I am no longer actively blogging on this website.
I was recently interviewed by Mike Russell from New Media Europe 2015. The show is a podcast which will be promoted to attendees and potential attendees of the conference this year. It doesn’t take place until September but Mike gave me permission to share this with my followers before then. You can listen to the interview here:
Hi, this is Mike Russell, founder and host of the New Media Europe Show. On this show we’re chatting to inspiring content creators and entrepreneurs who simply could not exist without the use of New Media. The show is brought to you by the New Media Europe Conference, taking place in Manchester, UK from the 12th to the 13th of September this year – 2015 – and if you listen to the end of the show you will get an exclusive coupon that will give you discounted registration.
I’m really excited to introduce my guest on this show. He’s an entrepreneur in the chemical industry. His day job is Managing Director of a chemical manufacturing company and he leverages new media to grow his business – it’s going really well – they are forecasting sales of around £5m this year. His name is Richard Hudson, or ‘Rich’ Hudson and he’s got many different websites that he manages including Chemicals.co.uk which is the UK’s most prominent e-commerce chemical shop, TheChemicalBlog.co.uk and we’ll get into some stats about that during the interview and his personal blog which I’ve just been reading – really like it as well – RichHudson.co.uk. Lots of leadership/lifestyle tips on there. Rich… Welcome to the show!
Thanks for having me, Mike.
You’ve got an amazing selection of websites. First of all, I understand you’ve taken them from pretty much nothing to what we see today?
To give you a little bit of background, the company I’m Managing Director of is called ReAgent. My grandfather started it in the 1970’s, then my Dad took over from him and I’ve basically turned into my Dad for a living. I used to do a bit of work during the holidays here and I ended up doing Marketing at Uni. I came out of Uni about 10 years ago. I had always done bits and pieces for the family business to try and help them. I’ve been able to really focus on leveraging Marketing and New Media to drive the company forwards over the past 10 years. The landscape has changed tremendously. I remember a time when you didn’t need backlinks to rank. Thankfully Google’s algorithms have got more intelligent now. The quality of search results is much better. The benchmark is a lot higher. Then you have the whole rise of social media. Personal Branding is a big one at the moment. God knows where it ‘s going to go in the future. It’s a constantly developing landscape and it’s changed a lot in the time I’ve been involved with it.
It’s really interesting Rich and it’s great to see your websites. Obviously you’ve got the e-commerce store, you’ve got The Chemical Blog, which I guess is content marketing to explain [things] to people. I’ve been looking at it and it’s going a little bit over my head but there’s lots of good stuff there all about different chemicals and how they work.
Tell us exactly how you are using New Media for ReAgent and for your personal brand like you mentioned.
We’ve got a couple of websites for the business. We have the e-ecommerce store at chemicals.co.uk and we also have a website at reagent.co.uk promoting specialist manufacturing services (things like chemical mixing, blending, labelling, packing shipping… stuff like that).
We have a company blog and I try and get as many people in the business involved in that as possible. It’s not just one person’s viewpoint. It’s good to speak to people in Sales, Operations, all throughout the business and get them involved.
We’re on social media, so my company has profiles on all the usual social media channels. I try and keep the whole team updated as much as possible, for example, I provided LinkedIn training for everyone who’s office-based.
We’ve also got, like you say, The Chemical Blog. That’s got it’s own social media channels.
Then I have my own personal brand as well. That’s probably the most recent thing that I’ve been trying to develop, where I blog about my own experiences of running my business. And I’m also very active on social media myself – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – then dabble a bit in Google+, Instagram and whatever else. Social media is really good – it’s a great way to generate exposure and drive traffic, especially for personal branding because there’s only so much reach that a business brand can achieve on its’ own. If you step into the limelight as the person responsible for a business you can leverage that for even more exposure and there are many examples of people who do that really well, like Rand Fishkin at Moz. People can really use their personal brand for an even greater performance for their business.
That’s brilliant. I’m looking at TheChemicalBlog.co.uk right now. There are some very accessible articles for me like How Does Antifreeze Work and The History of Vitamin C. There’s a lot of really good stuff there. Give us an idea of when you started that blog and roughly how much traffic you’re experiencing now compared to that size.
