When it comes to effective business blogging, Marcus Sheridan just might be the king of the content marketing jungle.
He knows how to increase your digital marketing ROI because he’s done it first hand.
Maybe that’s why he is called The Sales Lion? 😉
And now, Marcus has shared his story together with some additional case studies in his new book: They Ask, You Answer.
Here’s why anyone who wants to make more income online should listen to this interview: in 2008, Marcus was co-owner of a brick-and-mortar business–a swimming pool supply store called River Pool and Spa. (He still owns it today.)
For 7 years, he led the sales team and built the business with traditional methods, like in-person sales, phone calls, meeting clients in their home, serving customers who walked into the store, etc.
Then, in 2008, the economy crashed, and many advisers told Marcus his River Pool and Spa store should declare bankruptcy.
But Marcus didn’t want to lose the house he and his wife and children called home.
So out of desperation, he tried something new.
Something called “inbound marketing”, also known as “content marketing”, was beginning to change the way business had been done for a long time.
Marcus dove in head first…set up a blog…and saved the business.
Today, River Pool and Spa is the best-known pool company in the world. Thousands of searchers find their blog through Google as they shop around online for swimming pools.
Marcus learned through experience what it takes to make business blogging work.
And now he has a new book out that tells you how YOU can do the same thing.
That’s what we talk about in this episode of The Blog Chronicles.
Here are some other cool things you’ll learn in this interview…
–What is the massive buying shift taking place today and how you can make it work for you
–How inbound marketing turned around his swimming pool business
–What is “the Ostrich Marketing strategy” and why you better not do it
–What CarMax teaches us about online business success
–The 5 blog content topics Marcus discovered lead to the most sales
–Why some businesses won’t adapt to the new economy
–Why Marcus is so bullish on video content
–How long it will take before you can expect to see success once you start DOING these strategies
–And much more
If you have a question or message for Marcus Sheridan, be sure to leave it in the comments. I’ll make sure he see’s it.
Marcus Sheridan Interview Transcript
( For those who like to read.)
Called a “web marketing guru” by the New York Times, the Story of how Marcus Sheridan was able to save his swimming pool company, River Pools, from the economic crash of 2008 has been featured in multiple books, publications, and stories around the world.
Since this achievement, Sheridan has become a highly sought after global speaker and consultant in the digital sales and marketing space, working with hundreds of business and brands alike to become the most trusted voice of their industry.
Matthew Loomis: Hi Marcus.
Welcome to the Show!
Marcus Sheridan: Matt!
It is a pleasure, my friend.
Hopefully, I’ll say something of value to your wonderful listeners today.
What’s the Method In Your Book – They Ask You Answer To Helping People Succeed In Their Online Businesses?
Matthew Loomis: I’m pretty confident that’s going to happen.
Today Marcus, I’d like to talk to you about your new book – They Ask You Answer – A Revolutionary Approach To Inbound Sales Content Marketing and Today’s Digital Consumer.
The book explains your business philosophy to internet marketing and – They Ask You Answer is the name that you have given this formula to online sales success.
This approach is practical and you say that any type of online business can use it to succeed.
You have seen – They Ask You Answer work in your own life quite dramatically and we will get into that in a moment. You’ve also seen this formula work for other businesses.
In fact, your book shares four case-studies of how – They Ask You Answer can bring in enormous success for any online business.
First of all, Marcus, let’s start with the formula – They Ask You Answer. Basically in a nutshell how you could describe it is you’re saying that the key to online sales success is to address the customers questions with helpful answers and this will dramatically increase the sales results of any type of internet business.
Marcus, is it really that simple?
Marcus Sheridan: Simplistically speaking.
Yes, that’s what it is. It is a little bit deeper than that, though.
Because – They Ask You Answer is an obsession with the way the buyer thinks not just what they’re asking. Right?
So for example, some buyers will say ”I wish I could buy it this way.” In other words, people would say ”I wish I could send the shoes back if I didn’t want them.”
Which is a really simple thing. That’s a want and so in this case, a pose could answer that question and say ”okay we’re going to give you free returns or not.” Like most retailers did. They just didn’t worry about it.
And so because they were more focused on what the buyer wanted or how they wanted to buy they were able to be really successful.
You know it’s funny Matt, a lot of, quote – ”the innovation that occurs today, occurs when we change the way something is sold more than we change the thing itself.”
Can You Explain Essentially How Sales and Marketing Have Shifted To Effectively Change the Way Businesses Are Operating Today?
Matthew Loomis: That’s interesting.
I think it’s important for people to understand why – They Ask You Answer is a business philosophy that they could and probably should consider if they want to succeed today.
Can you talk more about this massive buying shift that’s taking place and how sales and marketing have blurred together to fundamentally transform the way we do business now?
Marcus Sheridan: They have changed.
We all know it.
There are lots of different studies out there about this. One of the studies that I cite in the book is that 70% of the buying decision today is made on average before the buyer talks to the company. That was a B2B study.
And so I mean you’ve got to live like this today. On average 70% of the buying decisions are made before they actually talk to a sales person.
If we analyse that and we say okay ”what was that number fifteen years ago?”
Most people probably would have guessed 15-30%. So we’re 15-30% fifteen years ago and today we’re at 70% the question that’s reaching every one of us is ”what’s it going to be in the next five-ten-fifteen years?”
