BigValueBigBusiness.com
Alexandra Skey
GetSpokal.com
Transcript
James: All right, welcome back my friends to yet another e...
Alexandra: Yeah.
James: There’s nothing better than that. I can imagine your winters are pretty harsh up there so there mu...
because we actually integrate with a ton of different providers. So he really wanted to see could we even do it as
possibl...
we’re barely at the start line now. And we’ve definitely seen a transformation in the last, I’d say since about the fall
2...
And the reason we built that is we often find people don’t promote their content enough. And that’s one of the biggest
rea...
James: No, it’s cool. I’ll look it up and I’ll have it in the show notes.
Alexandra: Perfect. But it’s a really cool conce...
Alexandra: Totally. So my Twitter is probably the best way to do that. And I’m sure we can put that in the notes. But it’s...
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026: Alexandra Skey – InBound Marketing Automation

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GO HERE TO HEAR MY CHAT WITH ALEXANDRA

http://bigvaluebigbusiness.com/episode26

Alexandra is the co-founder of
GetSpokal.com
An awesome inbound marketing automation platform designed to help small businesses to:
– Create and distribute their content
– Attract and nurture inbound prospects.
You’ll find all of this happening at: GetSpokal.com

Alexandra Skey:
Canadian,born and raised
North American entrepreneur. and a marketer.
Spokal is my fourth venture.
Personal life: I love riding horses
I love kiteboarding. And as a little aside, we actually took Spokal remote.
We took our whole (Spokal) team remote and moved to Caribbean for four months last summer. And worked on a company down there, I learned to kitesurf, and through inbound marketing, we were able to grow our business significantly while having a good time under that Caribbean sun.

Upcoming Book – Fall 2014:
Called Zero Friction
I’m working on a book all about e-retail. And so that’s why I decided to call myself an e-retail author.

It’s not specifically e-commerce. It really talks a lot about what happens when the barriers to buying and selling and creating online are gone for everyone and what does that look like as we move towards this concept of a zero friction worlds. And ultimately, I think it leads to amazing customer experiences. And so this book was originally written to be e-retail book and in order to stay relevant and writing an e-retail book, it’s quite challenging.

So we took a bit of a social, cultural, economical, kind of global approach to the book and really looked at what’s the concept of e-retail. And it’s really about breaking down those barriers, and that’s a very similar concept to what marketing automation does for small business, how do you breakdown these barriers and scale up so that you can have a small business marketing from the Caribbean or you can have someone halfway around the world selling something they made and it’s actually economically viable. And so that’s really sort of, I guess, kind of deep down as part of my passion and that’s what I decided yeah, I guess that’s what an e-retail author is.

About Spokal:
We came together full time in Spokal, April 2012. So that’s me and my cofounder, Chris.
Chris actually started tinkering with the idea about November 2007, sort of part time, trying to see does this concept makes sense, is it resonating, can we actually do it technically. Spokal is quite technically robust just because we actually integrate with a ton of different providers. So he really wanted to see could we even do it as possible. And then we actually met at a co-working space out of Vancouver. And I really liked the idea and he was thinking, okay, well, let’s rev this up. So then we both went on it fulltime in April 2012.

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026: Alexandra Skey – InBound Marketing Automation

