Fifty Five and Five turns 5!

Fifty Five and Five is officially five years old. It’s been a hell of a journey, an exciting time with many highs - and the odd ‘are we doing the right thing?’ moment. I’m immensely proud of what the whole team has achieved, and I’m so excited for the future.

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But how did we get here?

In our five years we’ve done so much incredible work for clients all over the globe. We’ve doubled our head count pretty much every year, moved office four times, and launched an industry leading marketing report. We have our own marketing benchmarking platform, and recently opened an office in Redmond, Seattle… We’ve crammed a lot in!

So how did we do it? And much more importantly, how do we push on even further and faster in the future?

I’ll be honest, when it comes to running a business I don’t tend to give too much advice to others. I just don’t think I’ve quite earned the right yet. Also I put a lot of Fifty Five and Five’s success down to two simple things: hard work and luck. Though I do very much subscribe to the maxim of the harder you work, the luckier you get.

But the hard work that got us here, and will power our future, isn’t mine. It’s the team and network around me. Yes I know what you are thinking, here comes the cliché of ‘it’s all about the people’. But it is true. And instead of general platitudes, I can prove it. I’ll come back to that shortly.

Let’s rewind a bit

Before I set up the business I was a freelancer (IT and business consulting, then copywriting). I worked mostly on my own, found my own contracts and did what I pleased. It was an interesting and fulfilling period of my working life - but it couldn’t be more different to what I’m doing now.

I hired my first employee just one month into Fifty Five and Five, in Sep 2014. Very quickly, I had many a wise voice telling me about the power and importance of delegation. And of course it is true, but at its heart delegation is just passing your own tasks onto someone else. I wanted more than that.

Instead, I decided early on to try and find great people and give them the tools (not simply my tasks) to succeed. I’ve tried to empower people, mainly by giving them freedom and responsibility.

“No you don’t need to copy me into that email, I trust you.” 

“Yes, you’re running that meeting by yourself.”

“Ok you messed up, but how are you going to fix it?”

It’s important to know that this doesn’t always work. Actually it sometimes backfires spectacularly. But overall, I’ve found the system, with the odd adjustment, works. Giving people freedom doesn’t mean holding back on support. If anything, support is even more important for helping people grow. It’s a pretty simple formula: hire great people, support them, treat them like adults.

So what makes ‘great people’?

As I mentioned before, I don’t really like giving advice. I’m not qualified. But I did say I can prove it is the people that make Fifty Five and Five what it is. So to finish this post, let’s go through them one by one and see exactly why.

I’m excluding clients from this list, because I could too easily list them all and write a novel. So if I’ve missed you out, don’t worry. If you’ve ever worked with us, the whole team and I are grateful for your support – we couldn’t have done it without you.

David Lavenda at harmon.ie – Our first ever client and an important part of Fifty Five and Five to this very day. He trusted us in the early days when we were still finding our feet, and we continue to work together creating fantastic things.

Aidan Danaher – Our first ever employee, Aidan has done every job there is to do, and he now heads up our Clients Services team. His attitude and manner are a shining example to everyone, every day.

Christine Stone – An early client, but much more a friend of the company, who’s always generous with advice and encouragement.

Roland Oldengarm, Terence Rabe, Dhaval Shah, Gene Vangampelaere, Daniel Asuzu, Steven Andrews, Blair Hainsworth – Our initial group of freelance writers and subject matter experts. Their enthusiasm to try something new with us was crucial for our first year.

Christian Buckley – A real cheerleader for the company who’s been there for us from the start. 

Len Williams – Our first full time writer, former Head of Content, and now a valuable freelancer. Many of the initiatives Len started way back, we still practice now.

Nick Jevons – A freelance designer who helped us out early on. He allowed us to say ‘we build websites’, which was huge at the time.

Sam Gowing – Sam joined us a writer fresh from university, and he’s still with us today. He’s an awesome part of the team and culture here.

Vlad Volodin at devmiles – Vlad and his team help us build the tools that power Fifty Five and Five, including Maya.

Stephen Reilly – Joined as our third writer, and he’s now our much valued Head of Content. He’s a great example of people growing with the company and taking opportunities.

Warren Knight – Our first business coach, who helped develop our Top50 report idea which still underpins a lot of our success.

David Jones – Our first ever accountant, who bravely put up with all my inane questions for a long time.

Katrina Patel – Our first ever marketing exec. She was perfect person to take that role and remains a friend of the company today.

Manvir Mangat – Our first full time designer, who was critical in helping to shape what was at the time a brand new area for us.

Enrika Ramonaite – A Marketing Exec master, so valuable to us that when she left the country we insisted she kept working for us. And she does.

