Award-winning content – you’ll have heard this before. But mostly you’re presented with examples from massive consumer brands with Coca-Cola sized marketing budgets. Difficult to glean what to take from that if you’re a hard-working smaller B2B firm, bootstrapping your way to business success.
Well, here’s a small creative UK service firm getting its content so right. Radix Communications is a Falmouth-based writing agency winning friends and copywriting work from B2B technology businesses throughout the land.
We’ve been bowled over by the creativity and quality of their content. It’s taken them far and wide and helped them to grow 25% in the last year alone.
Yes, they’re a writing company but their content skills go much further than the written word – a delectable smörgåsbord of podcasts, comics, cartoons, board games, and even fridge magnets as well as blogs, guides and ebooks. Worthy winners of this year’s golden Valuable Content Award for sure.
We caught up with Radix’s founder Fiona Campbell-Howes to get the lowdown on their story and approach. Much inspiration for your content next year here – and lots of ideas to experiment with too.
Why content marketing? What motivated you to promote your business this way?
“We’re a copywriting agency, so I guess you could say we’ve always been in the world of content marketing because we’re writing content for our clients, but we didn’t always see it that way.
We started working on projects with Doug and Stan at Velocity Partners in 2011. They were really early on the content marketing band wagon and it just seemed really exciting and so creative. I’ve always been in the tech industry, working on stuff for years and years that’s turgid, dry and academic. There were just 3 of us in the business at that point. I’d been working the same sort of thing for 10 years, and I’d hired the other two writers thinking – how am I going to keep these people motivated and enthusiastic?
So we were working with Velocity and we’re doing all these really exciting creative things and they put us onto the Content Marketing Institute and Joe Pulizzi. I suddenly realised that there are all these different types of content that you can create and share, and it actually works! You can have some fun while doing it, and it doesn’t have to be all dry and turgid.
I knew it would work for us too.”
How did you get started?
“Well I’ve been a blogger since 2002, so the company blog was the obvious place to start. We were trying to do blog posts when we could but there wasn’t a lot of resource to do it. Eventually we hired Emily, who is our content marketing executive, and put her onto our content full time. She’s got a background in all kinds of multimedia creation, so she’s done lots of her own blogs and podcasts and video podcasts – she’s really into using lots of different formats to get the message across.
“Having a person on it full time meant we could do all this.”
Once she started managing our content marketing full time we were able to really work in lots of different formats. So we ramped up the blog, we started a monthly podcast 2 years ago, we tried our hand at e-books, we’ve got into Twitter chats and we’ve even done comics. Having a person on it full time meant we could do all this.”
We loved your board game this year. What other formats have you tried?
“Funnel – the board game was probably the best bit of content we’ve created to date. (Note from Sonja: you can read more about Radix’s board game in our annual wrap up post – What Content Has Worked Best of All In 2015?).
Our Periodic Table of B2B Marketing Clichés has been a lot of fun too.”
“We had that up in a whiteboard in our office. People could come along and fill in the little squares whenever inspiration struck, so it was very much a team effort. Originally I thought, so many people do these lists of “business buzzwords that should be banned”, it’s really getting quite tired – I don’t want to do something that’s the same as everyone else. I also thought – lots of people are doing periodic tables and that’s a bit tired. Then I thought – right, this is a thing about cliches, a kind of meta comment on cliches! By the time we finished the table it made us laugh and we’re now just waiting for delivery, because we’ve turned it into poetry style fridge magnets.”
What are the moving parts of your content marketing system?
“It’s a system with very few constituent parts really. We don’t have any in-house designers. The website has the blog on it, and we post our podcasts here too. The website is 3 years old and we’re about to start working on a new one with a very good local company called Venn Creative. We’ll occasionally use YouTube, but to be honest we’re not very good at video yet.
Then there’s the team. We have a monthly editorial board meeting where we can all kick around ideas. That’s really important. It mainly involves the writing team, we’ve got 7 writers. In the meeting we talk about the types of work clients are asking us to do or what are people focusing on, or what are we noticing in our work that we can educate people about. That’s the process that brought out the Periodic Table as well. When the writers have got time will do blog posts as well, so we get a whole range of voices, which is great. Emily coordinates and supports all this.
Things like the board game are a complete team effort. One of our writers Kieran came up with the idea and then 2 of our writers who are gaming geeks were happy to run with it and design this game. We all play tested it and submitted ideas. Then we hired an external illustrator to get a high quality look and feel, and they did a fantastic job.”
“Oh yes and our email newsletter. Emily does that too. We have an interesting list and we’re very fixed about this – it’s built purely from people signing up on the website and via a link in our email signatures, we don’t sneakily add people to it at all – we want people to be really sure they want to be on it, so the list is not huge. It’s a nice mix of clients, other copywriters and a few prospects and that works well.”
