Roger Edwards: Keeping content marketing simple

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Roger shares his discovery of content marketing through podcasts whilst working in a marketing position in a corporate environment.

The red-tape and complex environment of the corporate world motivated Roger to begin his own podcast which he is committed to every week with over 200 episodes.

Roger discusses why keeping marketing simple is important and how this has lead to the growth of his own business.

The Interviews:

Additional Resources:


Chris: Well, good afternoon Roger. How are you today?

Roger: Hi Chris, I am great. Thank you so much for getting me on the show.

Chris: I don’t think you’ve been on the show before, have you?

Roger: No, this is my first time. Yeah.

Chris: Can’t believe that. You’ve done 216 episodes of your podcast. I’m sure you had to be on as a guest on your show way back, when-

Roger: Oh, it was in the early 50s I think. You were one of the first guests that I had. And then, of course, you came back for episode 200 and interviewed me for a special episode.

Chris: That’s right. And yeah, so I feel like you should have been on the podcast a long time ago and so it’s good to have you here finally for us to talk about your journey with content marketing. You recently won the podcast of the year award at CMA as well. So I want to talk to you a little bit about the podcast and your journey there and what you’ve been up to and where you’re going. And I know there’s something else that’s happening very soon as well. I want to talk about it as well.

But generally speaking, I think the theme or part of the theme is going to be about this element of consistency, whether it’s a podcast or you’re writing a book or you’re doing whatever it is and how that impacted your content, your approach to content marketing.

But first of all, I don’t think we’ve really talked about it at great length, certainly obviously not on this podcast, but generally speaking about content marketing and where that journey started for you. So everybody’s got a different story to tell Roger about how they came to that point where they thought content marketing is really where I need to be. It’s what’s going to make the biggest difference for me.

So curious for the audience as well to find it a little bit about how you got to that part of your journey to where you were like committed when you do the podcast and when you do content marketing. This is how it’s going to be.

Roger: Yeah. Well, I was working in what I now call big corporate, so we’re going back to about 2006, 2007. It’s when things like Twitter was starting up to get big and Facebook was starting to come along and I started … I was this marketing director for a big financial services company and as a marketing director, I was involved in what we would now probably call traditional marketing. So how can we advertise? Should we advertise on TV? Should we advertise in magazines? Should we advertise on the internet as it’s developing now? Should we create videos and spend a £100,000 on videos? Because in those days, that’s how much it cost to put a video together.

And I was doing all these traditional marketing directory things and on top of that was piled on this really quite torturous regulatory environment that afflicts, I guess afflicts is the wrong word. That this regulatory environment that sits on top of financial services, everything has to be checked to make sure that you’re not making outlandish claims, that you’re not saying things about investment performance and all of that sort of thing. And because of that regulatory environment, the marketing that was done was actually quite slow.

It would take you ages to put things together because loads of people have to get involved, loads of people have to sign things off, loads of people have to be happy before it got out there.

And in my spare time, and especially as I was traveling to work each morning on the train, about 25, 30 minutes on the train, I started listening to podcasts about this thing called content marketing. And again, we’re talking about 2008, 2009 and I came across this guy who we obviously both know very well now, Marcus Sheridan, and he had this podcast which was called The Mad Marketing podcast, also that was a great name for a podcast.

And there was another podcast as well, Content Warfare by a chap called Ryan Hanley, both American based of course. And they were talking about this stuff called content marketing, which was a different approach to communication than I been at it traditionally trained to do.

Now, what I had been traditionally trained to do was all that interruption stuff, so advertising, TV advertising, interrupting people, watching their favorite show. Interrupting people who are going through a magazine. Interrupting people who are enjoying what they’re doing.

But content marketing was not about interrupting people. Content marketing was about giving people helpful stuff, helpful stuff that they might actually be looking for on the internet.

And this was just so different from what I was effectively my career had developed around and I got incredibly interested in this whole concept of content marketing at that time as a result of those podcasts.

And one of the things we did within the financial services company is we set up, probably I’m going to say it was the first financial services company blog and we sat that up in 2008, 2009 and wrote articles that answered questions that people had about financial services.

Now, Chris, it was really hard for me to get the high ops because I reported into a group executive. It was very hard to get the high ops to even agree to let us set up a blog, because again they were, “What’s all this content marketing stuff? It sounds a bit dangerous you know. What about the regulations?” But we set up this blog site, it was called something like, and funnily enough, is actually a porn site. So we were desperately close to leading people down the wrong URL there.