What does that mean for sales? What does that mean for marketing?
We better recognise it because these are one of those things that, you know, I don’t celebrate Matt. You know what I mean? It’s like it just is. It’s like the tide that’s going to come up. It’s going to come up. You can’t fight it you can’t resist it. It’s just going to do what it does.
What’s funny about that though is… and I think that this is the core of it if we accept the trends for what they are, right? And we said which department of your organisation has a greater impact on the actual sale. Is it the sales department or the marketing department?
Well, the trend says it’s marketing.
Notwithstanding, when a company is in financial trouble the first department that gets laid off is always still marketing. When a company is trying to grow its organisation the first department that gets hired is sales.
The question is why? It’s because we’ve been doing it forever and we’ve always seen sales as revenue and marketing as the expense. At least in terms of the financial sheet that’s fundamentally flawed because we’ve never been able to measure the efficacy in the ORI of marketing more than we can today.
Which you saw in the book Matt, it’s chock full of that piece of content made that much money for the company.
Matthew Loomis: Very specific.
Whereas throughout history with television radio and ads you couldn’t do that.
Marcus Sheridan: No.
No. We couldn’t do that.
We were as my friend would say ”peeing in the wind.” Right?
Matthew Loomis: Right.
Marcus Sheridan: You just don’t really know.
You don’t really know what’s happening.
I was a pool guy for years, I still own a swimming pool company obviously. But I did all the traditional forms of marketing. I just got to a point where I said to myself ”if I can’t measure it?” ”I just simply don’t want to do it!”
I’m not saying that everyone should follow that and my mission. But we can measure so much – so much and most people don’t realise that.
How Can Online Businesses Benefit From the – ”They Ask You Answer” Perspective?
Matthew Loomis: I know a lot of direct response copywriters like that fact.
That you can measure today versus in the past. Which is translating for better sales copy online.
Marcus, how does an online business begin using the – They Ask You Answer approach?
Marcus Sheridan: Well, I think it starts with obsessive listening.
And it’s a couple of activities.
Two main activities and of course it’s in the book. First and one of the most fruitful activities that you can do is you should say ”what are one of the top seven or least seven reasons why somebody would not buy from us?”
Okay, the top seven reason why somebody would not buy from you this is assuming they know you exist. Right? So why would somebody say to you ”Matt we like you. We like your company but we’ve decided to go a different direction and to be honest I’ve decided it because you’re too expensive.” Or ”I’m afraid you can’t service our area.”
Whatever it is, right? So write down the top seven reasons why somebody would not do business with you. Now once you have done that activity and by the way, a lot of people struggle with that which can only denote Matt, that they’ve lost touch with their customer.
As soon as you do that you can say ”of these seven how many have I addressed very well on my website already?” And this is where the actual answer starts.
Because if you look at the companies that have changed the game. They take all the fears as to why somebody would not buy and they try to eliminate them before they even come into the quote ”sales situation.”
For example, CarMax did that. They changed the used cars space they said ”set prices no more haggling set commissions for our salespeople.”
”Let’s offer a five-day-money-back-guarantee so that they won’t have buyers remorse.” ”Let’s have an incredible inspection system with this CARFAX quality certified system where we have CARFAX vehicle history reports as a standard.”
I mean they did all these things so that consumers would not have the fear of buying a used car like they have for the last seventy-five years. That’s how they became the largest retailer of used cars in our country.
So it starts with recognising fear and the saying how we address them is it possible how we address them? That’s number one.
Number two. Activity, that is, take every question that you’ve ever been asked and just start to brainstorm it. Write it down any question that somebody has asked you over the years that pertains to your business? Write it down do a brainstorm.
Try to be specific as possible. What are they thinking and how are they saying it? If you do this there is very very good chance that you are off to a right start. Because now you have the foundation for the content that you should be producing. Or the changes that you need to be making in order to eliminate all the fears.
Because if fears don’t exist the only emotion that is left is trust. Which is ultimately the goal of what we are talking about and is certainly the goal of – They Ask You Answer.
Tell Us the Incredible Story Of How You Made Your Business Sky Rocket During an Economic Depression in 2008
Matthew Loomis: Marcus what you just described.
You essentially did that back in 2008.
I’d like to get into your story because it’s so compelling. Let’s start in 2001.
Can you give us a story like a Readers Digest version of your beginnings with River Pools and Spas and what happened in 2008 and what you did to save the business?
Marcus Sheridan: Here’s the very condensed version of the River Pools story.
We started in 2001 in a very small company just trying to survive.
We had our ups and downs up until about 2008. We made it up to that point but by 2008 the market collapsed and pool companies all over the country were in huge, huge trouble because many people couldn’t get a loan and many people didn’t have any value in their homes.
Most people buy pools by getting a second mortgage or a home equity line were in huge trouble. So within the first forty-eight hours of the economic collapse of September 2008, we lost five deposits. People that had said they were going to get a pool withdrew it and said that they just can’t do it because they had lost confidence in the economy.
Then over the coming months, things started to get worse and worse and by January 2009 we were three weeks overdrawn in our business bank account we were in big big trouble and I thought we haven’t got a business.
In fact, I talked to a few different consultants and they said ”Marcus you need to file for bankruptcy.”
But you know what I mean. If I file for bankruptcy in that moment, I lose my home and my two business partners lose their homes. So we needed to figure out a way to get more traffic more leads more sales than we have ever done without spending the money to do it.