The Chemical Blog started about 3 years ago, just over. Originally we had one blog where I used to write about chemicals and I used to write about our company. Over time it became apparent that these two topics didn’t necessarily belong together. We were getting a lot of traffic from people wanting to learn about chemicals, the chemical industry, that sort of thing. And we were also getting people who were more interested in our business and our services. So we split them off onto separate blogs and that’s how The Chemical Blog started.
The traffic has gone from very little to over 3,000 unique visits a day now which is really good. It occupies a niche. I think if you have any type of blog or website or even a business it’s good to focus on a niche. The Chemical Blog has gone from strength to strength. We get natural links picked up all the time in Wikipedia, Scientific American, National Geographic and it’s really nice to see it grow but at the same time I feel like I’ve created a bit of a monster now because it’s getting so much traffic and it is taking effort to manage. So we’ve made the decision to try and monetise it a bit more going forwards. We’re rebuilding it at the moment.
This is another thing about how the traffic has changed; 3 years ago 50% of the traffic was from the UK whereas now it’s only a quarter. It’s out-grown it’s .co.uk domain.
That’s very impressive, especially as you say it’s a geo located domain. Would you consider changing the domain name or would you stick with it?
We are doing, yes. We are having a complete rebrand of the site, introducing an eBook and ramping up some of the affiliate stuff that we do. The aim is to get maximum return from minimal involvement. As much as I love The Chemical Blog it’s not my primary focus. It’s a nice toy to have and to play with. It’s good as well because I can use it as a testing ground, for example, when we were looking at rolling out a newsletter subscription service I tested it first on The Chemical Blog, got to grips with AWeber, then rolled it out onto our company blogs. It’s quite good just to tinker with.
That’s amazing. So you have a very international audience now on your chemical blog. Tell us a bit about how it works in the chemical industry. Are you restricted to only selling chemicals in the UK on your chemicals.co.uk site, or can you sell internationally, so can you can monetise the e-commerce side of things?
We actively only supply from Chemicals.co.uk to the UK. It’s a nightmare arranging shipping costs. They fluctuate all the time so it’s virtually impossible for us to roll that out. I have looked into it in the past but the focus going forwards for us is the chemical processing services that we offer, so like I say, chemical analysis, product development. It’s when people want something that not necessarily an off-the-shelf product, they come to us and say “I’ve seen you do, I don’t know, hydrochloric acid… can you make this for me? It’s unlike anything you have off-the-shelf but I know what I want” – that’s the kind of thing that we can get involved with.
That’s brilliant. I see from your How Does Antifreeze Work article, that’s a more consumer based chemical, you’ve got a link to Amazon so I’m guessing you’ve got some affiliate links in there as well?
Yeah, I’ve literally just scratched the surface of it. I think it generated about £80 last month, something like that. The new website is going to be much better in terms of the affiliate marketing. The new website is going to have an integrated store where we use Amazon’s API to populate a store on the website. There are advantages in doing that. You get a 90 day cookie, for example, instead of a 30 day normally. The £80 is what we’ve done just from Amazon Associates UK, so that’s just a quarter of the site’s traffic.
Are you using a plugin to sell internationally so if someone’s visiting from the US it will have a US affiliate link?
Yes, we’re using geo targeting so we’re going to split the ads for the domain whether or not people are from the UK or the US. I think Amazon do a Canadian one as well.
It is fun. I love The Chemical Blog but at the same time I try not to get too distracted on it because it’s not the main driving force behind our businesses’ success, which are the other commercial websites. But, they tend to be a bit boring. When I talk to people about them – we don’t supply Business to Consumer, we only supply B2B – and that immediately changes everything with regards to new media. You’re very restricted in what you can do. Social media and B2B don’t mix very well together. We do what we can but it’s nowhere near as easy as if you have a consumer product. Having said that, it keeps it slightly more niche and I guess it’s more difficult to break into that marketplace, which protects it a bit. So… swings and roundabouts.
