Six content marketing lessons from Marcus Sheridan at AmeriRap 2014

Who would have known that a “Pool Guy” from Virginia, USA, could reach such incredible heights as a motivational and inspirational speaker at marketing and business conferences around the world.

Marcus Sheridan began River Pools and Spas in 2001, growing a business with just 15 people, through inbound marketing and a very successful blog, to one of the largest of its kind. Now a silent partner, he travels the globe, teaching and coaching businesses on how to capture success through inbound and content marketing.

Marcus recently spoke at the AmeriFirst Home Mortgage Annual Conference, AmeriRap, and in this article we have summarised the six key content marketing lessons from his 1.5hr presentation.

One – Zero Moment of Truth – 00:40

The Zero moment of truth is the “First moment someone contacts your company e.g. emails you, calls you, fills in a form on your website, engages you in a conversation“.

According to Google, 70% of the buying decision is already made before a prospect (customers) encounters this moment of truth. This means that in order to be part of that buying process, before you even engage with a customer, you have to be in front of them, and the easiest way to do this is to have a great website.

However, what defines a great website? Some may say that a great website is easy to navigate, provides good information, is eye catching, one that you can find easily. But what customers want, is to find what they are looking for, and find it quickly. In this digital age, customers priorities and expectations about the internet have changed.

In order to be successful in an encounter with a prospects who has already made 70% of their buying decision, you need to have a great website, that, at the zero moment of truth, confirms their buying decision and converts them from prospects to customers.

Click here to read more about the Zero Moment of Truth

Two – Expectations have Changed – 7:02

Marcus states, fact, that as consumers we are: more impatient that we have ever been, more demanding that we have ever been, but also more loyal than we have ever been. Therefore, we want information quickly and at our own convenience, but we also know which sources we trust to get that information from.

To utilise these expectations, businesses need to become that trusted source of information and provide it in a way that meets customer expectations.

Three – Look Beyond the Rules and Norms – 16:35

To truly become the go to source of information in your industry, Marcus says you need to ask yourself “Is it possible that there is a better way than what has been done before?“. You need to look and think outside the box, look beyond the rules of your industry to achieve success.

If you are already on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you are already doing it better than it was done 5/10 years ago, but that may not be enough, because everyone you are competing with may be doing the exact same thing.

Go beyond the norms and think “How can I stand out from the crowd and break and rules?“.

Four – They Ask, You Answer – 26:28

When hit with the financial crisis in 2008, Marcus asked himself, “How can we generate traffic, leads and sales, in a way that doesn’t cost too much money, and how can we do it quickly?“. The answer? In short, burying your head in the sand won’t work, but addressing the burning questions your potential customers have may just do the trick!

They ask, we answer is a business philosophy advocated by Marcus for two reasons: one, you have a moral obligation to address any questions a customer may have, and two, if you do not address the question, you can be sure a competitor will.

It seems business owners are too afraid to address the questions their customers want to know for many reasons, whether it be fear of losing customers or fear of competition.

So now it’s time to resolve and address the questions your customer may have, but you might be asking yourself “what questions do my customers have?” You want to be addressing them before the moment of truth occurs so that 70% of their buying decision is already made. So what do your customers want to know about?

Marcus highlights “The Big 5” questions that are common in any industry as cost, problems, versus, reviews/awards, and best.

The big 5 questions

Question 1 – How much does this cost?

You may not want to address the issue of cost on your website for fear of scaring of customers or of letting your competitors know how much you charge, which is understandable. To a customer, by not having your prices on your website, they feel like you are hiding something and the trust begins to shrink.

However, you may think that in your business, the cost depends on the circumstance, which may be true for many businesses providing a service. You may not want to ANSWER the question of cost, but by ADDRESSING the issue of cost, not only will the customer notice but Google will notice and will rank your business higher than any of your competitors in the area, simply because you addressed a common question customers were having about something in your industry.

Have a look at this short video to better understand what Marcus is talking about.

Question 2 – What are the problems with this product/service?

You may also not want to address the problems that may arise from your product/service. However, if you do not, chances are Google or your competitors will.

Through talking about the problems with your product/service you can actually increase sales. How? If you address the problems, once again Google will notice and rank you higher than your competitors who fail to answer the questions they asked.