  1. 1. BigValueBigBusiness.com Alexandra Skey GetSpokal.com Transcript James: All right, welcome back my friends to yet another edition of the Big Value Big Business podcast. I am your host, James Lynch. I am really big, big, big time super excited about my very special guest today. Her name is Alexandra Skey. Alexandra is the cofounder of Spokal. That’s S-P-O-K-A-L. Spokal is an inbound marketing automation platform designed to help small businesses to create and distribute their content to attract and nurture inbound prospects as well. You’ll find all of this happening at www.getspokal.com. It is my pleasure to welcome Alexandra to the Big Value Big Business podcast today. Hello, Alexandra! How are you doing today? Alexandra: I’m fabulous, James. How are you doing? James: I’m great. This chat was a long time in the making. We’re both pretty busy and we’ve been missing each other. I’m glad you are able to come on and we can shoot the breeze so to speak. Alexandra: I’m super excited to be here, James. We’re sort of joking that we’re becoming really good pen pals in the digital age. So it’s nice to be able to connect. James: We were. We definitely were. And I should be so lucky to have as elegant and eloquent a pen pal as you. So I appreciate it, and here we are. So listen, I want to thank you for taking the time. And I’m really excited for you to share with our listeners everything you can in the time allowed, about how we can grow our business using inbound marketing to attract, convert and keep both new subscribers and customers for life. Does that sound like a plan? Alexandra: That sounds like a fabulous plan. James: Awesome, awesome. So I like to start in the beginning, just to get a little background about you. So can we maybe get a little history, get to know Alexandra Skey and a little bit about where she came from, and about the journey that has brought you here to where you are today. Alexandra: Absolutely. So I’m Canadian and I was born and raised here. And I’m really an entrepreneur and a marketer. So Spokal is my fourth venture. And Spokal really hits or sorry, Spokal is start up ad I’m cofounding right now. And Spokal really hits home for me. It combines a lot of what I love to do which is, and what I’ve done in the past, which is small business in marketing but it does it on a scale that can actually really empower business around the world, to use some of these tools that I’ve been able to use in my past roles but dialed down from much more companies. So that’s what gets Spokal is. I guess a little bit more about myself, yeah, North American entrepreneur. And in my personal life, I love riding horses and recently, I love kiteboarding. And as a little aside, we actually took Spokal remote. We took our whole team remote and moved to Caribbean for four months last summer. And worked on a company down there, I learned to kitesurf, and through inbound marketing, we were able to grow our business significantly while having a good time under that Caribbean sun. So it is a really cool thing when you finally dial up your inbound channels, what you’re able to do with them. James: That, in working from the Caribbean for four months?
  2. 2. Alexandra: Yeah. James: There’s nothing better than that. I can imagine your winters are pretty harsh up there so there must’ve been quite a change. Alexandra: Well, exactly. I mean, us, Canadians get a little chilly so it’s nice when we can finally see the sun from more than one day in a row. James: Nice. That’s nice and that is something to aspire to and maybe we’ll get a little more into how you guys were able to scale everything up and get everything running on, I don’t know, to say on autopilot but just as smoothly that you can make that transition and learn how to kiteboard at the same time. That’s awesome. Alexandra: Definitely. Yeah. James: Awesome. So yeah, that’s great. I saw, you are in love with horses. And what’s an e-retail offer? Tell me about that. Alexandra: Yeah. So I’m really excited right now. I’m working on a book all about e-retail. And so that’s why I decided to call myself an e-retail author. James: I like it. Alexandra: It’s not specifically e-commerce. It really talks a lot about what happens when the barriers to buying and selling and creating online are gone for everyone and what does that look like as we move towards this concept of a zero friction worlds. And ultimately, I think it leads to amazing customer experiences. And so this book was originally written to be e-retail book and in order to stay relevant and writing an e-retail book, it’s quite challenging. So we took a bit of a social, cultural, economical, kind of global approach to the book and really looked at what’s the concept of e- retail. And it’s really about breaking down those barriers, and that’s a very similar concept to what marketing automation does for small business, how do you breakdown these barriers and scale up so that you can have a small business marketing from the Caribbean or you can have someone halfway around the world selling something they made and it’s actually economically viable. And so that’s really sort of, I guess, kind of deep down as part of my passion and that’s what