I guess you know pretty much where your audience are so where would you say is your most popular social network or area to be hanging out? Is it LinkedIn or Google+ maybe?
Is this for The Chemical Blog, or the company, or for me?
Just in General. So for your B2B to convert for your primary goal where would you say is the best place to be for that?
Google. Get as much share of the page as you can. For The Chemical Blog, I don’t know, it’s quite active on Twitter… and Facebook actually.
I see you’ve even got a Pinterest page. That’s interesting because traditionally we think of the US Mid-Western women on Pinterest but pinning chemicals… that sounds really interesting?
There’s a lot of quirky science experiments out there. Science is getting a lot more publicity nowadays. I interviewed a lady called Elise Andrew who started the Facebook page called I Fucking Love Science. I interviewed her when she just ticked over a million followers and I don’t know how many she’s on now, maybe 10 or 20 million, it’s insane how popular that Facebook page has become. There’s a real surge – it’s all this ‘geek’ is now the new ‘cool’ that kind of thing. I think chemistry and science in general has a bit of an outdated image because if you say “think of a scientist or a chemist” to someone young, they think of old blokes with dodgy haircuts shuffling round laboratories.
Glasses and a bow tie?
Yeah that kind of thing. The reality is that is so far from the truth. In our company we’re a young, dynamic, hungry, energetic company that are raring to take over the world. It is an exciting industry to be in. I know it’s not as exciting as the latest Tech, or whatever, but it’s come on a lot in the last few years.
Having said that, in the UK there is a danger that not enough people are actually studying science nowadays. They fear there may be a bit of a brain-drain in about 10 years time because not enough young people are taking it up. So, if you do study science, because of market forces, you’ll probably be able to command a higher salary if there’s not as many people contending. It could be a good career to go down; the sciences, especially chemistry.
I love it. I find it very interesting that obviously you’re doing well and I can hear just the way you talk about what you’re doing that you’re really passionate about it as well, Rich. So that obviously really helps doesn’t it – having the passion.
Massively. When we showed our latest business plan to the team here the opening slide was a picture of me sitting on the world. We really are aiming high. And I love what I do. I think it’s possibly because it’s a family business but I can honestly say that if I won the lottery tomorrow I would still come into work. I don’t do it for the financial reward, even though the financial reward is great, I do it for something deeper than that. I’ve hit the top level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I feel very fortunate to be doing something I love for a living.
That’s really good. So obviously we’ve spoken a lot about blogging and social media. Any ideas about podcasting or some video?
Video is something that I’m keen to push. I’ve been doing quite a bit of it over the last 12 months, especially for my business. We do videos when we go to an exhibition or a conference. We might be visiting or exhibiting but we’ll do a video to say “Hi, ReAgent, we’re here” and have a chat with a few people that we meet there. We’ve put videos on some landing pages on our websites to show people really what actually happens when we’re manufacturing their products. It helps convert.
But podcasting… honestly… I don’t think the B2B chemical niche is ready for podcasting just yet. When it is I’ll be all over it but I think we’re a few years off that happening!
That’s interesting. So where are you getting your information from or your inspiration. What are maybe your top 3 blogs or podcasts that you’re onto right now?
My favourite website in the world is unrelated to blogging, or podcasting, or chemicals. It’s called Head for Points and it’s a UK-based blog about collecting airmiles and hotel loyalty points. It’s a fantastic blog. It’s the only blog, other than my own, that I follow religiously. I read every single post on there, and there are 3 a day. I normally read them before I have my breakfast in the morning. It’s a brilliant site. It’s well-run, well-managed, really good integration of affiliate links and the content is out of this world. The guy that runs it, called Rob Burgess, he used to be an analyst in the city and he is nothing short of gifted when it comes to analysing hotel and airline loyalty schemes. It’s a hobby that I’m a bit obsessed with. It’s a hobby that generates you money, you know, rather than a hobby that costs you and I’ve had many a flight or a night in a hotel through airmiles and hotel loyalty programs. It’s just a well-run blog and he’s been relentlessly blogging 3 times a day. He’s done so well to keep it up. He does it full time so that obviously helps. The amount of traction it has generated is massive.
