What I learnt about content marketing from Marcus Sheridan

After reading Inbound and Content Marketing, an ebook by Marcus Sheridan, on and off since starting my internship with Learning Everyday in June, I have finally finished it. While it can be a bit repetitive at times, Marcus has collated two years of blogs into an easy to read and extremely useful content marketing resource.

Marcus doesn’t use long words or marketing jargon, he tells it like it is and uses real life examples so you respect him and trust that he know what he is talking about. He has been there, done that, and got the t-shirt to prove it.

In this article I discuss the 10 lessons that I learnt from Marcus Sheridan’s ebook and how you can apply them to your small business.

Lesson 1

“If I just answer consumers questions Google will reward me with more visits, which should ultimately turn to leads and then sales” (p.11)

This goes back to one of the first things I learnt from Marcus. They ask, you answer. This is the principle that if a customers asks you a question, you answer it; in a blog, social media post, podcast, whatever. It works the same as when a customer asks you a question in person, only the answer will be available for anyone to find. These days, when researching a product or service, customers type their questions into Google. If you have answered their question through your blog, Google will take note and rank you higher up on their list of results. This will result in more visits to your website which if handled correctly can turn to leads and then sales. “Understand that each article you write gives Google more opportunity to look at your site, notice your value to the consumers and then show you on the first page for more and more key phrases in your niche”. (p.46)

Your next step

Think of all the questions customers have ever asked you about your product or service and answer them. Make the article title the question and Google will rank it highly. Simple as that.

Lesson 2

“21st century business owners must take control of their websites” (p.14) and “No longer can small business owners shy away from Information technology”(p.16)

In a world where people want information as soon as possible, you can’t afford to wait for your website designer to make even minor alterations. In his ebook, Marcus tells the story of how he would have to ask his web designer to make a minor change which would take 3 days. Now he handles his website all on his own because he took control. In a similar vein, small businesses need to embrace and take control of information technology if they are to stand a chance against their larger counterparts. Nowadays, customers search for a company’s website first to find out more about them before visiting their store. Small business owners need to create an up to date and engaging website that provides valuable information to anyone looking for it. “If you own a business, and if you want to truly have any web marketing presence at all, you need to be blogging. With benefits like SEO, subscribers and inbound links; content marketing for small businesses can pay some serious dividends” (p.50).

Your next step

Learn how to manage your website, either through a course or by yourself. Think about how to bring your business into the 21st century by integrating information technology into your marketing.

Related article:

Blogging for Small Businesses – There’s No Excuses Anymore

Lesson 3

It starts with a simple belief “No one know more about my business than I do, No one can teach and talk about my service and products as I can” (p.16)

If you believe this sentence, then you can fully embrace the concept of content marketing and can start your journey to becoming a thought leader in your industry. Whether your business is hairdressing or selling homes, you automatically know more about your business than your customers or even your competitors. So use that knowledge; you are the creator of your business, so you know the ins and outs, you can teach others about your products and services. “Be a thought leader – see the world just a little differently that everyone else” (p.89)

Your next step

Start to think of yourself as a fountain of knowledge and important resource to your business and industry. Start by writing about what you know and share your knowledge.

Related article:

Becoming A Leader in Your Niche through Thought Leadership

Lesson 4

“Start leveraging the power and skills of your employees” and “Let every member of the team carry the ball” (p.38)

If you have customer facing employees, chances are they have a great understanding of what customers are looking for and what their concerns are. Employees have the potential to not only contribute to your content marketing strategy, but to help it succeed. Marcus developed a team working exercise where he got groups of employees to come up with 20 or so questions that they get asked on a regular basis. He then asked each individual employee to go away and think of 20 more. In total, by the end of the exercise the company had over 200 questions. By turning these into content e.g. blogs, podcast, infographic etc, customer service was improved as employees no longer spent time repeating the answers to questions they had answered hundreds of times. They had been answered, and not by competitors, but by the company, thus improving the respect and trust a customer will had for the company and the employees. Marcus’s task also shows how you need to get everyone within the business involved in content marketing. Don’t carry the ball on your own, but let others carry it, they have just as much knowledge about the business and it’s customers as you and are capable of producing great content. “Create a culture of education within your business” (p.40).

Your next step

Get your employees to write down the common questions they get asked, then get them to write a blog article answering the questions one by one. Think it will take too much time? Brainstorming can take 15 minutes. And if they know the answers to the questions (and you would hope they would) writing them down should take, at most, a couple of hours, start to finish.

