Interview: Ben Walker from Inspire CA
Mara Roberts interviews Ben Walker from Inspire CA about his innovative approach to marketing and how he did it in just 18 short months.
Mara – Hello everyone, this is Mara Roberts. Today I have the pleasure to introduce to you Ben Walker from Inspire CA. He is a local business owner that has been making waves right here in Brisbane and his marketing approach caught my eye and I know that he will have many marketing tips to share with you.
So, Ben, you started Inspire CA over 18 months ago, tell us a little about your business and how you got to the place of starting your own business.
Ben – All throughout my career, starting at one of the big four accounting firms and then shifting to a smaller firm as well, I saw that this “accounting” thing could be done a lot better, especially for small business owners. I started to see the cloud technology come out and automation tools which could really help the accounting side of the business become easier and not always a hassle. I built InspireCA around bringing really great value to our business clients and a way of making it nice and simple and effective for them.
Mara – Great, so let’s talk marketing. I have had a look at your website and it really looks fantastic and your videos and your blog posts and your email opt-in forms. I know that you are working according to a system can you just explain your system to us so we can unpack how your marketing mechanism works for your business?
Ben – Yes, I guess from the website side point of view, I see the website as a sort of central online real estate and everything else feeds into it. The purpose of the website is firstly to provide and lead generation and also to give content out there and to share our expertise with them which builds credibility but also gives value before the customer has even met with you.
Mara – So how do you get people to sign up to your email list?
Ben – There are a couple of things we’ve got on the website, we have given away free e-books and we also have a 5 part video series as well, it sends out emails on a certain topic.
Mara – We are meeting at the Inspire Café which is a café which you have recently launched. It’s really a hub for business owners to get together and network and use the local business facilities. Please explain this idea, I haven’t seen an accounting firm with a café of their own and I think it is a brilliant idea. Will you please explain your thinking behind that?
Ben – So about a year ago now I was having a chat to a mentor Paul Dunn, he is based in Singapore, so it was over Skype. I was looking for some more space because in four months we have grown to four people and we needed an office to move into. I put forward two or three different options and when Paul came back to me he said “Oh I really think the accountant’s office as typically boring! What if you put a café in the middle of your office?” and I thought about it for a moment and I thought that was a really odd thing to say Paul are you having a joke? After I thought about it for a little bit longer I thought he was onto something here so then we put together the plans to create Inspire Café.
Mara – So what are some of the things you have done to be completely different from the accountants?
Ben – The café is a graphic example of that. We have meeting rooms down here, a boardroom for hire, even venue space if you are trying out a networking function we have a few here each month. Even on the marketing side of the accounting firm, a few months into when we started I had an existing network and I worked with what I had there but needed to focus a bit more on the marketing or what I thought was marketing. In terms of being different one of the things we really wanted to do, is to do really well at them. I think that accountants have typically done a poor job at soft skills in business and we really wanted to focus on that.
Mara – I have been reading your blog and have noticed that you publish quite a lot of content, so do you just want to speak through the different content that you publish and you go through a process.
Ben – The first part of the content I put out there was a starting blog and having a look at the internet, generally and the better websites and the most visited websites have a ton of valuable content. As if I wasn’t stressed enough to focus on this to build that online reputation so that is the first thing I started with and then shifted into videos as well as videos on YouTube filled with content again, and then doing webinars so all over the multimedia as well as the written content has been key to us.
Mara – Have you found that this really key to building trust in the relationship with the audience?
Ben – Yes absolutely and I think that one of the things is that the prospect might even make them feel that they have met you even before meeting with you and that is really exciting. I was working with someone on the marketing earlier on and he said to me that his goal for me was to have someone turn up at the door and knowing exactly what you did and ready to buy, so rather than going through a sales process than them knowing that they are actually in the right place.
Mara – I think that I can definitely relate to that that I know anyone who has started out, those first sales are basically begging and I think once you start to build authority and your voice in industry that is when you feel the sale becomes easier you don’t actually have to push but you have people coming to you for the areas that you are an expert in. So I definitely think that building your authority in publishing great value content even if it is just starting out from one schedule will benefit your sales process.
Ben, I hear that you are good with numbers, let’s talk marketing numbers then. How have you used marketing reporting to improve what you do on a daily basis?
Ben – Yes so one of the key numbers that we keep track of is our ?unique visitors on the website and it is interesting to see the impact of a blogpost, depending on which social media you are sharing on, where the traffics coming from its really interesting. I’m fascinated with all that all the testing, even the time of day that you post to a social media channel can make such an impact. Then it’s go from that to the conversion ?descendant slot on line to back before we had an eBook online a conversion rate, just for signing up to the newsletter made it so much longer than before we had the eBook there? and now we have two or three people signing up per day to our newsletter website based on the lead name? of having the eBook available. It’s really exciting to test and measure that sort of thing.
Mara – So we have had a bit of a discussion about your marketing process do you want to speak about what you do with leads once you have them and your sales process?
Ben – In the early days when I was contacted there really wasn’t any structure to how I follow it up and I felt I that didn’t really have traction there and one thing I implemented on recommendation having no experience was where do I go sort of sales process. So when you get a phone call what do you do from there? Very simply on face value our sales processes are broken up into three steps, there is an initial phone call which is around 10 – 15 minutes and that’s where we work out whether we are a good fit for a prospect or if the prospect is a good fit for us. From there if that’s the case, we then organise a scoping meeting and in between a scoping meeting and a first phone call we actually get the person to fill out this first ?reflections tool we have got online. So we know a bit more about them and we get them to watch a video about us as well. In the scoping session we actually work together to work out exactly what that they need, put together a proposal and then the third step is to follow up with a phone call to determine if they have any questions to ask.
Mara – That’s great! The first question I often get from clients is how do I get more customers, just give me a plan I just want to get more customers. Almost always my first step is to put into place a system to look after your customers. If you are letting customers fall through from the bottom of the net you are going to waste a lot of money in terms of your marketing. So it is important to spend your time to get your sales process right and not jump into panicking and thinking you have to get a hundred new customers to look after.
Ben what are the things that you focus on as a niche as you are not just a general accountant for any business owner you are an accountant that focuses on creative industries. I find that really interesting, so can you explain your thinking behind focussing on a niche and how this helps you?
Ben – I guess when we actually chose to niche in the marketing communications and creative agencies we got a freedom of service offerings we could provide and it’s hard to fit one set of services to a whole range of industries. We were finding that we were reinventing the wheel each time so when we did choose a niche we put together our range and solutions for them. It’s been such a freeing ? but at the same time it sounds like its limiting but please I recommend it. When you do it, you just experience this WOW you really go to the ends? degree with the niche you choose.
Mara – Ben it’s been my absolute pleasure to interview you today and for those of you who want to know more about Ben you can visit his website at Inspire.ca.com and his personal website at benwalker.com and his café’s website is at inspirecafe.com.
Do let us know what is your number one take away from today is, do let us know in the comments below and also take part in the discussion at Ben and I would be happy to reply to your comments.
Did you enjoy this video? If so subscribe and share with your friends. If you want more marketing tips please visit the blog.