Ian Larke - Helping businesses bridge the disconnect gap
In this episode Ian Larke of Projekt Maverick talks about helping his clients overcome the disconnect between their business and their clients, a lesson we can learn from the local plumber, the importance of work life balance and a very useful tip for using WhatsApp as a marketing tool.
Tony Radford 0:01
Hello, everybody and welcome to another episode of the Small Business heroes podcast. Today I have a blog from project Maverick. That's PR o g Katie Maverick. Ian, how are you today?
Ian Larke 0:17
I'm really good. Thank you.
Tony Radford 0:18
Good, excellent. Why don't you just tell us about your business?
Ian Larke 0:25
Well, Project Maverick what we are is we're an online digital agency. We specialize in websites, social media, marketing, consultancy work, SEO videos, most forms of marketing. And we offer that service to smaller businesses, smaller to medium sized businesses. What makes us different to other companies is we try and bridge that disconnect. Between the business owner and the client, looking at things a little bit differently.
Ian Larke 1:08
Most people can get a 16 year old these days to create a website, online, this sort of thing. What makes us different is how we actually present that and how we communicate that. What we do is we bridge that disconnect between the business owners brain and the clients art. What I mean by that is, for example, a plumber might have been 10 years in his business building his business app up from absolutely nothing. And he's now got three bands on the roads and people working for him and so on and so forth.
What's important to him, he looks at those vans and he thinks that's it. I've made it this is it these vans, so he'll put pictures of these vans onto social media on to his website and some stuff, because that's what matters to him. But whereas in fact, what actually matters to the client is things like their safety, carbon monoxide poisoning of their family, this sort of if their boiler isn't checked properly, that sort of thing. So what we do is we translate that language of the business owner and present it to the client in a way that they will understand and will project those value points across. And that's what we do.
Tony Radford 2:39
Sounds like a really useful, actually probably vital service that you offer to your clients. I mean, you must have had some interesting conversations, right? The plumber says, No, no, I want some vans and pictures me with tools and stuff and you're saying but your client isn't interested in that they don't really care. They're just interested in about whatever they're interested in. How do you manage that conversation? Presumably you've got some resistance At times,
Ian Larke 3:01
to be honest with you, we don't get a lot of resistance on that. But equally as the business has developed and grown, we're able to offer that service to people who want a need, and understand that they need to change the way that they're doing things in order to project that right message and in order to increase their sales and get themselves out there. So, you know, we haven't really received a lot of resistance on that.
But when you break it down, most people yeah, I understand it, I get it. And I said, Ah, yeah, I kind of see what you mean. I didn't think of that. And yeah, that's,
that's what I love about what to what I do, and that gives me my passion for the business.
Tony Radford 3:51
Yeah, that engagements really helpful. So really good service. Yeah. And how long have you been in business actually,
Ian Larke 3:59
we've been In business five years.
Tony Radford 4:01
Ian Larke 4:02
We started out actually as an estate agency trying to be a little bit different in terms of how we marketing properties and this sort of thing. And it morphed into offering that services service for businesses.
Tony Radford 4:21
Right. Okay. And where abouts are you based?
Ian Larke 4:23
Aactually we're based in Woodford.
Tony Radford 4:25
It's in London, isn't it?
Ian Larke 4:27
Yeah. Just normal. Right.
Okay. Cool. And your clients, are they just from London? Are they just UK?
I mean, we had clients from as far afield as Mansfield, all over London, the southeast. Majority of our business is through from network connections, this sort of thing. So yes, it tends to be in the area where we are actually based, but equally, yet, there's no reason why we can't build a website for somebody in Scotland. And that's the beauty The whole zoom situation now it's opened up big opportunities for us in that sense.
Tony Radford 5:07
Yeah. Because in the past, it would have been kind of more difficult not to have that face to face meeting. Right, exactly. So the world has changed in the last few months certainly has. No It sounds like you've got a really interesting business model there and quite a nice proposition that you have in package. What's been your biggest challenge in business.
Ian Larke 5:28
My biggest challenge in business is a genuinely believe that you really need to be to provide the best possible service, the best value, the most unique and Maverick ideas and so on for your client. You need to have a real passion for their business you need to get inside their business, feel it understand it, which is what we do initially when you're building up a business, you can, you're probably a little bit less fussy about your clients in the sense of you, you're needing that turnover, you're needing that business to come in.