My point with that website is that if you follow a good blog that’s well-run you can get ideas for your blog, even though it might be completely unrelated. Chemicals and airmiles – there’s no crossover there.
For the people listening… I don’t know if you know a guy called Navid Moazzez?
Yes the name is familiar
Navid is a personal branding expert from Sweden. He hasn’t been online very long but he’s achieved an amazing amount in a relatively short space of time. He mainly interviews people about how they’ve developed their personal brands online. He has his own blog which is NavidMoazzez.com and he also has a podcast and a YouTube channel. I worked one-on-one with Navid personally to develop my own personal brand. Before I really focussed on my personal blog, my personal blog used to be a bit of a digital dumping ground so I’d just blog and say ‘I’ve bought a new car‘ or ‘I’ve gone here on holiday‘ or ‘this is an idea that I’ve had at work’, that kind of thing. But it was a bit like a scatter gun, a bit unfocused, whereas Navid helped me develop the concept that my personal blog is where I share my ideas and experiences of running my company. It’s working well. The traffic is growing and I find myself connecting with an ever-increasing amount of other entrepreneurs, as well as people who work in and around my industry. Like I said earlier, your personal brand can give you that extra bit of reach that you can’t always get just through your business brand.
Other than that I read Chris Ducker’s website every now and then. I really like Chris. I think Chris is really good for people who are starting out though because I find it’s aimed slightly at the ‘lowest common denominator’ almost, so people who’ve been online with lots of websites for years, like I have, it’s not necessarily the greatest resource but it’s incredibly easy to follow and he has some brilliant guests. I have downloaded the occasional podcast from Chris, he has the New Business Podcast. And I’ve downloaded the odd episode of Entrepreneur on Fire with John Lee Dumas but it’s not something that I do regularly. Personally if I’m consuming content I prefer video content. It just works better for me.
That’s really good. Some really good suggestions there. I wasn’t aware of Head For Points but I’m looking at and it’s amazing, like you say, to create that amount of content on a daily basis that’s pretty much all he must be doing?
The guy’s a machine. I do wonder if he’s got Virtual Assistants helping him somewhere… he must do?
He must do. So tell us, Rich, what is the New Media tool, maybe a single tool you could mention like Hootsuite, Buffer or Spreaker – something you use every day – that you don’t think you could live without in your business?
Can I mention a couple? I use Buffer myself for social media. My colleagues use Hootsuite though, so I have seen both being used and they’re both great. I’m looking to do more with our email list so AWeber is pretty useful. I’ve probably looked at Google Analytics every day for 10 years now, so that’s a must-have. One area that I’d like to explore a bit more is automation software. Do you know If This Then That?
Oh yeah I love that!
I’ve never had a proper brainstorm with it. I mean, I do bits and pieces with it – if I get into the office, turn my wifi on, that kind of thing – but I saw one the other day which is: if your website goes down, text your webmaster. And I thought that’s a great one.
Automation is great. I love any kind of automation like twitterfeed, that’s another good one. You can automatically tweet all of your blog to your Twitter account but you can set it up so you can tweet other people’s and if you add a suffix at the end of it (so, say I wanted to tweet Chris Ducker’s blog, which I do) there’s a suffix at the end of that which says “tweet whatever posts come on Chris Ducker’s blog but add the suffix ‘via @chrisducker‘ at the end of it” so not only will I tweet automatically every post that he writes, he will also be notified that I’ve tweeted that as well. That’s quite a good one.
I love that. And I love If This Then That not just because you can use it for your business and your social media but touched on there the Internet of Things is a big focus for them. So they’re going to be controlling everything in your house soon aren’t they?
Do you know Charlie Brooker, the film-maker?
The guy from Newswipe?
Yes. He did a series called Black Mirror.
I’ve watched it. It’s awesome.
It’s really good. There’s one called The Entire History of You. The concept is that you get a little chip put into your head just behind your ear. Everyone is a cyborg – everyone’s got a computer chip in them and it records everything that you do. Everywhere you go, everything that you you see, everything that you hear and you you can replay your entire life of everywhere you have been and everything you have done.