Kevin Conroy @ BlueRooster – An advisor and friend to the company whose championing of Maya helped to shape the product we have today.

Richard Shipton – Generous in all his interactions with the company and he has helped to spread our name far and wide.

Paulina Olin – Our first web designer, and now leading Digital Designer on the creative team. Another great example of someone who has grown with the company.

Seb Gach – An irreplaceable member of our content team, Seb has really allowed us to develop the range of work we offer.

Kristin Treat at Nintex – An awesome client, friend of Fifty Five and Five, and fantastic advocate for what we do.

Jennifer Tomlinson at Microsoft – Jennifer has done so much for Fifty Five and Five, words can’t do it justice. She’s an awesome person.

Karl Heasman at Cactus – A business coach and mentor. Karl is a hugely important part of the Fifty Five and Five journey.

Caitlin Shorricks – The Office Manager and my PA, Caitlin is a vital part of making Fifty Five and Five run day to day. She’s truly integral part of the team.

John Wilson at Viral Agency – Our go to video production partner, awesome to collaborate with and a good all round chap.

Laura Lopez – Dedicated, loyal, a pleasure to work with and great at her job. What else could an employer want?

 John Haggis at Kepler Wolf – Our first lawyer. Talks plain English, gets the job done, and is easy to work with.

Miles Booth – The first member of what is now our Client Services team. He’s helped shape everything this team has done since he joined.

Elise Cannon – Our first Data Analyst, all round Tableau wiz and Excel genius. Holland’s gain is our loss.

Mischa Gatti – Mischa’s ability to calmly take big clients and important projects and own them 100% is a big contributor to our growth.

Barnaby Ellis – Head of the Creative team and invaluable in helping shape both Maya and our Insights offering. Barnaby’s experience helps Fifty Five and Five every day.

Matthew Rooke – Matt brings a level of calm expertise to the content team and has certainly taught me more about the rules of grammar than I thought possible. 

Maria Angelino – One of our Marketing Execs, Maria is a vital member of that team and all round SEO and PPC expert.

Kate Menzies – Another of our brilliant writers, Kate’s contribution to the team and our work is fantastic. And she still finds time to self-publish her own poetry, which I find amazing.

Abo Akintunde – Joined the Creative team and quickly played a huge role in transforming our digital design services.

Abbie Edwards – Another valued member of the creative team, who brings real talent to her role

Alessa Morisse – Our first project manager. I have no idea how we got this far without her. A brilliant find for Fifty Five and Five.

Janar Kuusik – Our first full time animator, enjoying his second stint at the company. He constantly amazes us with his talents.

Patricia Bassler at Bassler Financial Services – Our financial wizard in the US who all but runs our operations there. We couldn’t have setup in the states without her.

Liz Wegerer – Our first employee in the states, and invaluable in forging our business across the pond. Irreplaceable.

Danny Mitchell – A writer whose passion for the job and the words he assembles comes through in his work every day.

Megan Marris – A recent hire and already much-valued member of the content team. Megan is an awesome addition to Fifty Five and Five.

Alex Carnegie – The newest writer on the content team, who joined as a freelancer and we couldn’t make him perm fast enough.


successful content marketing strategy

8 tips to kickstart a successful content marketing strategy

How can your business build a sustainable and effective content marketing strategy that creates real presence and drives leads?

For the fourth year running, the Fifty Five and Five team had the pleasure of going to the Microsoft Inspire Conference, which was held again this year in Las Vegas, Nevada. The week was packed full of corenotes, workshops, meetings, and conversations with clients and partners alike. Inspire 2019 was certainly an event to remember.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to sit down with Marc-Andre Fontaine from SherWeb, Paul Hsu from Nintex, and Jennifer Tomlinson from Microsoft and discuss fantastic content marketing in practice – does it work? What does it look like? And most importantly, how to do it?

In this year’s Digital Marketing Excellence Report, SherWeb and Nintex placed tenth and third, respectively – which meant they had plenty of fascinating contributions to offer. Including doing a pretty great job of answering those questions.

Does content marketing work?

Yes

What does it look like?

Like this and this and this

How do I do it?

Read on…

If you weren’t able to catch the session, don’t worry – because we’ve pulled together some of the most important points together in this blog.

Here’s a look through our eight tips for a successful content marketing strategy.

1. Have a clear goal

Any successful content marketing campaign should start with one clear question: ‘What do we want to achieve with our content?’ This should influence every blog, eBook, or social post you create.

Having a clear overarching goal to your entire digital marketing strategy is vital. It can be easy to assume that this goal would be ‘to generate leads’ – that is, after all, the goal of every business. But it’s also worth taking some time to consider the ‘how’ as well as the ‘why’ you’re creating content.