So that was a big challenge for us in terms of the people that we were dealing with in terms of the clients that we were dealing with, in some instances. Perhaps it wasn't the passion there as much because then they weren't fit like you spoke about before. They weren't quite so flexible know, this is what we want. And this is how we want it done. And that's how we wanted you to be presented. So that was a big challenge for us. But we're now in that position where, yeah, through that initial consultation with clients, we're able to establish their desire for change and how we understand the business and all equally as well look to specialize in certain stuff. markets as well.
Tony Radford 7:02
What would you say would be one thing that you'd wished somebody had told you when you started out in business?
Ian Larke 7:09
I think with that, one, it's the whole working for yourself. The demands that have that have on your personal life on life in general, and just getting that right life work balance, you can tend to be consumed initially, when it all kicks off, you can tend to be very consumed in that and, yeah, it then takes a while. So that kind of work.
I wish that somebody that told me really, in terms of from day one, how to get that right. Life, work, work balance, basically, you know, because we're better people. If things are good at home, and, you know, we're we're we're Be strong with the family and so on. And it's important that you don't neglect that side of things.
Tony Radford 8:06
How did you do that? How did you get the work life balance?
Ian Larke 8:11
Yeah, it's almost a bit trial and error in a way and kind of you you learn through your mistakes with it. And there comes the awakening at times as to sort of, well, you know, I haven't done this for however long with the family and I haven't done that, or somebody might say something to you and that sort of thing. And it just makes you realize, and you stand back and look at it. So yeah, I've had help with sort of like people, mentors and and people talking to me that have been down that road before. And yes, I kind of wished I'd probably done that earlier on in the evolution of the business.
Tony Radford 8:59
Yeah. I totally understand that I started a software company. And if I, if I took an afternoon off Sunday afternoon, it starts to feel slightly agitated. You might have situations but you got three children. So what would be the next step for your business? Where do you go from here?
Ian Larke 9:17
The next step, we're ambitious, we want to grow. I'd like to develop much more the marketing consultancy side of the business, in terms of almost like that coaching of businesses. Yes, we can create a website for you, we can do social media management and so on. But in terms of just coaching people on how that all works together, and how if all those parts are tuned in together, it makes for a much more stronger marketing, market marketing machine, basically.
So that's, that's kind of How I see the business developing is yes, we keep the services that we're doing. And we continue to develop those, but also particularly focus on the consulting side of the business. I feel I have a lot to offer, as far as that's concerned.
Tony Radford 10:16
Would that be something that you would lead? Or would you get other people involved?
Ian Larke 10:21
I think that would very much have to be centered around me. I mean, I I'm very keen to sort of
Yeah, help people. I think we've got some quiet Maverick and unique ideas and ways of doing things. And you can't just get recruit somebody tomorrow to actually do that. So yes, I accept whilst the business Yes, is going to grow. There are obviously limitations to
that side of the business because that's very much centered around myself.
Tony Radford 10:55
And you know, you as a person, how did you learn these skills?
Ian Larke 11:01
I have going back I have limited sort of like formal sales and marketing training and this sort of thing. I just think it's something that this is going to sound a bit weird in a way, I think it's just something that you're born with. It's just the way that you are. It's, I, I see things differently.
I'm able to stand back from things and look at the overall picture. And I think I'm a good communicator with people as well. Those skills enable me to, yeah, be able to help develop those businesses.
Tony Radford 11:45
Right, great. That's really good. So talking about marketing and marketing skills and a view of things. I mean, if somebody gave you 500 pounds and said you must spend this on some form of marketing activity, what would you spend it on? What would you spend it on?
Ian Larke 12:00
I would put that into networking, I would look to get an additional member of my team into a networking group somewhere. I'm part of BSI. And probably about 80% of my business comes from DNI. And really I kind of wish that somebody had told me about it 1020 years ago, really. But it's all that that power of relationships, that power of network, and I think the larger your network is, the more sales and development opportunities that you that you have as a business. And yes, as long in any business as long as that's always growing, I think it makes for a healthy, healthy business. I mean, most business owners if you ask them, where they've got their business from, it's from recommend donations.
It's from referrals. It's from customers that are using you at the moment that are happy and recommend you through. So to be able to increase that network by, like I say, having somebody else in another networking group somewhere to spread the word, so to speak, I think that would be very, very effective. good value for money as far as marketing and sales is concerned.