That’s when I started to read about the internet.
That’s when I started to see these fancy phrases like ”inbounds” ”content marketing” ”social media marketing” ”digital… ” ”blogging” all this stuff that in my mind Matt… Because in my mind I’m just a simple pool guy.
I said ”okay what you telling me is if I just take all the questions I’ve been asked over the years about fibreglass pools and inground pools in general and I’m willing to address them on my website through text and video?” I might just be successful.
I might just save the company?
And so that became our philosophy – They Ask You Answer.
In the coming years, we just continued to do this up until the point where it became the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world. In the Summertime, we’ll get about six-seven hundred thousand visitors a month on the website.
Marcus Sheridan: We have now started manufacturing pools as well.
Because we got so much traffic. So much momentum. So much movement that we said ”we can install pools outside Virginia-Maryland.” Which is crazy!
But we’ve got all these people that want to do business with us how do we do that?” So that’s why we started manufacturing pools.
It’s been an amazing, amazing ride Matt, but that’s the quick one-on-one story of River Pools and Spas.
Before Your Success Story With River Pools and Spas Had You Ever Had Any Experience in Cyber Marketing or Blogging?
Matthew Loomis: It really is an incredible story.
I’m just curious Marcus, before your experience with the River Pools and Spas blog and content marketing.
Had you done any previous blogging even if it was for fun or anything like that?
Marcus Sheridan: Not really.
I was a pretty bad writer at first.
But I never had a choice, right? You know we had a financial gun to our head. And I think this is the part Matt that a lot of people and a lot of businesses have forgotten.
It’s almost like as a society we’re saying ”there’s no time for crawling.” You have to walk and you have to walk immediately in your infancy and that’s not fair.
That’s not realistic.
If you look at every business of all the departments of said businesses there’s a period of maturity and hopefully an eternal period of progress. And so the goal of content and integrating content into your sales and marketing process is not perfection.
It’s always progress and the people that remember that, tend to be much more successful.
Can You Tell Us How ”The Ostrich Marketing Strategy” That You Outline In Your Book Is Not a Viable Approach For Any Online Business Today?
Matthew Loomis: Obviously not all businesses that embrace – They Ask You Answer are they’re trying to find success other ways if they’re not embracing content marketing or what we call inbound marketing today.
Maybe they are sticking to outdated models or they are trying to take shortcuts. You describe this alternative as ” the ostrich marketing strategy.”
What is the ostrich marketing strategy and why does it not work for online businesses today?
Marcus Sheridan: Well, specifically the ostrich marketing strategy.
The classic myth to the ostrich is that ostrich buries their heads in the sand. Right?
The reason that they do this is they think if they have a problem and they bury their head in the sand long enough it will go away.
A lot of businesses are like that too.
They approach the issues the concerns the doubts the worries about their products and services. And they bury their head in the sand and they think ”if we ignore them they’ll just go away.”
So an example of that would be this – A lot of companies don’t want to talk about price at all. Of course, as you know there is a lot of discussion about talking about price. (They Ask You Answer have amazing case studies there.) A lot of companies say ”well I want to talk face to face with the individual.”
And so they ignore it on the digital side. The 70% side where the vetting is occurring. And so the sad reality is many don’t realise that because they decided to ignore it they’re never going to have a conversation at all with that particular individual.
Because they did nothing to earn their trust.
The ostrich does not win. The ostrich does not gain the trust. And so the company that’s willing to talk about all the elephants in the room the good the bad and they ugly of their products or service and in every industry that exists.
This, by the way, doesn’t literally matter what you sell there is the good the bad and the ugly. If you are willing to address those you stand out. You become different and you enable people to self-select.
That’s what they want Matt you and I, we want to say ”okay I know exactly what I want I now I’m ready to talk to a sales person.”
Matthew Loomis: But Marcus isn’t that being a little too transparent?
You’re airing out your dirty laundry in front of everybody.
Marcus Sheridan: Well I think there’s a difference between coming out and saying ” I’m a raging alcoholic and I’ve got terrible company culture!”
Versus coming out and saying… (which by the way I am neither of those two things.) But hypothetically let’s look at some of the – They Ask You Answer elements for a pool guy. Okay?
So for years, people would ask me questions. The number one question that everybody would ask was ” how much does a fibreglass pool cost?” Right? Within the first couple of minutes.
The next question would be ”so what is the potential problems with a fibreglass pool?” No pool guy wanted to address that.
None wanted to address that.
Nobody wanted to address ”what’s the difference between a concrete and a fibreglass pool?” Or ”are concrete pools better that fibreglass pools?” Right? Which is a legitimate question but there are all these kinds of questions.
And then you can get really granular like ” does the concrete deck around your pool like the patio around your pool, does that crack or is that going to crack?”
These are the types of things that salespeople shy away from but they are legitimate questions. And what scares buyers is not the idea that you told them but what scares them is when they can’t find an answer.
Case-in-point here, let’s say, Matt that you decided to go to a restaurant tonight on a recommend from a friend. And you’re going to take a friend so you want it to be a good experience. If you’re like 99% of people. If you go to a restaurant that you have not been to before you’re ”okay I’m going to make sure I have a good experience I’m going to do two things.”