But this blog site over the course of about 18 months actually started to generate more traffic than the website for the financial services company itself. And of course, the website for the financial services company itself was your typical, pretty boring, lots of product literature, lots and lots of text. Whereas the content blog was nice short articles, answering questions, sometimes with a little bit of video and in those days it was very low-resolution video and all that sort of thing. And it was engaging and it started to overtake in terms of the number of hits, the people who actually visited the main website. So I knew it worked.

Chris: So what happened next?

Roger: Well, I guess my interest in content marketing started to grow even more and I just saw this is definitely the way forward.

One of the big problems I guess in those days was that the agencies didn’t know about this Chris. You could talk to the agencies and it was all advertising. It was all traditional communications. So there wasn’t really anybody to talk to about this stuff. And you know, the flippant answer that I often got from some, “Oh, it’s just these Americans going off on one, isn’t it?” And the fact is, I just became more and more convinced about it.

And as it turned out a few years later, after plowing this furrow for a few years, circumstances changed within the company I was working for. I got the opportunity to take a redundancy package and I decided, you know, this is probably the time to set out on my own. Because one of the things I had found after that sort of light bulb moment when I thought content marketing is the way forward, it was just one hurdle after another to get these things through that regulatory process.

So as video became more accessible, I wanted to do more video, but it was, “Well, we’re a bit worried about video because you know, will the quality of doing it on a cheap camera be bad for the reputation of the company.”

You know, five years ago we would have hired an agency with a big film crew and they would have come in with all these lights and gantries and those silver discs that bounce light around, and they’d have charged us 50 grand for the filming and the editing. Will it be a reputational thing if we have to … If we are using our own video cameras.

We still have those conversations today. This conversation hasn’t changed.

I know, I know. I mean, it’s a story I actually tell in speeches. There was one particularly great piece of marketing that this company Bright Gray that I was working for did, and this was about 2006. And it was a video of a customer just effectively giving a monologue to camera, and we created the video, we made a DVD, remember DVDs, we made a DVD out of the video. We put the DVD into a nice glossy little DVD pocket. We put the DVD pocket inside a nice glossy brochure. We put that into an envelope and sent it out to 45,000 financial advisors and the whole thing cost about a hundred grand.

Whereas today you’d shoot the video on a … Maybe even on your phone, I mean the quality would be good enough. You’d email it out to 45,000 people and the overall cost with your time and everything, and maybe a bit of editing will be a fraction of a hundred grand, a couple of hundred pounds, a thousand pounds, whatever it would …

So the accessibility that we have to this stuff these days are remarkable. But back then it was so hard to push this stuff through. And I guess that when the management, the group management changed and they said, “Well, we want you to reapply for your job.” And I had to reapply … We had to reapply for our jobs every couple of years. You know what Chris? I just thought, “I’m not doing it. I’m not doing it. If you want me to leave, you pay me off. If you want me to stay, you just give me the job.”

So we came to an agreement after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened. Because it meant I could start working with companies that actually genuinely wanted to embrace content marketing, wanted to do video, wanted to blog, whatever it was, and they didn’t have this inbuilt either fear of it or regulatory resistance to it.

It was actually a joy to get out and talk to people who understood this stuff and wanted to embrace it. And of course, at around that time, this was 2012, 2013 that’s when I came across yourself, Content Marketing Academy, obviously got to know you and Marcus a bit better, joined the CMA, came along to CMA live, spoke at CMA live. The whole thing has just sort of mushroomed since then…

Chris: Yeah, it’s been great getting to know you over the years of working with you getting to know your story and your journey as well. And obviously you’ve applied, I mean it’s still even just about you putting the content market principles to practice in your own business. But that you … Like I love the fact that you’re now able to choose the people that you want to work with. It’s like even if you, as a freelancer you’ve got a job, you work with companies that you choose you to want to work with and I think that’s great.

It’s a really powerful position to be in and it’s about the luxury as well I think to be in a position like that where you can say, “No, I don’t think you guys get it yet. You know, maybe in a couple of years we could work together.”

Or now you can choose just the right people, which makes it … It doesn’t just make it easier for you to do your job. That means that these people are going to get better results, which is really what we’re working towards. I want to help the right people. And those are the ones that are going to get the best at the end of the day.

Roger: Absolutely. And of course, as you would expect, having worked within the financial services industry for over 25 years, my network, which was the original source of my consultancy work I guess, meant that a lot of the clients I initially had were still financial services companies and it became very obvious quite early.

