Are you bored of receiving impersonal, soulless marketing emails? If so, Charlotte Pearce has the answer. At 27 years old, this social entrepreneur is pioneering handwritten communications, and is on a mission to leverage love in business.
In a sea of digital noise, the personal touch, empathy, even love can lead to business success. Not just success in the conventional sense of continual earnings growth, but also more holistically in terms of creating happiness and doing social good. This is the personal credo of Charlotte Pearce, the bubbly 27-year-old social entrepreneur behind Inkpact, a fast-growing young UK business that has pioneered the idea of using handwritten notes to improve marketing response rates.
As the world gets more digital it is really difficult for a company to get people’s attention.
For Charlotte, the personal touch is everything. What could be more personal than a handwritten note at a time of digital mass marketing? High rates of response to Inkpact’s notes and letters show that customers value the care evident in elegant calligraphy. Yet the personal touch also extends to Inkpact’s team of 380 freelance writers, or “scribetribe”, many of whom value the flexibility of working from home and aren’t in a position to undertake regular employment.
“As the world gets more digital it is really difficult for a company to get people’s attention,” explains Charlotte. “When we send handwritten letters they get great results. We have scaled it up through the scribetribe and can send 100,000 genuine handwritten notes and corporate gifts. We are the only company in the world that can do that.”
The beginning of an idea
Charlotte’s passion for making business personal goes back to the UK’s University of Southampton, where she read Business Entrepreneurship (BSc). During an internship at a car rental company she loved the human interaction of selling but realised that she needed to follow a more entrepreneurial path. Bubbling over with ideas, she went back to university where she joined and ran the local branch of Enactus, the social enterprise that fosters student leaders, quickly rising to head it in Southampton. She led a team of 150 students, becoming involved in businesses ranging from sanitation toilets, to solar lamps, to a consultancy helping former soldiers set up their own businesses.
I will run the company from my laptop. That makes me happy and in control of my life.
“I ended up going all around the world pitching and presenting, speaking at events for student entrepreneurs from Cancun, to Washington DC, to Moscow,” enthuses Charlotte. “I even advised the Russian government on youth entrepreneurship. And I learned to run and grow a business.”
It was during that time she first thought of Inkpact. A business connected to Enactus wanted to send handwritten letters to CEOs. After Charlotte graduated she started Inkpact on a part-time basis while freelancing as an entrepreneur consultant, helping businesses to launch brands and have social impact. In 2015, she brought on board a co-founder and raised some funding from a combination of angel investors and Wayra, Telefónica’s tech innovation hub that scales up start-ups.
Scaling it up
The capital paid for Inkpact to develop its tech and scribe platform, providing the scale to service large companies’ marketing campaigns. Corporate clients upload their copy through Inkpact’s web site, which “scribes” based throughout the UK then write out in long hand. After initially crafting letters for small companies, Inkpact now writes for well-known organisations including Moet Hennessy, Investec, John Lewis and Macmillan Cancer Support, supporting campaigns for everything from customer acquisition and retention to onboarding.
Its results are outstanding. One customer acquisition campaign resulted in a 33% conversion rate, notes Charlotte, which compares with a typical rate of below 10% for emails. Little wonder that Inkpact has now worked for more than 1,000 organisations, sending letters to over 70 countries, and has now expanded to include corporate gifts with handwritten notes.
Over time, the writing team has grown to 380 writers from just one originally. The scribetribe illustrates Charlotte’s personal quest to put doing good and personal relationships at the heart of business. Many of the writers are not suited to regular employment. They are single mothers; people recovering from long-term illness; artists; students. What unites them is a creative flair for beautiful hand writing. “We can create a ‘win win’ for our writers,” says Charlotte. “We don’t look at their CVs. They get paid for writing at home. If they want, we help them to write their CVs, or teach them how to start a business.”
Spreading the word
Besides Inkpact, Charlotte is a motivational speaker, encouraging people to build businesses they love, to learn to love their customers. She holds corporate workshops about businesses contacting customers using psychology and stories. She also devotes her energy to her podcast and Youtube series, uncovering the human sides of well-known business people. She counts more than 10,000 followers across her social media accounts.
So, what next? Having made the Inkpact platform scalable, Charlotte aspires to expand it from the UK to other countries. She’s also going digitally-remote, closing the office in London but keeping a fulfilment warehouse in the UK’s North East.
“I am giving up my home in London for a nomadic life on the road from a little camper van called inky (@inkythevan on Instagram), to spread the message of love and human connection with the world, and meet the scribes and interesting people along the way,” she says. “I will run the company from my laptop. I can do this from anywhere in the country and the world. That makes me happy and in control of my life. I have created a platform for myself where I do what I love every single day.”
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This article is a part of the ’Millennial CEOs’ series in which we zoom into Millennials’ lives and ask ’What drives the next generation of business leaders?’