You’re going to read reviews and you’re going to go to the website and you’re going to look at the menu. This is very very common this is what most of us do.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. If you go to the website and there are no prices on the menu are you still going to go? This is what we found. Over 80% of people in that moment will not go.
It’s not because they couldn’t afford it. But the moment you leave the space blank is the moment you create a seed of doubt. And when seeds of doubt exist people will not buy.
They don’t buy and inertia occurs.
Let me give you another really silly example. Let’s say you have a shopping cart page on your website. Okay? Anybody here that’s ever been to a shopping cart page there’s been a time when you’re pulling out your credit card and you went to the shopping cart page and you notice ”oops there’s a coupon code option here.”
And these said ”oh geez I don’t have the coupon code.” So in that moment instead of just continuing to buy the thing the majority of people now go and look for the coupon code.
Here’s where it gets crazy Matt if you don’t find the coupon code do you still buy? And a large portion of people now won’t. A minute ago they were paying for it and now they’ve stopped. It’s because the coupon in and of itself plants a seed of doubt.
That’s why coupon codes often times ”hurt” conversions when it comes to shopping cart pages.
What Valuable Business Ethics Could We Extract From the Example Of CarMax Used Cars?
Matthew Loomis: Marcus one example that is doing this really well that you mentioned earlier is CarMax.
They have totally revolutionalised the used-car industry.
I was wondering if you could us help glean from what CarMax has taught us.
Marcus Sheridan: I think the biggest lesson of CarMax is they had a lot of clarity at the beginning.
They said ”our industry is messed up and nobody trusts us.”
I mean how many industries are willing to say that? Most don’t say that. You don’t generally find lawyers that say ”yeah there’s a lot of crappy lawyers and we’re reaping what we sow.” No. That’s refreshing by the way. If somebody was to say that.
There are a lot of politicians that think that way.
So CarMax started with the simple premise that nobody trusts us is a possible way to win that trust back. That was number one.
Number two. They analysed all the fears that buyers had and they said ”is it possible to overcome them individually?” ”What do we have to do to overcome them?”
Here’s the cool thing when they said ”no haggle or five-day money back guarantee.” A lot of people in their space certainly their competitors said ”you can’t do that you’re going to go out of business!”
What’s crazy today is if you go to a CarMax those same competitors that are located next to them are usually selling by the exact same model of CarMax.
Because you have a choice. You can either make the rules in your space like Zappos or like CarMax did or like River Pools did or whatever it is.
Big small doesn’t matter.
You can make the rules and everybody says ”okay those are the rules.” Or you can follow the rules that are made by your competitor but trust me it’s much better to make them than to follow them.
It makes me laugh, I’ve seen car automotive dealerships say ”oh yeah yeah we’ll give you a seven-day-money-back-guarantee on all of our vehicles, not just five.” Who cares? You didn’t make the rule. So it doesn’t matter if you give a better offer CarMax changed the world of cars as we know it.
Therefore you’ve already lost so go ahead and make it seven make it ten days. It doesn’t matter you screwed up because you weren’t obsessed with the way buyers wanted to buy.
Have Your Competitors Learned Anything From – They Ask You Answer?
Matthew Loomis: Exactly.
Have you seen over the years any of your competitors in the swimming pool business adopt -They Ask You Answer?
Marcus Sheridan: Oh dude.
You know what man?
Before I started professional speaking and I guess for the past five-six years I’ve been travelling around the world sharing this message of – They Ask You Answer.
But before I did that I first started speaking to the swimming pool industry at the National Pool Spa Show, alright? So I did that for about three years I once figured that I had taught this to over a thousand swimming pool companies.
Everything we did at River Pools, not to just save the company but become what we were.
I can tell you that of the thousand that I taught this to some of which were competitors down the street maybe two have done it 50% as well as we did at River Pools.
That’s because it’s the ultimate case of ”you can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.”
That’s the age in which we are. There are so many people that realise ”of course, this is what we should be doing.” But they don’t do it therefore, they’d rather just go throw money at the problem and not invest in it like the farmer. Plant the seed and nourish the crop.
And do what’s necessary for long-term success.
Matthew Loomis: So you’re saying that only one or two actually even have done it?
Marcus Sheridan: That have done it kind of well.
Matthew Loomis: Kind of well? Right.
Wow. That is just amazing.
Marcus Sheridan: Crazy. Isn’t it?
Can You Summerize the Five Basic Concerns Around The Big Five That You Talk About In Your Book?
Matthew Loomis: It is crazy.
Let’s now talk about in your book you talk about the Big Five.
These are five different content forms.
After implementing your new inbound marketing strategy for a couple of months with River Pools and Spas. You did a deep-dive into your analytics to see what was working and what wasn’t working and which forms of content were getting the most traction.
Can you describe what you discovered as profound? Basically, there were five content subjects that get the most response that lead the sales.
They are – One – Pricing and cost.
Two – Problems.
Three – Verses and comparisons.
Four – Reviews
Five – Best in class.
Now your book devotes multiple chapters to each of those and we won’t go into all of them today. I do recommend this book if you’re wanting to use your blog to generate sales with content marketing and there is a link to Marcus’s book in The Show Notes.
Of these five topics you discovered which one of these would you say proves to be the most consistent at turning website visitors into customers?
Marcus Sheridan: It’s always money.
It’s always price. It’s always cost.
The Big Five are the five subjects that essentially dictate our economy when we’re buying things.
