My big idea: SenseCheck - the marketing advice platform

Roger Jackson, founder of “phone a friend” marketing platform, SenseCheck, on how he saves firms from unnecessary marketing failures
BizAge Interview Team
Roger Jackson

Hi Roger! Tell us about your background and how you began your entrepreneurial journey 

I had the classic ‘big company’ career start in Unilever, then United Biscuits and Kraft Foods, learning marketing in consumer goods. 

Having gotten involved in the way these companies need to strategise in partnership with retailers, this became my passion. It led to the launch of my first consulting business, before a move to Australia and finally the creation of my data and insights company, Shopper Intelligence.

Shopper Intelligence provides a unique source of data to CPG firms and supermarket retailers. I have worked on this business to take it from inception to success in 12 countries.

It was this experience that drove the idea for SenseCheck, which aims to solve a problem for SMEs I experienced first-hand.

What led you to launch your own venture after enjoying such a successful corporate career? 

I was driven by ideas. I wanted to be able to convert my ideas into reality, free of the constraints of the corporate machine. 

I guess I also realised that my personality suited independence more than the necessary restrictions of the big company. I love the sense of ownership and accountability – outcomes are down to me.

What were the key lessons you took from this first enterprise? 

It taught me so many lessons, but top of the list would be making wise choices on how to spend money, recruiting good people, and giving them room to work freely, focusing on clients and their needs.

I also learned how difficult and risky the journey is and just how many moments there are when choices lead to success or failure, and the outcome can’t be known for sure.

Tell us more about the SenseCheck platform, and the lightbulb moment that led up to it

Perhaps the lightbulb moment was the result of years of first hand experience as an entrepreneur labelled a “marketer”, and a growing awareness of just how difficult marketing is. 

When you spend your own cash and agonise about every choice, it makes you realise how risky and uncertain this crucial investment is. 

Although my profession is in market research, one becomes more aware over time of research limitations and how hard it is to do research well in a small business setting.

Why do you believe so many marketing campaigns fail?

Marketing can fail for many reasons. Some are strategic – lack of understanding of the customer, lack of clear thinking and single-minded focus. But many are tactical –poor execution using ineffective creative ideas and bad messaging. And of course, often it’s both. 

Even marketing that is deemed “successful” may be doing far less well than it could.

Why is an outside perspective so powerful in helping businesses maximise their marketing?

This I feel is a central issue and it impacts us all. 

We are immersed in our business, living and breathing our product day in, day out. This means our brain accumulates a huge amount of subconscious “understanding” which, in turn, impacts the way we see new things. 

The net result is we “can’t read the label from inside the jar” – a massive limitation when we are trying to create and judge marketing ideas targeting the outsider who lacks any of this knowledge.

What advice would you give to a small business owner struggling to gain traction with their campaigns?

Marketing is really important and can be a game changer to your growth, but it’s really tough to get right, particularly with very limited resources. 

The one thing you can do to reduce risk is get an external second opinion. There is no need to put out marketing that only you have reviewed and checked, from the viewpoint trapped in your own “bubble”. 

Perhaps you can only afford a fairly junior marketer on the team, who may lack the experience you really want. Here, an outside opinion on your campaigns can be invaluable.

What is your forecast for SenseCheck and what are your plans for the next 5 years?

I am excited that there are few options available for the thousands of small businesses out there when it comes to gaining valuable feedback on their marketing. 

Consultants and agencies will ask for big budgets, market research can be time consuming, costly and, frankly, almost impossible in B2B. It’s certainly not something that can be done often. 

SenseCheck is offering a solution to many, many businesses. And let’s realise that small businesses are the backbone of the economy, so it’s great to be working on something that could have a serious positive impact for them. 

I can’t say right now how big SenseCheck could be, but we have the potential to help thousands of businesses see improvements to their marketing outcomes month in, month out.

Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

Honestly, I’d have gotten more second opinions more often and earlier – even for SenseCheck. 

I never cease to be amazed that, even now, my own marketing thinking is harmed by my belief and enthusiasm for the SenseCheck idea!

What advice would you give to any budding entrepreneur looking to start their own business journey?

Think more. Test more. Spend less – until you are sure you have got it “right”.

Written by
BizAge Interview Team
January 18, 2024
Written by
January 18, 2024