Alex Denning interview

Howdy ladies and gents, this marks our last interview of 2018! After having exciting conversations with remarkable people throughout the whole year, we’re ready to finish things out with a talk with Alex Denning about marketing (and everything it entails).

If you want to check out all our interviews from 2018, you can find them in their own dedicated interview category. Last month, we spoke about the Gutenberg block editor with Andrei Lupu.

Now, let’s get back to the Alex Denning interview! 🙂

Alex Denning Interview at ThemeIsle
Alex Denning and his team will promote your business in all the ways possible. We can personally confirm this statement because we collaborated with Alex here at ThemeIsle and we declared ourselves satisfied.

Alex is doing “marketing for people who don’t like marketing”, which is also the motto of Ellipsis Marketing. A clever and memorable line if you ask me. I remember when I first heard it at WordCamp Bucharest two years ago (he came here as a speaker), I found it interesting and catchy. And that’s the point, isn’t it? To produce a click in people’s minds, to be associated with an idea.

What is Alex focused on? Digital and email marketing, content, copywriting, outreach, and affiliates. Apart from that, he curates a free weekly newsletter where you will get useful tools, apps, and links for WordPress professionals. Occasionally, Alex also speaks at WordCamps to spread the word about his business in the community.

But that’s just what we know about Alex on the surface. In what follows next, you’ll get to know him better by reading his responses to our questions (work and spare time included).

Alex Denning Interview – “A marketing agency that wasn’t very popular with clients would not be a very good marketing agency”

When and how did you start working with WordPress? Is there an interesting story here?

Alex Denning:
I started working with WordPress around 10 years ago, when I was a teenager. I ran a website about video games (as you do, when a teenager), and I needed a way of easily adding content and updating my website. I looked at a handful of solutions, and WordPress was one of them. I distinctly remember thinking the community looked more active and thinking this was a good sign for the future. Turns out that was a remarkably insightful call 🙂

From there, I started “hacking” my WordPress site to do what I wanted. I taught myself and relied on blog posts to find out how to do things. At the time, there were very few of these, so I started writing my own. This eventually turned into starting, and I ended up writing about WordPress every week for four years there. Doing that got me my first bits of freelance work, and the rest is history.

Which one of all the services you currently provide is the hardest or the most challenging to deliver?

Alex Denning:
Affiliates are a great marketing channel for clients with products at the right stage. We’ll help clients with a bespoke affiliate offering, which aims to develop deep relationships with affiliates and generate real wins for both parties.

The challenge comes from integrating with the affiliate’s workflow and then offering the right balance between doing things for the affiliate, and ensuring effectiveness for them and our client. When this works, though – it’s a clear win for everybody and there’s obvious scope to expand further.

What about the most popular? I mean, which one of your services is the most requested by people? What would be the reason, in your opinion?

Alex Denning:
We do “best-in-class” content marketing – i.e. writing and promoting really good content – and this will always be a staple. I got started by writing about WordPress, and there will always be demand for this! We’re now doing this only where clients need excellent content, but we’re still doing it. Content is probably the best way to tell people about something at scale, so that’s where the demand comes from.

What’s your technique for staying productive throughout the day?

Alex Denning:
I’m a big fan of “Deep Work”, a philosophy of work which says you should focus for prolonged periods on hard things, and take regular breaks to facilitate this. I thus try to make the most of the energy and attention I have during the day and call it a day when that energy runs out.

How do you define “being successful”?

Alex Denning:
Doing good work on projects you’re interested in, having a positive impact on the world, and having a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Those criteria can be met in all sorts of ways for different people 🙂

Where do you get your clients from? Do you have any strategy to get your agency promoted on a regular basis?

Alex Denning:
A marketing agency that wasn’t very popular with clients would not be a very good marketing agency 🙂 We take doing really good work for clients really seriously, and this often leads to recommendations or referrals. A fair number of clients get my weekly newsletter and have reached out after being subscribed for a couple of months. And, WordCamps are good too.

I obviously think about marketing Ellipsis, but the main strategy is “do good work”. In a community where word spreads like WordPress, happy clients are an excellent marketing strategy.

What do you like to do when you’re not WordPress-ing?

Alex Denning:
Day-to-day I’m a keen musician and runner; late last year I started having piano lessons for the first time since I was a child, which has been really fun. I also love photography and travel, so the two go in-hand nicely. In March this year, for example, we did a three-week road trip in New Zealand which was totally magical.

What do you wish more people knew about WordPress?

Alex Denning:
Slightly unorthodox answer here: the community! It’s such a great asset, and we can do even more by getting people who work with WordPress but have no idea about WordCamps and meetups involved.

Who’s doing things that are just cutting-edge and incredible in the WordPress space right now?

Alex Denning:
I’m really excited about Logic Hop, a personalized marketing solution for WordPress (they’re an Ellipsis client so take this with a pinch of salt!). Logic Hop can make any WordPress site more effective through content personalization; you let it track where your users have come from, where they go on your site, or other data from third-party integrations, and then you can make your whole WordPress site more relevant.

As a marketer, this is incredibly exciting as it lets you make sites from stores to digital products, to business sites, more effective by tweaking the messaging. This is cutting-edge as previously personalization was only available to enterprise sites like Amazon and Netflix, but its availability in the WordPress space speaks to increasingly powerful options.

Describe the WordPress community in one word.

Alex Denning:

A really, really incredible group of lovely people.

What’s the one thing you’d like to change about WordPress?

Alex Denning:
Well, the post editor could really do with an upgrade… Obviously joking. As Noel Tock said at WordCamp Europe, though, WordPress is a big project and needs to be able to do more than one thing at once. We’re starting to see this, but I’d love to improve the end-to-end user experience more. John Maeda said this eloquently last year: we have a “famous five-minute install”, but then a two week period of figuring out hosting, themes, and plugins. WordPress’ competitors don’t make you do that.

You spoke at several WordCamps so far. How does a talk in front of a crowd help your career? Take your example.

Alex Denning:
Speaking at WordCamps certainly adds gravitas. If you go to an event and can talk authoritatively on a topic, it positions you as an expert and certainly that helps your business. When I was first starting to work with WordPress, saying I was a WordCamp speaker was helpful for signaling that I was in the WordPress community, knew my stuff, and would be a good person to work with. Thus, my first WordCamp talk at WordCamp London 2013 comes to mind as the most impactful.

Ever thought of expanding your marketing services beyond WordPress?

Alex Denning:
Of course! The skills I’m developing can apply to any digital arena, and I’m always keen to challenge myself and learn more. For now, though, I have no reason to look anywhere else: the WordPress community is a great place to be, I enjoy working with WordPress, and Ellipsis is in demand 🙂

That sums up our Alex Denning interview. If you have any questions for him, please leave them in the comments section.

Also, if you have any suggestions for who we should talk to next, feel free to give us some names, as well!

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