Charlotte Pearce, founder of Inkpact tells us about building memorable customer journeys for businesses.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Charlotte Pearce: Thanks for asking. We’re good, thanks, in fact, we even have a new member of our family coming in June. A little boy, so we’re very happy. It’s been a rollercoaster year, but I also can’t help but be grateful for time spent at home with my family and being healthy. I feel very lucky to be running a company that is thriving right now!
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Inkpact.
Charlotte Pearce: Well, I’ve always run businesses since I was 14, selling makeup online, then a lemonade stand (I know how cliché), but really it all started because of a toilet, well, kind of. I was running a social enterprise organization with many businesses, from solar lamps to eco-toilets, to ex-military projects. I suddenly found myself running a team of 150 people at 19, we worked with 30,000 people across the world, and to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing, so I worked with a group of coaches. It was in one meeting with them, talking about marketing and how email just didn’t cut it anymore, that Inkpact was born!
The coaching company wanted to send handwritten letters but didn’t have time or handwriting, and I was working with tens of thousands of people who wanted an income. I decided to match the two and see what happened. The result – some of the best marketing stats we’d ever seen, 33% conversion rates, 100% open rates. So, they said I’d be onto a winner if I scaled it – and here we are.
Fast forward 5 years, and now Inkpact works with some huge brands like Facebook, Gymshark, Tiffany, BewDog, Sweaty Betty, John Lewis, and many more. We trigger handwritten notes across the CRM journey to bring human touch into a digital world, thank customers, and increase customer spend and lifetime value. The BEST bit is we now have 700 scribes across the world who earn an income at home through handwriting. Our Scribe Tribe is made up of single mothers, those recovering from illness, out of work, cause of COVID, and much more.
How does Inkpact innovate?
Charlotte Pearce: We let our team lead our innovation. We’re super flat. Anyone can suggest strategies and ideas, and we encourage everyone to chip into the bigger picture. We also get led by the world, in particular social and environmental issues. We are very proud of our focus on sustainability but also on our human social work – we want to be led and continue to innovate in this area. We also have a great CTO and my co-founder Andrew who is a genius at tech innovator. We are the only company in the world that can send genuinely handwritten notes, hundreds of thousands a month, and that’s down to our innovative tech and ops. And lastly, our clients, we LOVE our brands and talking to them. Most of the time, they are also great innovators, so we make a great team. To lead and innovate, we believe it takes listening, quick reactions, and a core mission.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Charlotte Pearce: When COVID first hit, I didn’t know what to think of where we were going to go. At the time, we were in the middle of swapping our pricing model, and most of our long-term clients were B2B. With offices closed we couldn’t send our letters there anymore – we lost 90% of our revenue overnight. But it’s not as bleak as it sounds. Whilst we were figuring out a new strategy to adapt, our writers wrote over 2000 letters to people isolated and healthcare heroes – it was magical. In the background, we worked with our B2C companies, helping them make their online journey more human. After that, it was a bit of a lightbulb moment. This is what we were made for, and this is where we made the biggest impact.
We were set up operationally to work in a pandemic (who knew). Our writers all work from home, and our tech works across the world. Suddenly, the world needed human connection more than ever, and e-commerce brands needed a way to show they cared, connect with customers, and get customers shopping online. Enter us, and so since then, we’ve grown faster than ever before. We specialize in B2C and D2C brands, helping them make that customer journey more engaging, human, and memorable. We have crazy stats to prove it already and lots more coming. Last year we put hundreds of thousands of pounds into the hands of our scribes across the UK and the US, giving them an income from writing. At such a difficult time in the world, the fact we can fund families who couldn’t get out to work, add extra income to those on furlough, and support those going through tough times means the world.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Charlotte Pearce: Yes, to begin with, we had to make some hard decisions whilst we focused on the direction we could take. Also, the year before COVID, we switched our business model and had made large changes to our team and business as we “grew” up and figured out our market. We were just in growth mode when COVID hit, so we were cautious, but as soon as we gained momentum again, we were able to take people off furlough and start growing. The biggest lessons we learned were always staying open-minded, keeping communication open through everyone, and hiding nothing. We can get through anything with the right attitude, good decision-making, and communication.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Charlotte Pearce: We love working with our clients and getting to know them, so at first, face-to-face meetings were really missed. I love taking clients for a coffee, a cocktail, and a natter. However, now we speak to them way more regularly than we did before. Zoom is just efficient. No travel time, and after a bit of practice, you can still make the human connection as real as before. We use teams, zoom and try to keep things simple yet memorable.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Charlotte Pearce: We benefitted from a bounce-back loan whilst we focused in on our retail customers and the furlough scheme at the beginning. It was a valued lifeline whilst we increased revenues!
Your final thoughts?
Charlotte Pearce: If I think about the last year, it’s been tough, really tough at times, and running a business is tough anyway. However, I am so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. I’m grateful for more time with my family, I’m grateful for my team being so amazing, our clients backing us, our scribes for being the heart of what we do – but most of all, I’m incredibly proud of how we took what could have been a horrible situation and turned it around into a now-thriving business. It was a team effort and has made me and the team really value what we do for brands and the scribes we work with. The fact we got all those lessons, reflections and gave hundreds of thousands of pounds of income to people who need it most leaves me completely humbled.