I decided yeah, I guess that’s what an e-retail author is. James: Cool. When is that book due to come out? Alexandra: It’s coming out in the fall. I think it’ll be on the shelves October 1st . And it’s called Zero Friction. So… James: I like that. I heard you mention that. I actually wrote that down, creating a zero friction world. So out in October, great, I’ll make sure to put that in the show notes because we’re going to look for that. That’s pretty interesting. Alexandra: I’ll send you a signed copy. James: I love that. I would love that. I would even give you handy dandy review too. Alexandra: That’d be fabulous. I’m super keen I’ll send you an early then. James: Nice, nice. All right, so yeah. From Canada, working from around the world, around the globe, tell me how long is Spokal been around? You mentioned this was one of your fourth endeavors, entrepreneurial pursuits. How long have Spokal been in existence? Alexandra: It’s over two years now. I mean we came together full time in Spokal, April 2012. So that’s me and my cofounder, Chris. And Chris actually startedtinkering with theidea about November 2007, sort of part time, trying to see does this concept makes sense, is it resonating, can we actually do it technically. Spokal is quite technically robust just
  3. 3. because we actually integrate with a ton of different providers. So he really wanted to see could we even do it as possible. And then we actually met at a co-working space out of Vancouver. And I really liked the idea and he was thinking, okay, well, let’s rev this up. So then we both went on it fulltime in April 2012. James: Well, congratulations and you had a two-year anniversary not too long ago. That’s awesome. Alexandra: Yeah, yeah. We had our first one, as I’ve said, we’re the first one down South and so this one is actually in a sort of sunny West coast of Canada. James: Cool, cool. So obviously, it hasn’t been without a lot of hard work. So tell me just maybe one of your biggest challenges you had over the last two years or even something maybe that you can refer, now, it’s Chris Mack, that’s the CEO, the cofounder? Alexandra: Yeah. He’s our CEO cofounder. James: Cool, cool, maybe something that was like really in the way that you guys you were able to overcome, just kind of like a lesson learned so we can maybe get perspective of, it’s not just breezing in and cruising for two years, there’s got to be some bumps in the road. So tell me how you met them and overcame them. Alexandra: I mean, I think I’m really glad you brought that up. We talked about it being really fun, and it’s great and working in Caribbean. I mean, the honest answer, it was a lot of really, really hard work. And there are definitely some dark days. And I think that we, two kind of keep challenges. The first was convincing anyone who was in a small business that Spokal was a good idea. So when we first started out, we were thinking that we would go your typical start up roots. So we create a little bit of a product, build some demand and fund raise. And every investor we talked to thought we were crazy because the small business market is notoriously difficult to reach, and notoriously expensive to do it. And we were trying to explain through the concept of inbound. We’re not actually going out and campaigning. People are googling, how do I grow my business online, and they’ll find Spokal. And they’ll go through our inbound funnel, and they’ll convert. And we were explaining this, and we had very few people that were kind of willing to jump on board with us. And so sort of by default, we realized, okay, we’ll need to bootstrap this to show we can actually do what we say we can do. That was really, it was really interesting lesson early on because it actually forced us to really turn Spokal into a business right away and get a product out there and see what customers thought. And our first version of Spokal, I think the churn rate was about 80% to 90%. And so… James: That’s cool. It got to start somewhere. Alexandra: Well, it was pretty horrendous. I mean it was just awful. We really had, we designed the solution completely backwards. And so we spent the next six months designing something that kind of worked. And it took about a year after that actually to really built something and put it in the market that people found value with it. That actually significantly helped their businesses to the point now where we’ve created agency plans that agencies can use Spokal with their small businesses. So that’s kind of cool. But I think the biggest challenge honestly was just really having faith in what we were doing to overcometheseobstacles. Peoplewanted to,forexample, thereis a lot of peoplein ourcommunity that liked us, and said, well, if you’re doing another project, we’ll support you, both with knowledge and financial resources. And so you sort of have to say, well, are we doing this just for a project or do we really believe in the power of small businesses and helping them succeed? And so it was really sort of a test of what do we want to do as entrepreneurs, what we want to spend our time on and what do we have to do to keep food on the table. And so this is actually really interesting. And so the whole time I was working on Spokal, well, not the whole time, but I was actually working on this book, and so that was a really interesting arrangement. So I was moonlighting on the book to help pay our bills so that in the early days, all of the money from customers we’re getting from Spokal, and our investment was going into the technical development because that was Spokal’s wheel-house. And so it’s been a really interesting journey. I mean