Tony Radford 13:31
Yeah, when I was in software development projects, I think probably 90% of our work came from referrals or more work for the current clients, which probably we got from a referral anyway. Yeah, yes, yes. Very interesting. We spoke earlier about work life balance. I think you mentioned coach then. I mean, do you have a business mentor or coach?
Ian Larke 13:56
I've recently taken on a business coach, which is found extremely helpful and productive. Up until about 10 years ago, I'd always worked for a big corporate organization, management within a company like that, and you always have that certain amount of accountability. And that, I think, is a big challenge for small business owners. It's, it's having that accountability so often that we know the answer, but we try and tell ourselves now it's not you know, okay, I don't I don't actually need to change this old but really, in our heart, we know well, actually, I do really need to change this. So I've found great worth over the years over recent years in terms of a couple of mentors, people, the it's like, I know if I'm going to tell him about this He's gonna say, what are you doing in now you need to do it like that. And you know the answer before you even talk to them about it.
But it's just that whole accountability and making sure you do what you say you're going to do and you don't put things off, and that sort of thing. So I found a great worth in that. I think every small to medium sized business owners should have at least one or two mentors, people that they speak regularly to that understand and know their business know the challenges that they have within their business. Because Yeah, it's it's a lonely world out there sometimes as a business owner, and I think you need that support. And above all accountability.
Tony Radford 15:47
Yeah, absolutely agree. I'm in a weekly accountability thing with one person, we're accountable to each other actually. And there's so many benefits from it, even planning the next week's work, you know, it comes out of that weekly email. sort of things. Yeah, yeah, it's really good. You're in business and you're you've got the natural, you know, marketing aspect to to personality, if you like, could you give us an actionable sales tip?
Ian Larke 16:12
And it's the same one, really, but not many people know about it. And I've found it very, very helpful, is everybody gets very fed up with the WhatsApp groups. And so much business now is actually people are more active on WhatsApp than they are an email these days. And yes, there's the WhatsApp groups and messages keep popping up and some, but there is facility within there that you can do WhatsApp broadcasts, and not many people know this.
So what I was talking to an insurance company, one of my clients the other day, and what I suggested to them is the, they categorize they create broadcasts groups on their phone for all the different months renewal clients so that they're then able to send a message out to those clients a month, six weeks, whatever before their renewal. send messages with special offers this type of thing. But because it's a broadcast, it's that if it's worded correctly, it's done very much like a personal message. For instance, I used to be in a different type of industry and I sent I created a blog broadcast group for a lot of my contacts that were in that old industry, sort of like, Hi, how you doing? This is me now this is what I'm doing. Send that broadcast out. That's about 3040 people, but it was done like this is very much a personal message though. to them.
It was just coming For me, it wasn't going to 30 other people as well. And all of a sudden your phones lighting up and people are having conversations with you. And again, it's just that engagement. And getting people talking, making people aware of what's what's going on. I found it very, very effective. And to manage that sales contact list that you have on your phone as well. For instance, another thing is as well, in terms of asking for reviews, you might have, yeah, 2030 customers might think, Oh, I need to really try and get my Google reviews up.
I've only got six on there at the moment, but or whatever it might be. And so you create, again, a very personal message with a link to the Google review pages, you know, hi, how are you? I just wondered if you could, you know, just pop us a rating on on Google And is really, really very effective. So that's just a sort of like a tip.
Tony Radford 19:05
Yeah, that's so good. Is that a native part of WhatsApp? Or do you have to buy a service? No, no, no,
Ian Larke 19:11
It's all there. When you go to create a group, most people know how to create a group on WhatsApp and create new group. I think under that, or in that same drop down menu there is create a broadcast create a broadcast group. And, yeah,
Tony Radford 19:30
it's really great. It's been good, really good to talk to, and I've loved your answers. And yeah, I really like you know, the things you're doing really, really excellent. And how would what's the best way for people to get in touch with you?
Ian Larke 19:43
They can call me either on the landline or the mobile numbers on the website, or email us. Yeah, but what would be the email address to use? The email address is creator at car A to our at project with a K. Maverick calm.
Tony Radford 20:06
Okay. And that's really great. Thank you very much.
Ian Larke 20:09
No problem. Thank you very much for inviting me.
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