I carry my phone on my everywhere. I can see everywhere that I’ve gone. And there’s guys out there that leave work, they drive home and their house will be at a certain temperature when they get in. As soon as they get through the door their music will come on and their lights will come on. I’m really excited to think where that might go. At the same time there’s obviously a security risk associated with that. I do think the Internet of Things is not something that we should go skipping blindly into but security has been an issue online ever since the first was sent. It’s very exciting.
I think you described that episode of Black Mirror really well and I would thoroughly recommend anyone in New Media to watch that series because every episode I found amazing. But you can end up getting a bit paranoid if you can play back every single situation in your life and analyse it, kind of like what happened in that episode. You can analyse, analyse, over-analyse.
It’s a bit Big Brother-ish isn’t it?
Definitely. That’s interesting. So what made you decide to attend New Media Europe then Rich?
It’s sort-of down the road for me. I live in Chester which is probably 45, 50 minutes from Manchester. I know a couple of people that are into podcasting, they mentioned it. I saw that Chris Ducker’s going. I follow 3 people every year, 3 blogs and one of them this year is Chris Ducker’s. Another one is Head for Points and there’s a third one again which I won’t go off on a tangent about. Chris Ducker is one of the people I’m following this year and when it transpired that he was coming to Manchester I thought it would be valuable to go and touch base. I’ve been to tech conferences before like Search Marketing Expo in London. It’s just so close to home and also if I could get a selfie with Chris Ducker I think that would be quite cool. I’m on Chris’s radar now – he started following me on Twitter – so I think he knows I exist which is a start. There’s obviously some amazing speakers there Natalie Sisson as well is someone I’ve known about for a while.
These things are at the cutting edge of what’s possible and I love it because I go to these and think “right, this is what’s possible, but how can I leverage that for my business”? Because you can’t be all things to all men, you can’t do everything but it’s good to focus on certain things. Like I say the last 12 months for me have really been about video. That’s been quite a big one. I don’t know what ideas I’ll come away with but I imagine it’ll be incredibly worthwhile.
That’s brilliant. I can see that you’re implementing a lot of fantastic ideas in your business already related to New Media and online marketing. You’ve mentioned you’re looking forward to seeing Chris Ducker and Natalie Sisson, the Suitcase Entrepreneur. It’s going to be fantastic to meet you there Rich and I know that people listening to this episode have already got to know you now and know what you’re about. It’s going to be interesting when you turn up and people know who you are because they’ll have listened to the podcast. Maybe for those people who are listening and would like to check you out and would like to connect with you before New Media Europe, where can they find you online?
One last thing I would say is that I get a kick out of helping other people with their business, or brand, or website, so if anyone is listening to this please drop me an email or send me a tweet if you’d like me to look over what you’re doing and find some value in that. I’d be more than happy to. I’m not doing a sales-pitch here – I have a business that keeps me busy enough and I have no interest in going into consulting – I genuinely just like to help people, so if there’s anyone out there who would like me to take a look at what they’re doing based on my experience of making lots of mistakes over the years and getting a few things right I’d be more than happy to.
That’s a very kind offer Rich. I did say before we started recording that I love your websites, I just love the clean, good-looking layout of them so I think that’s a really good offer. So you say email or tweet @RichHudsonUK, right?
That’s right. My personal email is *******snowboard@*********
Why snowboard, is it a hobby?
Absolutely! I do most of my snowboarding in Manchester at the indoor slope. I’ve been going there for years now, really enjoy it, love snowboarding
Really appreciate it Rich, thanks so much for coming on the show
Pleasure Mike, thank you very much
There you go, that’s Rich Hudson. Thank you for listening. New Media Europe is a conference taking place in Manchester, UK this September. It’s a unique conference aimed at podcasters, bloggers, social media visionaries, content creators, entrepreneurs and New Media Enthusiasts. If you’re looking to up your game, or learn a little bit more, or maybe expand on the knowledge you already have and you’d like 20% off registration simply use the coupon code ******* during checkout at NewMediaEurope.com