I would go in half of the conversation and just as you sat there, you get that feeling straight away. Do you know what, this lot are going to be even worse than the lot I’ve just left behind? Or you’d think, “No, no, these people get it. Maybe they’ve been listening to some of the same stuff I’ve been listening to, read some of the same books, et cetera.” You know that you’re going to work well with them and you know that they’re going to get it and they’re going to grow as a result of it.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. So when it comes to you, like your podcast, your podcast is your main channel, right? That’s the one that you’ve dedicated and committed to the most in terms of the type of medium, right?

Roger: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I guess when I left big corporate, I had a big profile in the sector. I guess one of the favorite parts of the role that I had when I was a marketing director was I loved the PR side of things. So I was often quoted in the trade press, and even in the national press. I was often out visiting journalists, this, that and the other. And I wanted to make sure that in the early days of my consultancy experience that I still had a method of keeping that profile up. And of course not working for a big corporate, I wouldn’t have product launches and campaigns to do press releases about and to brief people.

So I thought, you know what, I’ve listened to Marcus’s podcast, I listened to Ryan Hanley’s, by then I was listening to your podcast and I’m thinking, “I should do this for myself.” And I guess the initial prompt was, this is just a way of keeping my profile up.

So I actually did a test podcast, which very few people know about. It’s called Group Fitness Over Coffee, which is all to do with the fitness industry, which is a sort of sideline of mine. And I did about 27 episodes of that before I launched the marketing and finance podcast. And that was more just to get used to how to do audio and how to add it and that sort of thing. But the marketing and finance podcast, I launched that initially purely selfishly I guess as a method of keeping my voice out there.

But I chose the interview format, interspersed occasionally with the odd solo show. And I guess it’s just like, it started to gain some traction. And you know with the podcast that you’re getting there when you miss a week for whatever reason, you know you’re ill or you’re on holiday and people either tweet you or send you emails and saying, “Where’s the episode this week? Are you okay?” Et cetera. And you think, “Oh, there’s actually, there really genuinely is an audience for this.”

And I guess I’ve listened to you. I’d listened to Marcus and others and they said, “You know, you’ve got to stick with this, don’t fall into that trap of being the person who does seven episodes and then says this isn’t working and give up on it.”

I stuck with it, and I think I had done 33 episodes before I can say that I genuinely got a piece of work, paid work, out of the podcast.

And in fairness it was, I think if I remember right now, I was asked to write an article for a publication, so it probably earned me 250 quid if that. But that was a genuine piece of work that came out of the podcast. And then it was I think episode 87 or 88 before I got a major piece of consultancy, plus 10 grand, whatever it was as a result of people listening to that podcast.

And I guess that if you’re having to do sort of 30 odd, 80 odd, 90 odd episodes before you start getting that engagement to those sorts of levels of financial reward, that proves the consistency and the longevity you need. It is a long game. You can’t do a few podcasts and expect to become well known. You’ve got to stick at it and I think that’s a subject that comes up frequently, isn’t it? In our conversations, in CMA and everywhere.

Chris: Yeah. People can’t stay consistent at anything across their whole life. Never mind trying to stick to one thing to do with marketing and sales for their business. It’s really, really, it’s like a mindset shift that’s required for people to sort of see, “You know what, I’m just going to do this thing until, and that’s it.” Like just do it.
There’s like there’s our channel, it’s a platform.

It’s like the same with my podcast as well Roger. I took a shift last year and my mindset, which was this is where I talk to my people. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be any more than that, but I have to commit to that, it has to be consistent. It’s really, really important.

You’ve recorded 216 episodes of your podcast, and the great thing is that you were recognised for your work publicly at the CMA awards this year, and I’m going to read out your nomination.

I can’t actually remember who it was that nominated you. There were many other people in the podcast category. So it’s a public nomination and I can’t remember who the other nominees were, but there were loads of people with established podcasts as well.

So it was good I think for you to be recognised. It wasn’t just about longevity and commitment and consistency. Those things are important.

But it was significant though Roger, that it was a difference between 210 episodes or whatever and 40 for example. The gap was so big, so it wasn’t like we were arguing over episode numbers or anything like that. It was wasn’t just the consistency in the commitment. It was this that you were like an established leader with your podcast, which I think was really important to see. So that’s one of the reasons why you won that award.