And so if anybody is listening to this. If you recently had to make a purchasing decision you probably did these five things and you may not have even realised it.
You mentioned those each one of them, Matt. Cost is a huge one. Now here’s the funny thing about cost, alright? If I say to a group of people ”have you researched how much something costs online in the last year?” Everybody’s going to say ”yes.”
Then if I say ”okay so if you’re on a website and you can’t find anything about cost and price like if it’s not there what’s the emotion you experience?” Immediately. Immediately everyone in the room says ”I’m frustrated!” Right?
So the question is ”why are you frustrated?” Right? And they’re like ”I’m the buyer I want to be able to make a decision.”
Here’s where it gets interesting. In this moment of frustration if you say to somebody ”okay so do you just keep digging on the website?” And they’ll laugh and say ”no I don’t keep digging.” In fact, we find that people will spend less than ten seconds on the site if they’re looking for price and they can’t find it.
The second factor is if you say to them ”okay they’re not talking about cost and price they’re a value based company I’ll call them instead.” Which is laughable because, for the most part, we stopped calling companies on the phone during this vetting period.
”So instead of calling them or digging further on the site what we do is we continue to search until we find an answer and then generally speaking whoever gives us the answer that we’re looking for they get our business.”
If we get to the core psychology the real reason we get upset as buyers, is because we know when we asked this question ”how much is it that they know as the business to answer?” Because we know they know the answer and they’re not giving it to us, we now feel that they’re hiding something from us.
When we feel that anybody is hiding anything from us online trust is gone. Right?
So that’s the essence of that and we all agree on that. But if you ask a group of people ”how many of you talk about cost and price on your website?” Assuming they’re not an eCommerce company. Usually, only 10-20% of the businesses will raise their hand.
So the question is why? And there’s always three reasons. The reasons why there is always three reasons Matt is because all businesses are the same. All business is the same it doesn’t matter what you do.
Business B2B, B2C service products big small local national.
Here are the three reasons – First reason, why we don’t do it is we say ” well I tend to be more expensive and I don’t want to scare my customers away.” Which is kind of funny if you think about it because they’re not your customers yet. But, but…
What really scares us away is NOT having the pricing.
We’ve already established that. So it’s not the idea of having it. It’s that idea of not having it. That’s number one.
The number two reason is they say because of competition. They don’t want their competitors to see their pricing. Now here’s what funny about that. I train sales teams all the time. If I go to a sales team and I say ”do you have a very good sense of what you competitors charge?”
They say ”yes of course we do.” So if we have a good sense of what our competitors charge that also means they have a good sense as to what we charge. So it’s the big secret non-secret. Everybody acts like nobody knows what everybody else is charging.
When in reality everybody knows what everybody’s charging. Right? So that’s number two.
And the third reason why we say we can’t do it is we say things like ”well Marcus it’s a very customised solution.” You know. I’m not selling widgets here. This is not a commodity this is very specialised. Well okay then look at it like that.
That in and of itself would be ”it depends.” And I agree that ”it depends.” Well is it possible for you to explain what drives the cost up for a project? What drives it down?
Could you explain why some in your industry are cheap? Why some are expensive? Could you really help me as a buyer get a sense of the marketplace? And of course, the answer is ”yes.”
I don’t espouse that people should necessarily put a price list on their website. But it’s absolutely your duty to have a lot of information about cost and price on your website if you truly want to move the needle and have sales based conversations.
If you want to increase the quality of your leads and if you want to be more attractive to the marketplace? You talk about money. It’s that simple.
And by the way – They Ask You Answer is a huge recruiting tool. That’s why the companies that talk about salaries on their website do way better than the one’s that don’t.
Matthew Loomis: As far as getting good people?
Marcus Sheridan: YES!
Matthew Loomis: To hire as well?
Marcus Sheridan: Well you know.
For some reason when people are looking for jobs they want to know how much it pays. Right?
For some reason, some companies don’t like to talk about it until the end of the quote – Sales conversation.
Or the vetting process.
No. No. No. You’ve got to talk about it sooner because people don’t want to waste your time on a thirty-thousand-dollar a year job if they need to make seventy-five.
So they want to self-qualify and then they want to contact the company. Most companies don’t do that.
Matthew Loomis: That is so fascinating.
Because what you’re saying is pricing is the topic that most businesses are resistant to discuss online or on their blog but yet it’s the most effective subject to cover in your content.
Marcus Sheridan: For 90% of our clients half of which are B2B.
The number one traffic lead in sales generating content has to do with COST – MONEY – PRICE.
The thing is you just can’t argue the numbers. You cannot argue the numbers. And anyone that says ”we can’t talk about it.” I’m like ”no you’re lying you can you just have to explain the marketplace.”
Again we’re not saying ”put a menu of pricing on your website.”
It’s a different ball game. Now granted if you are a restaurant you do have to put the full menu on there. That you do.
Matthew Loomis: Right.
Marcus Sheridan: But this is where we are.
And it goes down the list.
If you look at the other Big Fives. I used to get asked all the time ”what are the problems with the fibreglass pools?” Matt nobody ever asked me to answer that question on the website.
We addressed it and because of advanced analytics in people searching for ”fibreglass pool problems.” We’ve been able to track half a million dollars in revenue from that one singular phrase that people have searched that bought a pool from us.