In the case of SherWeb, for example, this meant creating informative content that would engage their readers, so they feel empowered to take the next step in the buyer’s journey.  Defining this goal requires an understanding of what your readers’ expectations are and how you can effectively fulfil these needs.

2. Understand your audience

Before you write a single word or post a single tweet, you need to understand more about the people who’ll be reading it. For that, you’ll need analytics.

Luckily, almost anybody with a website domain can analyse who comes and goes on their website – using Google Analytics. As Nintex have discovered, this data can help you understand who your readers are, what they’re looking for and how they’re doing it. With this information, you can understand the demographics of your readership, including age, job title, seniority, and any related interests they might have. This is all important information; the material you create for an HR manager will naturally be different from that created for an IT expert.

Once you understand this information, the next step is to create marketing personas based on the information; a semi-fictional account of your ideal customer based on this research. From there, it’s much easier to target your future content towards this person.

Fancy a free template to help you craft the perfect persona?

3. Identify your content types

Once you’ve worked out who you’ll target, the next step is to work out what you’ll create. Different organizations will have different needs from their content strategies – so there’s no one size fits all approach. There’s an almost infinite range of different content types, from the more conventional blogs, eBooks and case studies, to more interactive examples like quizzes, polls, infographics and much more.

Having worked with many Microsoft Partners on their marketing strategies, Jennifer is well placed to advise on how buyers can identify the right content for their audience. The trick is to identify what question your buyer is asking, and then tailor the content type back to that specific need. Research is central that, understanding who your customers are, the search terms they’re using, and the specific problems they aim to address.

If you’re a smaller company with limited in-house resources, chances are you won’t be able to produce a large range of different types of content straight off the bat. For that reason, it’s important to effectively identify what types of content will have the maximum impact on your readership. For B2B audiences, we find blogs, eBooks, and whitepapers, as well as social media content on LinkedIn to be the most effective. But this won’t necessarily be the same for you – so make sure to go back to your personas and consider your audience data when planning your content marketing strategy.

4. Plan your time

Creating an editorial calendar is one of the most important pillars of a successful content marketing strategy. It’s easy to think ‘I’ll just write a blog when I’ve got something to write about, or when inspiration hits’. In reality, unless you create clear goals and deadlines, it’ll almost certainly fall to the bottom of the to do list. For that reason, it’s good to start by defining exactly how much content you’ll produce each month, and what types. Then, it’s time to start generating ideas.

When planning their content strategy, Nintex took an ambitious approach, setting a target of 20 blogs a month and five or six webinars a month. They also found success with whitepapers, eBooks, infographics, and guidebooks. For a large company with a wide readership over many industries and verticals, this strategy is effective.

For many companies, however, as little 4-8 blogs a month, 1-2 eBooks and some accompanying social media activity can lay a strong basis for an effective digital marketing campaign. Remember, consistency is always more valuable than quantity.

5. Promotion is everything

You can write the best content in the world, but if nobody knows about it – it’s not worth the html code it's written on. It’s important to find ways to push your content out and find new audiences. SEO and paid media will naturally play an important part in this – and learning how to properly optimize your content for Google is really important.

But if you want to build a successful, sustainable and organic following, the best tools are social media and email marketing. SEO and paid media might help you generate an audience, but it won’t help you sustain it over time. For a B2B audience, Twitter and LinkedIn generally provide the most valuable audiences.

SherWeb have experienced great success in expanding the reach of their social audience by using their employees’ profiles. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for this, since your employees will already have a ready-made network of relatively engaged followers with a specific focus on your industry. Many organizations would (and have) paid good money for a following like that – so underestimate it at your peril.

6. Track, measure and refine

Building a long-term content strategy from the ground up is certainly the hard part – but that doesn’t mean it is plain sailing from there. The B2B technology market is a competitive place and organisations looking to stay on top need to make constant improvements to their digital strategies.

To do this, you should constantly aim to discover more about your readership and how they interact with your content. Research is incredibly valuable, and it is vital to understand how successful the content you produce is or could be. That requires an understanding of how many people are viewing the content, as well as how they access it. If you discover that all your readers are finding you through paid media and SEO, it’s a good sign you need to improve your organic social efforts. As well as this however, tracking bounce rates and engagement times will help improve your strategy, since it will allow you to identify which pieces of content readers are really interested in.

7. Conversations = leads = customers

It’s important to remember that every digital marketing campaign is ultimately designed to generate leads. It’s all well and good providing content that engages your audience – but ultimately you need that audience to convert. Engagements metrics and conversions are therefore important. Luckily, these can also be found In Google Analytics.