This is the nomination:

“I want to vote for Roger in the podcast awards for a number of reasons. I listened to his podcast and I’ve taken part in one, so I know how we can get the best out of people and support them so that they market themselves well. His podcast are every week and are consistent in their message. Simplicity is key. Roger truly is the champion of simplicity when it comes to marketing. His passion for cutting out the BS, listening to target audiences and giving them what they actually want stands out in all his work. To reach 210 weekly podcasts or 260 notes on the same recording, he needs to be credited for his sheer determination to fight complexity and promote simplicity.

Most week Rogers podcast features a guest who talks about their niche, with Roger helping them to get their message out to listeners in a simple way. It could be someone that’s pretty much a celebrity in their field or someone who’s starting out on their journey, like your nominee, the person who nominated you was. Being on Rogers’ podcast, he put me at ease, we laugh, we share stories, all that so I could sit back, relax, and people could hear the view of me. Every step of the way I felt that Rogers’ only goal was to make me shine. Rogers’ podcast are simple, educational, and they’re really easy to binge on.”

So that’s the review you’ve always wanted for your iTunes, right?

Roger: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, it’s really nice to hear that. I hadn’t seen that or heard that before, so I’m now sitting there thinking, “Who the hell was that?”

No, but I guess I never even … Had it had been an award that I had to enter, I probably wouldn’t have done, to be perfectly honest. So it was really nice of whoever that was to put me forward. And even then it was even better to have that, you have that “and the winner is…” moment when everything goes silent and then you sort of say my name and it’s, “Oh my God, did he really just say that?” And then, oh wow. Obviously felt hugely, hugely happy at that point.

Chris: Yeah, that was amazing. I literally left the awards ceremony and it was great. I just love the whole process of recognition. Like everybody deserves to be recognised for the work that they’re doing, especially with the content marketing stuff. Because it is difficult. It’s a lot hard work. You’ve put in a lot of energy and time and thought and all that work goes into the thing that you feel so passionate about.

You wouldn’t do it to the level … To 216 episodes if it wasn’t something that you believed in, right? And I think that all that work needs to be recognised. So I’m really, really pleased that you won the award, you deserve it and it was great to recognise you for that publicly and here on the podcast and let people know about the good work that you’re doing.

That consistency, that commitment, that dedication truly does pay off. So it’s great stuff, Roger.

And of course, when we talk about content marketing, it’s never about one thing. I mean you say that it’s like your main channel is your podcast. Obviously you’re consulting, you’re speaking, you’re doing workshops, you’re involved in industry events and things like that. But you’re about to put all of your knowledge about simplicity and complexity into one place. And that, of course, is the book that you’ve been working on over the last, I don’t know how long. How long have you worked on your book for?

Roger: I guess it’s probably about two years since I first put fingers to keyboards and actually physically wrote a chapter of it. But the reality is the ideas and the themes and the stories that are in the book have really been bubbling away probably throughout my entire career.

And as you would expect, some of the themes and the stories in the book have taken place over quite a long time period. And the person who nominated me for the podcast said that my overriding theme these days is simplicity. And I guess this is born out of that time of working in big corporate.

When I was getting stifled by those regulations, getting stifled by the bureaucracy, the huge bureaucracy of big corporations that just basically stifles creativity. It really is something that needs to be sorted out.

And a lot of smaller companies unfortunately, if they try to read about how to put together a marketing strategy, they often end up getting drawn into that complexity that we see in bigger companies. And that either puts them off putting a strategy together or it makes them procrastinate or whatever.

So I just, I want to bring all the ideas and stories and experiences that I’ve had together and put a book together which allows people to create a simple marketing strategy without using all of those, the four Ps of marketing or is it the seven or is it the 12 or the 13 or however many it is. Without SWOT analysis, pest analysis, Boston grids, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, all of that stuff.

Just good old fashioned, focus on the customer, work out what the customers need and problem is, build a product or service to solve that need or problem and then go away and communicate it. Preferably using content marketing.

And really, that’s what the book’s about. But written in simple language using a nice easy structure for people to go through and hopefully it will encourage smaller businesses to say, “Do you know what? We do need a strategy, but we don’t need to be academic about it. We don’t need an MBA in marketing in order to put a plan together. We just need a couple of really simple steps and then the passion and the creativity to be consistent probably over a small to medium size longterm plan to get that, get our message out there and to grow our business.”

So the book’s finished. I finished it about a month ago. Next stages it’s, I’m going to head into editing and then I need to actually put the launch plan together.