It’s crazy, that price article? That generated three and a half million dollars in revenue for the company since the day it was written.
It’s crazy Matt.
Matthew Loomis: It is.
That makes so much sense on just a basic relationship level. When you talk about your problem it usually makes things so much better. If you just get it out there in the open and talk about it with the other person instead of trying to hide it.
Marcus Sheridan: This has been going on for years.
EVERYBODY’S GOT ELEPHANTS!
Politicians when they run for office the smart ones come right out and say ”I smoke dope.”
Instead of somebody else coming out and saying ”they smoke dope.”
That’s just how it’s supposed to go if you don’t want to get into trouble. Right? If you don’t want a PR nightmare on your hands.
So companies. If they’re smart like a fibreglass pool company. If they’re smart they say ”if you’re looking for a pool that’s wider than 16 ft or longer than 40 ft or deeper than 8 ft?” Well then. Fibreglass is probably not a good fit for you because there are certain size limitations. Right? That’s part of the conversation.
And it’s like ”okay great for somebody that wanted a 16 x 32 rectangle that’s five feet deep.” They’re like ”SWEET I’ve got something here that looks like it’s going to fit me perfectly.”
But for the person that wanted a 60 x 40 Olympic sized pool? Guess what? Fibreglass ain’t a good fit.
The happiest day in the life of a business isn’t when they know who they are. It’s when they understand who they’re not because when you know who you’re not Matt, you have the ability to say NO.
You don’t take on every job. You don’t take on every client. Right? You don’t say ”yes I’m going to do that” to every service that you could do but you don’t necessarily want to do.
You say ”NO” and that’s what makes you very very successful as an organisation. That’s what creates a great culture and that’s what gets people out of the bed every morning because they do what they love.
Matthew Loomis: This is really good stuff!
When it comes to the Big Five and creating content.
Do you recommend creating an equal amount of those five like 20% each or how do you distribute that?
Marcus Sheridan: I don’t have a recommendation there.
I find that the key is that you take the questions as they come to you.
For example: If you sell ten major services? Well then. You’re probably going to have ten major pricing pages on your website that’s really talking about those services individually.
Because you don’t just want to clump things together. You want to address things as specifically as possible. If you look at what the buyer wants. They want specific answers to specific questions.
If you look at what search engines like Google want. They want specific answers to specific questions. Everybody’s aligned at this point so this is how we have to think. But the key is that you start there.
Here’s another thing that is interesting about the Big Five. If we look at the traditional sales funnel you got top of the funnel middle of the funnel bottom of the funnel.
The Big Five start at the bottom of the funnel. And this is where your content should start as a company. This is where your messaging should be starting as a company.
Most companies. The flaws that they have the reasons why you hear things like ”it takes forever for content marketing to work.” Is because they start producing ”fluffy content” that buyers may or may not be interested in.
Like ”Five Fun Games To Play In Your Swimming Pool.” Like who cares! That person is probably not looking at a fibreglass swimming pool. A priority only or maybe they’re having a party at the YMCA this Saturday for the kids.
I don’t know but they’re probably not interested in buying a fibreglass pool. But if somebody types into Google ”how much does a fibreglass pool cost?” You could believe this is a very serious buyer because they’re looking at a specific type of pool. They want to know how much it’s going to cost them. That denotes they’re lower in the funnel in that vetting process in terms of before they contact the company.
My goal is before somebody contacts us. I want them to have every major question already answered. I want them to know our doctrine our philosophy. That they’ve seen our face they’ve heard our voice and if that happens we’re going to have an amazing sales experience.
What Is Your Opinion About Writing Creative or Whimsical Content On Your Business Website?
Matthew Loomis: What you’ve just said about ”fluffy content.”
Brings to my mind a question that I just thought of and I’m curious as to your response.
When it comes to creativity in your content or using humour and things like that. Is that something that you shouldn’t even think about?
Marcus Sheridan: Well I’ve seen a lot of traffic leads and sales killed by journalistic writing.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.
I mean until Google doesn’t exist you need to please the searcher and the search engine. Unless you already have this huge platform. In other words, if you have The Huffington Post or the Onion and you have this huge platform and you have these really witty headlines for articles. That’s one thing because that grabs you and brings you in.
But if you’re a normal SMB small to medium sized business without a huge platform huge brand. You’re just trying to generate more traffic. More leads. More sales. You need to be straightforward and honest.
You need to say the title of the article or the video would be how much a fibreglass swimming pool will cost you.
You don’t want to say things like ”The Five Things About Fibreglass Pools You Don’t Know.” Like nobody’s ever searched that. Ever! EVER!
If they’re not searching it that doesn’t align with – They Ask You Answer. Again if you’re Huffing Post go ahead and write it. It’s interesting. It’s catchy. It’s witty.
But searchers and search engines for the most part… I’m not talking about an email subject line that is something different.
I’m talking about searchers and search engines. They do not appreciate sarcasm wit jokes…etc. It’s not their thing.
Matthew Loomis: And then you also extend that into the body copy?
Or the video content.
Marcus Sheridan: I think it’s great to have personality.
The body copy I would say. Be you as much as possible. Yes.
But when it come to some of the essentials of just clean SEO which obviously is addressed some in the book. You don’t want to dork around with your titles.
You know what I mean? You do want to do those well. You want to be thoughtful about them. And usually here’s the thing. I have found Matt if you want to be both. If you want to be a creative catchy title and you also want it to be a searcher and search engine friendly?