  4. 4. we’re barely at the start line now. And we’ve definitely seen a transformation in the last, I’d say since about the fall 2013, starting to move faster in the right direction, and that’s been really exciting. James: Critical mass, critical mass aiming, that’s cool. Yeah, so and I knew, we always wanted to talk about and remember the good stuff. But it’s also good to remember like where we came from and some of the hard stuff, a way makes us appreciate and my listeners definitely appreciate because they’re all hard working consultant authors, creators, small business owners and yeah, it’s work. And it sounds like you’re on the right track. I love the bootstrapping and just like doing whatever you need to do to move forward. That’s awesome, awesome. Can you, MA Software, Marketing Automation Software, for our listeners, can you basically tell us the nuts and bolts in a 35,000 feet view of what that means to maybe the small business? What is marketing automation software? Alexandra: Absolutely, James. At its heart marketing automation is anything in that you do for marketing that you automate. And I know that sounds quite obvious but the reason I share that is often times, small business owners are doing marketing automation or are incorporating parts of it without realizing it. So for example, if you’re writing a blog, and you use a plug in to automatically publish your social feeds, that’s marketing automation, right? And the platform, a marketing automation platform, as long it really says okay, instead of you doing all of those different things in different places, we’re going to put into one place. So now, we’re going to make it easier. We’re going to automate your keyword research process. We’re going to automate your writing process. We’re going to cut down two minutes here and five minutes here of everything you do to create and share your content so that over the span of time, using a marketing automation platform, not only are you saving time but more importantly, you’re getting reach and effectiveness that you just would find impossible to do if you didn’t use a marketing automation platform. James: So tell me how that relates to say someone in my audience, a day of life would be say a consultant or a creator, somebody that’s going out there, trying to get their message out there. So they’re creating content, useful content. They’re giving it out. Well, they’re pushing it out via maybe a Hootsuite or a Buffer or something like that, and hopefully, driving folks into their inbound funnel, some kind of an opt-in page or some kind of bringing them in back to their site and then working through nurturing them and hopefully getting them to one, opt-in and two, eventually getting them to do business with them. So how does that, how would they plug in to your system? Alexandra: Spokal, specifically? James: Yeah, yeah. Alexandra: Totally, so Spokal works actually right from the very beginning of the content creation process. So you do Spokal to do all your keyword research and Spokal does everything from letting you know what you should write about now to what you should write about three months based on their traffic in your reach. And then you blog right in Spokal and we built a really nice drag & drop editor so it’s a super easy interface to use. And we have a ton of stuff in there that just makes the process faster. So for example, on the side, instead of describing what you need to do to optimize your post, we just tell you what to do. So it’s the difference. Instead saying, oh, I need to have a heading in my title, we’ll say, hey, you need to add, hot chocolate into your title, because you told us that’s your keyword and that’s what that needs to be. So it takes the guessing work right out. Another thing we find is sourcing images can take time. So we integrate with Flickr: Creative Commons, and so you can drag & drop up to 30 million images and they’re properly attributed which is a big deal for again, businesses that don’t have a lot of time or money to spend looking for photos. We actually built that after I made a very big mistake and used a photo that I weakly thought we could use, and we couldn’t. And so we got, that was a really good learning experience for us. And we said, well, we can’t be the only ones here so let’s build that in and save time, and make sure that’s there. And anyway, so you create the content. You share it right from Spokal. We automatically publish to your Twitter, your Facebook wherever you want, and then what we’ve actually built in is a social sharing calendar so that every time you publish a blog post, you can say, share my post on Twitter four times, and then share it once again on Twitter in the next week and a couple times then next month.