I’ve got a couple of titles to the book which I’ve not … I’m going to have to do some AB testing and get some feedback, but it’s likely that the cat sat on the mat story, which I tell in presentations, I told that story on the stage at CMA live a couple of years ago. Massively resonates with people when you tell it. So that forms quite a large chunk of the book. So it’s possible the title of the book will be Cat Smarts and Marketing Plans, or something like that, but we’ll have to see.

Chris: I love it. I’m really looking forward to it. I think everybody that’s listened will enjoy the book too. I like how the great thing about a book like this is that because I think to myself, how many more marketing books do we need, right? And I’m sure you’ve thought about this and stayed up at night thinking about this as well Roger, right? How more marketing books does the world needs?

But what the world does need is clarity. We need more clear direction, right? I think we can never … It’s almost like we can never have enough of that to give people clarity.

But obviously I love the purpose here about the simplicity and helping people to do a few simple things that allow them to move, right? Because a lot of people get stuck with the academia and the bureaucracy and the paperwork and the planning and all that.

Like you talked about the peace, and we get stuck into these, I don’t know, conventions I guess that are as old as time and it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

So I love the message. I love the purpose of the book. I think it’s going to be a hit and I think a lot of people will get a ton of value from it and I just can’t wait for you to put it out. That’s what I’m looking forward to is it coming out and holding a copy in my hands.

On the topic Roger, on the topic of simplicity as we are like we could just draw, like finish things up I think for those listening. We give them a little bit of value I guess is, how I guess you could have … You sort of alluded to it a little bit here, but the complex nature of marketing is is that there’s like a 1,001 ways I guess to market a business, right? There’s so many things that people can do.

In your opinion, your experience, what people are getting themselves tied up on? Why are they over-complicating here? Like what is it and how do they just break away from that and make it simple?

Roger: I think people tend to over-complicate all the elements. I mean, one of the things I think we’ve got an issue with today is that marketing, the discipline, has almost become just about the communications bit. And therefore people end up complicating that. So instead of using simple conversational language like we’ve been using here, they start using horrible passive sentences and legalese and worse, they use jargon and it just clogs up the message and it doesn’t engage with the end customer.

But if you move beyond communication and start thinking about the other elements of marketing, like product and process and even pricing, if you look around you, everything is … There are complicated products out there. There are complicated pricing structures. I mean who the hell understands how energy companies price their products? And people don’t want that complexity.

They want a simple product with a simple buying process, understand the price and if there’s any marketing messaging, whether it’s advertising, traditional advertising, whether it’s content, they want to be able to consume that in an understandable and simple way. Whether it’s written or it’s video or it’s all audio, talk in simple language. Don’t use the jargon, don’t use the legalese. Just talk to them like you talk to them in the pub or talk to them like we’re talking to over this podcast.

I don’t know. It must just be a corporate thing. Small business or large business. When you get loads of people working on something together, this complexity almost infiltrates and gets in the way and you don’t need it. Customers don’t want it. They just want to have something simple that they can engage with and it’s easy and natural. That’s really it.

Chris: Yeah, I love it. I think this is something that I struggle with as well and I’m teaching Roger, is that people over-complicate marketing because they are thinking about themselves too much.

You know, them and their product and their pricing and their mission and their targets and their objectives. When ultimately to be a great marketer, you really need to just put the customer at the front of everything, right? You’re focusing on the customer. How am I communicating with them? How will they understand the price? How will they be able to understand what our product does for them?

You know, it’s like you are flipping everything on its head to make it simple, but we get wrapped up in all of this stuff. It doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to be stressful, it should be fun, right?

This is running a business or an enterprise where you’re small, medium, or larger in the marketing department, or you’re responsible for marketing. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be creative. It’s supposed to be enjoyable. It’s supposed to be something that’s to grow your business with. It’s filled, packed with opportunity. That’s what it’s all about. And I hope that your book … It sounds like your book’s going to do its part to bring some of that back into the marketing.

I guess the purpose of marketing and how we think and believe marketing can help us as well, which is awesome Roger. So I love that. Really cool. And obviously people, if they want to make sure they’re connected with you Roger, and want to make sure that they when your book is going to be out and when you’re launching it, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Roger: Two places Chris, my website, And my favorite social media channel is Twitter and that’s Roger_Edwards. So find me either of those places. Get in touch, let’s have a chat. Always happy to talk simplicity.

Chris: Awesome stuff. Thanks for joining me today, Roger. It’s great to get on insight into your journey where content marketing came from, that sort of egg was hatched I guess. And it’s great to see all the work that you’re doing. I’m looking forward to your next chapter.

Roger: Fantastic, Chris. Cheers.