Tackle a problem before it becomes a concern and customers will trust you as a teacher and advisor.

Question 3 – What is the difference between this versus that?

With the rise in comparison websites, it is clear customers love to compare things online. With so many variables to consider, customers want to have all the information about all the different options in one easy to find place. If you do not become that place that customers go to compare products, your are inviting the competition to steal a potential customer.

In the end, by showing that you are open to the idea of alternative products/services to your own, and you recognise that sometimes, one is better than the other, customers will trust you and will be more likely to choose you over your competitors.

Marcus set up the Pool School solely as an educational website with numerous blogs comparing different types of pools. Click here to visit Pool School.

Question 4 – Who is the best and worst in the industry?

Similar to comparison websites, review websites and magazines are used by customers to compare the best and worst offering in the market. If a business has an award, a customer may trust you more as the award signals quality or reputation, but they will also trust the organisation who gave you that award.

If no one is going to give you an award, be the organisation giving out the awards. What gives me the right to do that you may ask? Ask yourself:

  • Does the customer want it?
  • Do they deserve to know who is the best in the industry?

How can you do that? Write a blog about the top 10 in your industry. Why? By doing this you then become the go to source for reviews and referrals and recommendations, customers trust your opinion, resulting in more leads and more sales.

Question 5 – If we don’t use you, who would you recommend?

This does not mean stating “We are the best, why would you go anywhere else“, because by stating that you look bias and customer won’t trust you as a teacher. You should instead start talking positively about others in your business community. Not only about other businesses in your industry but connections you have in your local business community.

Taking an example from the video, if you are a mortgage company, you may write about the best estate agents in your local business community. In return, they may recommend you to their customers, driving more traffic to your website and increasing sales (provided you have a great website).

Five – Transparency and Honesty – 59:16

Yet another business philosophy advocated by Marcus is to always be transparent and honest. To stay ahead of the competition you need to be the most honest and transparent company in your industry. Click here to read this blog written about Marcus and his belief in the power of transparency.

You need to be a “Digital David in a land of Goliaths“.

You should be providing prospective customers with information to educate themselves BEFORE you have a conversation with them. On average, if a customer reads 30 pages of your website there is an 80% chance they will be a buying customer. Termed assignment selling, by getting customers to educate themselves about what they plan to buy before the moment of truth, it is likely to be more productive for you and your business and lead to a higher percentage chance of a buying customer.

Click here for further information and explanation of the benefits of assignment selling.

Honest and transparent content is the greatest sales tool in the world. Period.

Six – Answer People’s Questions – 1:23:42

This may not be revolutionary in principle, but it is in practice and the only way to put it into practice is to become the best teacher in the world. Start seeing yourself as the best teacher in the world about what you do and others will to.

Answer people’s questions, as honestly and transparently as possible, before the competition and in way that is outside the norm.

Key Takeaway Messages

According to Marcus, if you want to provide the best content marketing you have to adopt the following philosophies:

  • They ask, we answer
  • Transparency and honesty
  • Become the best teacher in the world

Your Turn

Ask yourself these questions

  1. How can I make my website great?
  2. How can I address the questions your customers want to know in a way that breaks the rules and norms of your industry?
  3. How can I be transparent and honest in the way I educate and engage with customers?
  4. How can I become the best teacher in the world?

TIP: If you have the answers to the first three questions, then you have the beginnings of the answer to the fourth question.

Please join the conversation in the comments section below.

Listen to Chris’ marketing academy podcast with Marcus Sheridan

More about Marcus Sheridan and The Sales Lion

  • To find out more about Marcus Sheridan, check out his website – The Sales Lion – where you will have access to all of his content marketing advice
  • Follow Marcus on Twitter @TheSalesLion
  • Click here to download and read Marcus’s comprehensive content marketing eBook “Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy”
  • Increasing Sales by Answering Customers Questions – A New York Times article (Feb 2013)
  • Click here to view a slideshare summary from Marcus Sheridan of the The 33 Undisputable Laws of Content Marketing Success
  • We love Marcus’ podcast here at TCMA – click here to listen to the Mad Marketing Podcast

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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