You can do both. It’s very very possible.
Matthew Loomis: Right.
Marcus Sheridan: I just mentioned the five things about fibreglass pools you didn’t know.
How about I say ” Fiber Glass Pools Problems:” ”Five Things That You Didn’t Know That You Probably Should.” That’s a really good title.
Because it is written the way somebody would search about fibreglass pools problems. But it’s also very very catch like ”huh well let me click on this bad boy.”
So usually there is a win-win that you can achieve there.
What Is Your Reaction To People Who Have Refusals and Fears About Adopting Change Into Their Business?
Matthew Loomis: Marcus you are also a business consultant.
When people raise up resistance to implementing these five content forms.
How do you respond to their excuses or their fears?
Marcus Sheridan: Well frankly what we do is we teach a lot of workshops.
Where we bring everybody together.
Especially the sales team. Because if you talk to the sales team and you start talking about money? They’re going to freak out. Because they don’t get it. They don’t get it!
I usually spend about three hours with organisations. By the end, the owners are saying ”we need to be doing this by tomorrow like tonight!” Right?
But if I come into an organisation and I say ”how come you dummies aren’t talking about Price and Cost on your websites?” Then all they’re going to do is get offended.
So it has to be a process of showing them how we have changed as buyers. Right?
So that’s one of the major elements but at the same time Matt there’s plenty of companies that are going to do this because they are going to want to continue living in 1995. And that’s okay.
That’s why there’s over achievers. That’s why there are leaders and that’s why there are followers and that’s the way the world works.
And so that’s why there are always going to be a group of companies that resist doing it the next way.
The way that the buyer would want it and what was once a good habit or a good trait now becomes negative.
Case-in-point the most famous one in the world is Henry Ford’s quote. Right? You can have any colour you want as long as it’s black.
People celebrate that quote. I think that quote is stupid. And I’ll tell you why it’s stupid. Henry Ford revolutionised an industry because he made it easier to build vehicles that were more cost-effective.
But then he almost lost Ford because of the fact that he didn’t want to change.
He didn’t want to answer the buyer and their question was ” you know what?” ”I don’t just want black.”
How Important Is Branding To Your Business?
Matthew Loomis: How important is branding to you.
When it comes to content creation?
Marcus Sheridan: I think branding is a byproduct of work.
Culture is a byproduct of work.
And so you’ll often hear companies say ”this is our culture and this is our brand.” But they haven’t really done any work yet to represent that thing.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. When you really embrace content marketing well and – They Ask You Answer well. Means you’ve got to leverage your sales team. Your subject matter experts to produce content. Right?
So they become involved in marketing and so marketing and sales start to become aligned. Now all of a sudden this impacts your culture. Now they see themselves as a teacher first and a salesperson second.
They start to see the benefits of this transparent honest teach model that we espouse so much.
But it doesn’t happen before that moment. They’ve got to see the fruit of the labour. Right? It’s kind of like you can’t see where the trail goes until you start to walk the trail.
It’s not realistic.
And so branding is ”nice.” Especially when it comes to SMB… But if you want to really do something. You want to stand out.
You think about Seth Godin’s Purple Cow. Right?
You don’t have to invent something that is outrageously different.
You can just be more honest and more transparent than anybody in your space.
That’s the essence of innovation. That’s the essence of the B R A N D. Right? Being their most trusted brand in the marketplace. Okay?
What makes them trust it?
Is to go out at all these questions. They don’t hesitate to address them. You know that if you go there you are going to get exactly what you are looking for.
What’s the Future Of Video Versus Text?
Matthew Loomis: Yeah. That’s good.
Now in your book, you talk about video content.
You’re pretty enthusiastic about video, you believe it is more effective than textual based blog content from what I read in your book.
What’s your response when you hear people say that content consumers prefer text-based posts because video takes too much of their time?
Marcus Sheridan: I saw this article the other day.
This NBA player that fundamentally believed that the world is flat and he really really believed it.
He still believes it. And he’s a famous basketball player. Right? Saying that video is not the future is like saying the world is flat.
Saying that video is not the future is like saying the world is flat.
Specifically when I see a video that’s come out that has visual and virtual content. (Everything that starts with a V pretty much.)
The future is found in the visual side of telling the story and answering the question. That’s just where we’re headed and in fact, there’s all these stats. I think one of the most prominent stats is by 2019 they say 80% of all the content consumed online is going to be video.
I mean that’s ridiculous man! So if 80% of the content that is consumed online is video and 10-20% of the content you produce is video? Then there’s a problem here!
When we engage a company Matt we try to make it so that within the first six months they get to a point that 50% of their content is video based content. And we just try to get more and more as we go.
But when you do video it builds an amazing culture man. I mean it does all these cool things. Again all these fiduciary benefits that come out of this visual this video culture within an organisation.
Matthew Loomis: Okay Marcus.
Well, let’s suppose someone reads your book.
And then follows through and implements everything you recommend. Realistically how long will it take for them to see a noticeable improvement in their online sales?
Marcus Sheridan: Well the cool thing about the book is that I address it from the marketing side first.
From the sales side second.
And then implementing what you read third. Right? That’s the order of the book. So if you do – They Ask You Answer. Right? It can have an impact tomorrow.