Lesson 5

“How many pages do your customers need to read before they reach a tipping point and closing rates skyrocket? (p.51)

Knowing how many pages it takes a customer to decide to buy your product or service is a great thing. Marcus found 30 to be his magic number. Everyone’s magic number will be different but knowing it can help you to understand the amount of content a customer goes through before making that decision. By knowing this number you can ensure you produce enough great content to make the customers decision a no-brainer. Just sit and watch your average closing rates sky rocket. “Great content leads to trust which in turn leads to sales” (p.50)

Your next step

Use Google analytics to find out, of those people who visit your website and become sales, how many pages of your website they viewed before deciding to take that next step.

Lesson 6

“Every email should contain at least one, if not many links to previous blog articles your company has written” (p.51)

Every email you send to a customer or potential customer should aim to gain or increase their loyalty. By including links to previous blog article, you are encouraging them to visit your website, learn more about you and your industry, and build trust. “By the end of 2008 it was easy to see that consumers were serious about their research, and it was my job as a business owner to give it to them” (p.15).

Your next step

I really like this piece of advice Marcus gives. He says to give a potential lead “homework” to do before you have an initial meeting with them. Get employees to email potential leads links to your website, blog, podcast etc. If they do their homework (and if they are serious about your product, they will) you will have a better meeting with the customers and a higher chance of converting the lead into a sale.

Lesson 7

“He who gives consumers the good, the bad and the ugly of a product will always be the content king” (p.62)

No product or service is perfect, so telling customers this is not going to surprise them. Yet, being the first in your industry to do so in a public way may surprise them. Telling customers the good points about a product is all well and good. But also telling them the bad and ugly sides of your products may garner some respect for being honest about your offering. Although it may seem daunting, writing negative things about your products or a competitors products, will gain you credibility and ensure you beat your competitors to doing it for you. Be careful though when writing about your competitors products, as you don’t want to come across as nasty, but want to try and remain unbiased in your writing tone. “Content is king, needs to be paired with the phrase as long as someone is actually listening” (p.172).

Your next step

Remember this great piece of advice from Marcus. “If you are answering a question about your products and services, always start with the negative”. “If you are answering a question about your competition, always start with the positive” (p.119).

Lesson 8

“If you don’t have a keyword phrase goal for every blog post you ever write, you are missing the boat” (p.78)

You shouldn’t just write an article for the sake of filling your content schedule. You need to make sure what you are writing has a purpose. Google judges your article on how many times a keyword appears on a page, in your title, in your meta description. So it is vital to ensure you use your keywords just enough to ensure Google ranks you highly. “When it comes to awesome content that gets major love from search engines you need to write articles that address exact phrases and words” (p.59).

Your next step

Always keep two things in mind: what you want to write about and who you are writing for. If it helps, have your keywords and phrases on post-it notes in front of your as a constant reminder.

Related article:

SEO for small business owners

Lesson 9

“Editorial calendars suck the life out of epic content and pillar posts” (p.137)

Before reading this ebook I was always one to stick to a schedule and do things as and when they were suppose to be done. Yet, with content marketing, as Marcus points out, sticking to a schedule can drain you of any inspiration or “epic content”. I would agree with him as there are times when I have no inspiration or even motivation to write an article but feel I need to find some as I need to get an article out on time. Now I realise that writing when inspiration hits me is more beneficial in the long term as I produce better quality content. “Without a calendaring system at first its extremely difficult to get better at this thing we call blogging and content marketing. Why? because it never becomes a culture” (p.137).

Your next step

Develop an editorial calendar, but be flexible with it to some extent. Use it to develop a culture and habit of producing content for particular times and soon enough it will become second nature.

Lesson 10

“The most important question we can ask ourselves if we really want to develop a stronger network with rich friendships online is this: Who can I help today?”. (p.168)

At the end of the day, content marketing is about helping people. Helping them gain knowledge about a product or service. Helping them gain knowledge about your business or industry. Its not just about helping customers, it’s about helping others in your industry, forming a strong network of friendships. As at the end of the day, if you are all implementing content marketing then your ultimate goal is the same; to educate others. “Start seeing the world through their customers eyes” (p.65).

Your next step

Ask yourself, who can you help today?

Your Turn

So that is what I took away from reading Inbound and Content Marketing by Marcus Sheridan. I implore you to download a copy and read it, either cover to cover or use it as a resource to dip in and out of.

  1. Which of these 10 lessons resonates with you?
  2. What have you learnt from reading Inbound and Content Marketing by Marcus Sheridan?
  3. What have you implemented from his book into your own business?

Other Articles I have written about what Marcus Sheridan has taught me about content marketing

Six content marketing lessons from Marcus Sheridan at Amerirap 2014

What is content marketing: Q & A with Marcus Sheridan

Listen to Chris’ marketing academy podcast with Marcus Sheridan

Let us know in the comments section below!

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About Melissa Coombs

Melissa Coombs is a Business and Marketing Graduate from Edinburgh University. Showcasing the best examples of content marketing and educating business owners on the benefits of content marketing for their business