“It’s all done on a shoestring really.”
What results does the business see from doing all this?
“We grew 30% last year and 25% this year so I know we’re doing something right!
When it comes to our content we’re not really focussed on conversions. It’s not like we say we’re going to do this piece of content and we want it to get us so many leads and we don’t really track the correlation between the content we create and the leads that come in. We don’t do a lot of formal measurement. We don’t have Hubspot or Marketo – we don’t have the tools. For us it’s really about awareness and also about showing that we can create high quality content. Having said that, when we’re talking to leads and prospects they mention our content quite a lot.
We come up really well in search because of the amount of blogging that we do. We’re there for searches for B2B copywriting and B2B copywriters and B2B technology copywriters, because of the amount of content that we’ve got on our site and that has definitely brought us business, so that would make a correlation. If someone said they found your site through a Google search looking for a B2B copywriter then the content’s working.
Where it really seems to work is with existing clients. We don’t work on a retainer with anybody – there’s nothing binding them to us – so it’s important for us to build long term relationships and motivate people to come back and do more business with us. Existing clients seem to really like our content and it inspires them to do more work with us. Our content keeps them coming back.
I’m not convinced by the argument that everything in content marketing must be conversion-orientated, anything that doesn’t drive leads through the door is no good. I think that’s a real shame! Because I think that’s going to be the end, almost the end of being really creative and experimental, because it has to be ‘well I need to know the ROI of this before I create this piece‘.
People need to be creative and experimental, and not forget the awareness driver at the top of the funnel. If you’re just focused on driving leads through you’re going to miss that bit, and that’s where the really creative stuff comes out – at the top of the funnel. I like your comment in your recent blog post:
“Content that you create when you’re having fun, is content that performs really well.”
If you’re just thinking purely about conversions and ROI, you’re not really having that much fun. You’re under some kind of weird pressure to do something that delivers results.
You can’t rely on surveys to tell you what sort of content to create. In the tech industry there’s an agency called Octopus Group, and they do regular surveys of CIOs and what type of content they want to read and inevitably it’s white papers. I think white papers definitely have their place, and there’s lots you can do to make them interesting and engaging, but if we went back to a world where that’s all we were doing for clients that would be quite depressing!”
Any tips for other small businesses?
“Now is a really difficult time because everybody is doing content. Three to four years ago it was relatively easy to create something eye catching that would stand out, and that gave you a good advantage. But now everybody’s doing it. When all we hear about are companies with big budgets who put a lot of effort into something really beautiful, I get annoyed!
People go on about Volvo Truck’s Epic Split video- the Jean-Claude Van Damme one – I think well, they’ve got loads of money; they can get Jean-Claude Van Damme!”
“If you’re a smaller business it’s got tougher. You’ve got to up your game.
First of all think about creating really, really valuable meaty stuff. I think this is why the best performing blog posts are getting longer, 2000-3000 words, because you can’t be superficial anymore and talk about the same things everyone is talking about.
You have to be putting a lot of effort behind it and say things that are really valuable that nobody else is saying; getting hold of data that nobody else has got. That might be using your own data – if you’ve got any of your own data that you can make a story out of then that’s brilliant for your content.
“The bar is definitely getting higher but I think that’s exciting.”
You’re going to have to be creating stuff that’s really high quality, really authoritative, and give people something they can’t really get elsewhere and provide it in a format that’s attractive and not too onerous. It has to be 3000 words that people really want to read. So I think the bar’s definitely getting higher, but I think that’s exciting.
It’s nice to have a challenge and if you really put a lot of effort into something I think that effort will pay off. Not all people are putting the same amount of effort in – there is opportunity for you here.
When I think back to when Velocity created their famous ‘Crap. The Content Marketing Deluge‘ SlideShare it was incredible. They are a small company but to date it’s had nearly 2 million views! They created it when nobody much was using SlideShare. It was a new format and they owned that, and it’s really stood out from everything else because it was a new way of consuming content.
So like Velocity you need to experiment and find a new creative approach to get people’s attention. I think that’s kind of where we were going with our board game, nobody else has done this, it can’t help but stand out.
And definitely keep the fun in it. Be bold and innovative, but most of all, have some fun.”
Congratulations Fiona and the Radix Communications team! You are definitely pushing the content marketing bar in an increasingly noisy content-filled world. We love the fun you’re having and the results are compelling. Worthy winners of the golden Valuable Content Award for 2015. Your badges are in the post! We can’t wait to see what you come up with next year.
More valuable content award winners to learn from:
- Learn from Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote – last year’s super smart golden Valuable Content Award Winners
- Find out about the award-winning Velocity Partners’ content marketing approach
- Hear why we gave the crazy but brilliant LINGsCARS.com website an award too
Plenty of inspiration to help you take your content to the next level next year. Happy Christmas to you all!