commitment to the people you represent and businesses you support. I can’t speak highly enough of the candidates you’ve introduced me to! 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in hospitality marketing? 

Hospitality is an incredible world to be a part of, there’s really nothing like it. I really feel like it’s crying out to be shaken up, and I’d encourage anyone coming into hospitality to not to be afraid of suggesting ideas and approaches that challenge the status quo. 

We Are Data Hawks, organises, analyses & optimises your data, turning into sales-driving strategy. Find out more at www.wearedatahawks.com

And if you are looking for your next marketing move, register with us now. Or if you are looking to expand your marketing team - brief us today! 

I'd say lots of businesses still aren’t even aware of the sheer amount of incredibly useful data they have available to them
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