Producing a large amount of content will allow you to experiment with different content types, and consider over time which ones are most likely to attract and engage your readers. Every organization will have a slightly different readership, so it’s important to remember that there’s no one size fits all approach.

But it is important to remember that you can’t expect conversions overnight – and achieving true thought leadership is a long game. The most successful content marketing strategies, like those of SherWeb and Nintex, benefit from a long term investment into an honest and informative conversation with their customers.

8. Consistency is key

A content strategy must, above all, have a long term goal. There’s no point posting a few blogs and some social media tweets and expecting the leads to roll in. It simply doesn’t work like that.

If you’re looking for short term wins, paid media will help get some immediate traffic – but it’s important to work on an organic presence at the same time. Over a long period of time, you’ll start to see content and social engagement rise, providing you with far richer and more lucrative audiences then Google Ads ever could.

But as well as consistency in the amount of content, you should also aim for a consistency in style. Every piece of content you produce is essentially a lesson in branding – and should contribute to your company’s wider image. Whether that’s the topics you choose to discuss or the opinions you share, you should work to create a clear and tangible brand voice through everything you do. This is perhaps the key to the success of Nintex’ and SherWeb’s content strategies – any piece of content you read is distinctively there’s – contributing to a clear unity of brand and focus across the whole reach of the strategy.

Creating a long-term content marketing strategy

If you only take away one of these content marketing tips, make sure to remember that there’s no shortcut to digital marketing success. Becoming a true brand leader requires patience, commitment, hard work – and a clear understanding of the people you’re talking to. This is perhaps the most important thing that our conversations with SherWeb and Nintex discovered. All of that takes time – but if you’ve got the resources it’s absolutely worth investing in.

Having worked with a range of established Microsoft Partners, we at Fifty Five and Five know full well how effective a long-term content strategy can be. If you want to find out for yourself how you can achieve more with content, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.

Grab yourself a copy of our “A fool-proof guide to content marketing” eBook!

Where do you rank in 2019?

Download the Top 50 Microsoft Partner 2019/2020 report now, to find out where you ranked.

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google accelerated mobile pages

AMP up your Google Accelerated Mobile Pages in 2019

  • Learn how to make the most of Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
  • Getting set up and optimising your website
  • The latest functionality, and how to make the most of AMP

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The ever-increasing amount of web traffic from mobile devices means that optimising your mobile site needs to be part of your 2019 marketing strategy. While desktop web browsing still has its place, better mobile browsing is only going to become more important. Today, Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) look like the future of mobile browsing.

A faster mobile web

Google AMP is an open source initiative that aims to push higher performance in the mobile web. In other words, faster browsing.

AMP pages show up in Google’s mobile search results, accompanied by a small lightning bolt. It sends out a pretty unambiguous message: ’check out these pages, they’re the fastest’.

But more importantly, the only pages that feature in their ‘Top Stories’ carousel, at the top of their mobile search results, are AMP pages. That’s a very compelling reason to adopt – or, more to the point, not get left out.

But what are the advantages of AMP for individual users? Pages optimised for AMP load far quicker, in a smarter, mobile-centric way, prioritising content ‘above the fold’ (the upper part of a web page that’s visible without scrolling) to appear as quickly as possible, rather than forcing the user to wait for the entire page to load.

You don’t have to be a UX expert to realise that shorter loading times create a better user experience - which means greater engagement and higher visitor retention rates. These are all better for your business.

A study in 2019 by Stone Temple Consulting found publisher sites who optimised their pages by AMP standards achieved a click-through rate that was 23.1% higher click-through rate on Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). Meanwhile, e-commerce sites benefited from a 32.1% increase in organic traffic.

Impressive results, we think you’ll agree. And when Google throws its mighty weight behind something, it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s going to be big (with the exception of Google+, perhaps).

If you want to make the most of it and not get left behind, here are some tips for implementing Google AMP:

Getting set up with AMP

If your site uses WordPress, it’s relatively straightforward to begin using AMP. Installing the WordPress AMP plugin gives you access to all the essential functionality.

Now, whenever you make a new post on your site, an AMP-optimised version of the page will be created along with the original. You can see it by adding /amp/ to the end of the original post’s URL.

You may have to make some tweaks to bring the look and feel of the AMP-version more in line with your original site, however. This all depends on how your site was coded.

It’s also a good idea to use plugins like Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP to help make optimise your page for search engine optimisation (SEO).

Not using WordPress? Then you may require a little more work from your developer. Now, you’ll need to ensure two versions of each page are created: the original, and the AMP version. For AMP to work, this new AMP-optimised version can’t contain certain HTML tags. That includes some forms of Javascript, as well as frame functions.