Let me give you an example: We always say when somebody’s looking to do video. What type of video should the produce first? Well, the first video that you should produce is what we call the 80% video.
The 80% video aligns itself with the questions you hear in a sales appointment.
So in other words… (if anybody is listening to this and you’re in sales?) On average 80% of the questions that you get on a first sales appointment regarding a particular product or service are the same questions every time.
And so the first video that you produce as a company should be a video that addresses those eighty percent.
Now, what would happen if every sales appointment that you had they hit already before you got there viewed a video that addressed those eighty percent of questions?
But it wasn’t just any video it was your video. It was from your mouth. They saw you. They heard you. They learned from you. They knew your name now. And now you came and you met them for the first time.
How is that sales appointment different?
And that’s how Matt, this can affect you tomorrow. Now over time, though. The planter. The farmer. Right? The watering of the field… That occurs with the SEO of things. The building momentum and the social. All that occurs by producing good sound content.
That’s what people really want to know. From the question issues worries and concerns. Right? That’s going to take a little bit more time.
But still, you age going to see people that do this and immediately within a couple of months they start to get significant, impact.
Usually within a year. You’re at major impact.
Matthew Loomis: Within one year?
Marcus Sheridan: Within one year.
You’re at major impact. Yes.
Matthew Loomis: Awesome.
Just imagine where you could be twelve months from now. Right?
Marcus Sheridan: Yeah.
You just gotta say ”THIS IS WHO I AM!”
”We’re teachers now we’re going to become the Wikipedia of our space.”
”That’s who we’re going to be.” ”That’s what we’re going to do.”
”Nothings going to stop us!” ”We’re going to do it more honestly more transparently more persistently, consistently than anybody else!”
What Lasting Impact Will – They Ask You Answer’s Principles Have In the World Of Online Business In Twenty Years?
Matthew Loomis: I think there’s so much great stuff here.
Now, the internet is still considered to be pretty young.
Yet we have already seen a lot of online fads come and go in the online marketing and blogging space. Things like keyword stuffing, covert, aggressive link building strategies, blogging on social media instead of your own website…
All sorts of fads have come and gone.
What about content marketing or – They Ask You Answer?
Is your philosophy just a fad that will eventually disappear?
Marcus Sheridan: Yes.
That is such a relevant question.
And I think if people say ”is content marketing even going to exist in twenty years?”
They don’t really know what content marketing is. Now I define content marketing to be your company’s ability to be the best and most helpful teachers in the world of what you do online and off.
And so if I came ta a CEO and I said to that CEO ”do you think great teaching, communications with your customers is going to be relevant to your business in twenty years?”
What would they say?
And they would say ”well of course it is.”
If I said to a CEO ” do you think it’s critical that your customers see you as the most trusted voice in your space in twenty years.” He is going to say ”it’s critical to my business.”
If I say ”do you want them to say they will solve my problems I just know they will because they always do in twenty years?” ”Yes yes!”
Now that’s a principle, though Matt. Right? They Ask You Answer is a principle that has been around forever. I didn’t make it up I just used four words to break it down simply. Right?
But it’s been around forever. It’s going to continue to be around for a long long time. It’s nothing new. And what I know is that principles are her to stay. But platforms will come and go. And techniques come and go but principles last.
I have been teaching – They Ask You Answer now for six years. Every single Google update. Every single algorithmic update. Our clients are doing better than they were before. Not worse.
And it’s because they did it the right way.
They do it how humans would want it to be done. They said ”let’s produce great quality content.”
Where Can People Go Online To Get a Copy Of Your Book – They Ask You Answer?
Matthew Loomis: Marcus if people want to learn more about – They Ask You Answer business approach to online sales.
Where can they get a copy of your book?
Marcus Sheridan: Best places are Amazon.
And Barnes and Noble.
Just go there type in – They Ask You Answer.
Anybody can email me. My email is – Marcus At The Sales Lion Dot Com
You can find me on Twitter – @TheSalesLion and of course if you get the book and if you’re listening to this I hope you leave a review as well.
But Matt man, it’s been great talking to you. I really really appreciate it buddy.
Matthew Loomis: Hey man it’s been a pleasure.
Didn’t I see that they can also go to – They Ask You Answer Dot Com?
Marcus Sheridan: You can. You can go there as well.
There’s plenty of places where you can go.
Matthew Loomis: Alright.
Marcus Sheridan: You will not have a problem finding the book.
Matthew Loomis: And Marcus.
Where can people follow you on social media?
Marcus Sheridan: Best place is:
Twitter: @The Sales Lion
You can find me on Facebook as well just type my name in there. Hit me up and say ”hey I heard you on Matt’s Podcast – The Blog Chronicles. And I’ll accept your friend request.
Those are probably the best two places Matt.
Matthew Loomis: Marcus.
Thank you for coming on The Blog Chronicles today.
It’s been a blast! I’ve been admiring you for several years now. It’s always great to get wisdom from people like you that are not just talking but actually doing it.
Marcus Sheridan: My pleasure!
Marcus Sheridan – Husband, Father, Teacher, and Professional Speaker…Passion and Enthusiasm consume my Soul.
The Show Notes
Email Marcus – firstname.lastname@example.org
Marcus Sheridan – River Pools and Spas Contact
196 Selftown Road
Warsaw, VA 22572
Thank’s For Tuning Into This Episode of The Blog Chronicles.