  5. 5. And the reason we built that is we often find people don’t promote their content enough. And that’s one of the biggest reason they don’t extend their reach. And again, instead of taking 10 minutes to manually sharing, you’re manually scheduling your tweets. It’s already done in Spokal. And so then it’s super easy to share content as well because we link with Feedly. So you can basically curate and create your entire content strategy in Spokal. And of course, we also integrate with email marketing automation platforms and lead nurturing. So once you’ve published your content and shared it and you’re growing your reach, you can pull your leads back to Spokal and track them, and see how they’re doing. See which ones are the most likely to convert. Spokal will tell you when they’ve reached a certain score and then you can go after them. So it really tries to simplify that entire process. James: Wow, what a great explanation. Thank you so much. I love that, all the pieces, the creative common images, the nurturing leads scoring and then the yeah, very, very intuitive. That’s awesome, awesome, awesome program. Cool. Let’s see, we talked a little bit earlier about being in and out at email. I’m just going to switch gears a little bit on productivity and accountability and, you got it together because you don’t spend your day in email like I do. And that’s, allows you to get a lot done. You’re not constantly checking in or running back to it and then feel compelled to answer which takes you away from and distracts you from the task at hand or doing business. So tell me about that and tell me about any other little personal tricks or tidbits that you do to keep you disciplined, face to the right direction. Alexandra: Yeah. That’s a good point and so the first two for email, I never check my email in the morning and I read a book where an article said that concept. And I loved it. And so now, I do for the first hour, so if I know I have meetings or something coming up and I know I need to check my email at a certain time, I’ll make sure that I get an hour’s worth of work done so I feel productive and proactive before I start my day. And that’s the number one thing that I think, I really like that. Number two is this as well, I tried to check in my inbox couple times a day, and I always log out of it so that it’s more a conscious thing. I would love Google to design something where you can compose your email without landing in to you inbox interface. That would save us all a lot of time. And anyways, another couple of tips, this is a bit, well, it might be a bit of help for your listeners. I’m not sure but, in the last eight months, I actually started meditation. And so I do 10 minutes a day, and what it actually helps you do is kind of be mindful. I think that’s the whole concept. And anyways, so when you’reworking way and you’re typing and you think, oh, it’s not happening on Facebook or that’s acoolblog. I’mgoing to go there. It just, you helps to be awareof, oh, interesting. That’swhat I’m not doing right now. So I just have a little notepad. I scribble, check Facebook or whatever. And then by the time I’ve done my task, I look at that notepad and think, that’s not worth 10 minutes but I absolutely would’ve spend 10 minutes on it if I wasn’t mindful. So I mean, I know what works for one person doesn’t work for the next which is why it’s always interesting to hear productivity conversations. But for me, it’s just that, it’s being mindful when I’m about to get to a spin, an internet spin where you read every blog online and you come out of the internet an hour later, feeling so loaded with information and not necessarily loaded with actionable advise or something that’s going to help you today. James: Totally, your meditation is becoming by and large, the very popular one even some of the big, big, gurus out therethat these guys… I won’t name names but just some… I talked witha guy, particularly, he’s a monster. He’s got, he curses, he swears, he’s spiritual but he’s all over the place. But he meditates 20, 30 minutes a day. He gets so much done. And it is, it brings you, it keeps you centered. It keeps you, what’s the term you use, on task or just mindful. In the moment where you’re not compelled to, what’s going over there or oh, what’s going on over there? So yeah, awesome, awesome. It’s not too hokey at all. That’s a spot on and I’m hearing it more and more. It’s awesome, awesome. Yeah, so how about authors, I kind of like what to see what folks like you out there are reading both for inspiration and to keep up with trends and industry knowledge. What’s on your bookshelf right now on the top? Alexandra: What’s on the top? Well, I just finished, Let Me Go, what is it called? It’s from Biz Stone, it it’s called What a Little Birdie Told Me. And so he was one of the four founders of Twitter. And it’s his recollection of what happened during that time. And it’s really a little bit of history about himself. And it’s written in a really fun like tone. And so I liked it because it was really easy to read, and it’s very insightful to learn how other entrepreneurs build these crazy companies. And theone that I’m reading right now is actually, Abundance by Peter Diamandis and I can’t remember the other author, so sorry…