But this isn’t a drawback – it’s just part of what AMP does. It simplifies the page by using a streamlined version of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) – leaner, faster-loading and better suited to provide a better mobile experience.

Learn the right (and wrong tags)

Although it doesn’t allow certain HTML tags, Google AMP has a selection of its own to replace them, which have become known as AMP HTML. These tags have been specifically created to enhance mobile browsing. So, if you’ll be writing AMP optimised web pages, you’ll need to get to grips with AMP HTML.

But it’s not like learning an entirely new language. Just some new terms. For a seasoned web developer, picking up AMP is a breeze. You can find the basics in this AMP HTML specification guide, which includes a list of prohibited tags, their replacements, and a sample page that’s been formatted correctly.

And if you want to get more advanced, the AMP component catalogue contains a full list of all AMP-specific HTML elements. It even includes experimental functions that are still in beta phase, and it’s updated every time there are new developments.

Check that your code is compliant

There are several good tools you can use to ensure the pages you create are AMP optimised. The best of these come straight from the source: Google.

A good start is to test your web pages during development using Google’s AMP validator. It checks the HTML and tells you where and how to fix it, if it isn’t AMP-optimised.

You can also search for validation errors directly in Chrome. Just open the page in the browser, add “#development1” to the end of the URL, open the Chrome DevTools console and check. And the AMP report on the Google Search Console will show you which AMP pages Google can find and crawl. It will also tell you which ones contain errors to be corrected.

The latest functionality for 2019

As of this year, there’s been a range of new features introduced to make AMP-optimised pages look and work even better. You should definitely consider using these if you want your site to shine as brightly as possible.

One of them is improved video. Users can now watch a video and scroll though the accompanying content at the same time. The video can be minimised and docked in a corner of the screen, where it’ll keep on playing while they continue reading the rest of the page.

It’s now also easier to monetise videos. The <amp-ima-video> component allows you to do this with video adverts from networks supporting the Interactive Media Ads software development kit (SDK). AMP also natively supports a number of video players that can monetise ads, including Brightcove and Dailymotion.

Another update is input masking in forms. This makes it much easier for your users to fill in details like credit card information or their date of birth, because developers can add things like spaces or interstitial characters. When a customer is entering long numbers and other such data on a small screen, on the go, they need all the help they can get.

AMP now supports infinite scroll. When a user gets to the end of a list (e.g. search results or product cards) you can automatically repopulate the list with further items. This is particularly valuable for e-commerce or publishing sites.

Since new data protection regulations became enforceable, we’re all used to seeing the ubiquitous consent prompt on almost every page we visit. Although AMP has long featured the <amp-consent> tag to simplify users’ consent to data collection, the latest improvements also support 3rd party consent management platforms (CMP). A lot of businesses use these, making it a useful feature.

Dynamic email content

A departure from other web-based incarnations of AMP, this 2019 innovation lands in your email inbox instead.

AMP for Email allows you to create highly interactive email content that means you can do things you’d usually have to click away to a web page to do - like buy a product or browse the catalogue. Fewer clicks, better UX and a quicker path to purchase.

That’s only one implementation. The ability to provide this kind of interactivity within an email, in a format tailored for mobile devices, has far-reaching possibilities for your business. Many companies like Booking.com and Pinterest have already adopted it for their consumer-facing emails. It’s worth considering joining them.

A new way to tell stories

One of the most common complaints levelled at AMP by past critics was that it led to repetitive and flat pages, because it omits many elements such as Javascript, which allow developers to create more interaction, movement, texture and a richer experience.

That’s one of the reasons why AMP Stories may be the most significant introduction to AMP this year. It’s essentially Google’s take on the ‘story’ functionality that’s already swept across all the social media heavy hitters like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.

Like the rest, it allows you to post a brief video, photo or other visually rich clip. So maybe this is Google jumping on the ‘stories’ bandwagon – but it’s also a new way to present a more vibrant, engaging experience within the constraints of AMP – and it does so in a format that mobile users already know and love.

And, as usual with AMP pages, AMP Stories get priority placement on Google searches. Right up near the top of search results, which is some of the most prime internet real estate. That’s yet another good reason why AMP should be on your radar.

Want to really make the most of AMP?

If you like the sound of all this but don’t know where to start, get in touch with Fifty Five and Five. Our team of web development, design and SEO professionals can help you ensure that your web presence keeps up with the latest innovations and user demands in a rapidly changing, increasingly mobile world.

Where do you rank in 2019?

Download the Top 50 Microsoft Partner 2019/2020 report now, to find out where you ranked.

Get the free report