Steve Lodge of Oxygen tells us how they offer a full range of marketing communications services delivered as one team.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Oxygen.
Steve Lodge: My background was in journalism and advertising copywriting, and when I moved to the West Country, I established my own agency. I started Oxygen as a copywriting business in 2002, but we quickly became a full-service marketing communications agency – handling complete marcoms projects for a wide range of clients. The copywriting strength was and is still liked by clients because we focus on the communication first – before thinking about how things look. It helps us ensure we target the right people in the right way – and often means challenging what clients want. If someone wants us to design a brochure or build a web presence, we may tell them not to because we feel another option would work harder for them.
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Steve Lodge: Time management is crucial when you’re juggling various clients and projects. I imagine my week’s work as a large glass with the key projects as giant ice cubes that fill the glass. The smaller projects are the drink that fills the gaps – and it helps me focus on allocating time to the bigger projects, and when I have a spare 10 minutes, I can pick up the smaller things so that nothing gets missed.
How does Oxygen market its product/services online?
Steve Lodge: Most of our business comes from word of mouth. We focus on getting things right, and in our annual ISO9001 inspection, we’ve scored 100% for customer service in the past 8 years. This tends to mean marketers stick with us, or when they move roles, they start using us at their new company too. You hear it often, but we’re too busy doing a good job for clients to look at our own marketing.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Steve Lodge: We tend to use Google Ads and Microsoft Ads for our digital marketing.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Steve Lodge: We’re working more on building a team of freelancers we can trust, which allows us to flex with growth and contractions in business. We do quite a lot of public sector work, and these tend to be defined-duration projects, which lend themselves better to a flexible workforce.
How are you funding your growth?
Steve Lodge: We’ve never borrowed a penny. Growth is organic.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Steve Lodge: Since we don’t actively seek new clients – they tend to find us – we’ve had little need to analyze our competitors. The 2008 recession took out a lot of agencies, and that saw a huge growth in one-person bands across our sector. From knowing three similar agencies in our area, we now find there are 20 or more, some of whom appear to be bigger than they are. It creates too much noise, and prospective clients don’t really know which agencies would be right for them. The pandemic will have a similar effect.
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Steve Lodge: One of our little-known strengths is in writing award submissions. It’s not something we promote, but we have lots of experience. We’ve helped clients win some fantastic awards, such as the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, What Van company of the year, and some crucial industrial awards. It’s great for PR, internal comms, and CEO pride!
Your final thoughts?
Steve Lodge: The pandemic made us realize we’re as strong an agency virtually as we have a physical presence. We decided to lease our offices to another company late in 2021, and our team now works remotely, with a small serviced office that has access to meeting rooms when needed. We still see people, mainly at their offices, in addition to more video calls, but clients seem very happy working like this.