  6. 6. James: No, it’s cool. I’ll look it up and I’ll have it in the show notes. Alexandra: Perfect. But it’s a really cool concept of basically, instead of thinking about our world and our mind as being finite, it’s infinite. And what does that look like? And how do you create a world of abundance? And Biz Stone actually did a very similar concept in terms of creativity, it’s abundant if you use it today, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to use this tomorrow. And so it’s neat when you read different, I mean Abundance is a much more scientific to read but it’s really neat when you read and you start to see parallels among some concepts. So I love to have a good book on my shelf. And I actually really like to have a hard paperback. So those are real books. They’re not ebooks, and I find when I’m in front of the screen all day, it’s actually really nice to turn it off and to fold, turn paper over paper. And it’s a really nice experience. James: Agree, I totally agree with you especially outside. I just unplug, if you would. Alexandra: Yeah, exactly. James: Yeah, cool. Another trend that I see and actually my last two podcast ago, I kind of did like just tallied up who I interviewed the last 25 and, and these are trends, books and resources, meditation, also a lot of folks say they probably never would’ve made it if they didn’t have a mastermind or they didn’t network with some folks. So where are you with that? Do you have a mentor or do you have a mastermind group or somebody you check in with regularly? Alexandra: I haven’t found a mastermind groups to be useful personally. I know a lot of people get value out of them. So I just, I haven’t found that for me. I do have some really good mentors. And I mean they have evolved over the years depending on where I am and I guess where am I in my life and who’s around me to kind of help me. And yeah, I mean in valuable, it doesn’t even begin to cut it. And I think when we talk about what is a mentor, for me, it’s someone that I can call in 2 in the morning or 3 in the morning when everything is gone, hell-in-a-handbasket, and who’s going to give you, sit there with you and go through that process. I mean I think, the concept that I see a little bit more which scares me is that, oh this is my mentor. I meet them once a month for lunch. I think that’s great. But you don’t need help once a month. You need four hours now, and then you don’t need anything for three months. James L: In the trenches with you, when you need them? Alexandra: Exactly. And I think when you’re looking at least the relationships that I’ve built as for my advisers, it’s you really need to look to someone that you can really build a real relationship with, and full disclosure, full trust, and it takes time to find that person. And it’s also okay to outgrow them or to have a different adviser or mentor different phase in your business career. And I think that’s also okay as well. James: And there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s like I think a mentor can replace easily a mastermind group and vice versa. But a mastermind typically meets once a week, once a month, and yeah, you have those folks in therelike, they’re at network. But if you have a real tight mastermind group, each one of those people are a mentor in and of themselves and you should be able to reach out to them at any point in time between meetings and pick up the phone at the 2 in the morning, saying, I’m in the weeds, help me out. And I think that’s the true mentor-mentee relationship. Alexandra: Yup. James: Cool, cool, cool. So tell us what you have going on as we wind it down. We got the book coming out in October. What’s coming down the pipe? Alexandra: Well, there’s a few exciting things in the pipeline, can’t share a lot more than that right now, unfortunately. I hate when people do that. But I mean, Zero Friction is coming out as we talked about. Spokal is moving along pretty nicely. And it’s still very young in the 2014 year. James: Cool. And well, tell us where we can check in with you periodically to see what’s happening.
  7. 7. Alexandra: Totally. So my Twitter is probably the best way to do that. And I’m sure we can put that in the notes. But it’s my name, @AlexandraSkey, and that’s the best way to reach out and to chat and to share and connect. James: All right, and we will keep up with you. And the website is www.getspokal.com? Alexandra: You got it, James. James: Awesome. Hey, listen. I appreciate you coming out today. I’m glad we could finally get together and been a wealth of knowledge, very inspiring. Anyone out there looking to get into marketing automation, sounds like the premiere platform to be on. So we’ll check in again. I love to have you back on when the book comes out, maybe we can beat the bushes and I hope you get it out there. Alexandra: That sounds like a fabulous idea. James: Awesome, awesome. Thank you so much for your time today, Alexandra. Alexandra: Thank you, James. James: Okay, you take care. Alexandra: You too. James: Bye.

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