Debbie Ekins: How content marketing directly impacts sales

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Notes

In this episode, Debbie Ekins shares her content marketing journey from a frustrated marketer that wasn’t getting results from her content marketing efforts through to driving sales directly from blog and video content.

Debbie is the marketing manager at Eagle Leisure, a family company owned by her mum and dad, who sell hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms based in Scotland.

Debbie shares where she started with content marketing; discovering Marcus Sheridan and CMA, overcoming buy-in challenges at Eagle Leisure, and how the Eagle Leisure evergreen content library is still driving sales to Eagle Leisure today without advertising.

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Transcription

Chris:
Good morning Debbie, how are you?

Debbie:
Morning Chris, I’m great. How are you?

Chris:
I’m really really well, thanks. It’s really cool to have you on the podcast, can’t wait for everybody to hear a little bit about your journey with content marketing. First of all, tell us a little bit about Eagle Leisure, and what type of company it is and what kind of work you’re doing.

Debbie:
Well, Eagle Leisure has been around since 1989, so it’s 30 years old this year and we install, maintain, repair, and refurbish swimming pools, hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms. It’s a family business, so it’s my parents that own it and my job there is Marketing Manager, so really I am involved in all of the marketing which really is just content marketing now, and a lot of the other day to day stuff as well.

Chris:
Cool, tell us a little bit about how you’re, cause this is really what we wanna talk about, we wanna talk about content marketing and how it’s helped you to shape your career and grow the business as well. Tell us a little bit about where that content marketing journey started for you.

Debbie:
I started, well technically started in about February 2016, when I started the blog on the website, so that’s when I thought I started in content marketing. It really started because we were getting our website redesigned and the website development team said “you should really have a blog” and I said, “well we have absolutely nothing to talk about, nobody in this industry blogs”, but they were like “well you should have one anyway, everyone has one”. So I started a blog. I had no idea what we were supposed to be talking about, I had no sort of strategy, I just started writing blogs about whatever I could think about at that time, whenever I had time to do it.

Nothing really happened, as you can imagine. We didn’t get lots of leads, we didn’t get lots of people buying because of this blog, because really we weren’t doing a whole lot with it and wasn’t talking about the right things. And then, I think it was around May/June time, summertime in 2017 when a couple of things happened. I had seen River Pools when we were redeveloping our website a couple of times, they’re a swimming pool company obviously so the fact that they were doing blogs caught my eye, and at the same time someone recommended I start to follow marketing Marcus Sheridan, who of course is one of the owner’s of River Pools and I saw that he was coming over to do a video marketing workshop with yourself and Edinburgh with Content Marketing Academy, and I thought “well I need to be there because blogging hasn’t worked, it’s obviously not what’s going to work for our business so I need to do video.

And I went along to that video marketing workshop and quickly learnt that the reason blogging hadn’t been working was because we weren’t doing it properly and we weren’t talking about the right things, and it was at that point that I decided to actually start doing it properly and that was when we started to see results.

Chris:
So what was it, when you say “we weren’t doing the right things”, do you recall what those right things … like what’s the verses here, like what you were doing before versus what you felt then at that point where like “oh yeah I’ve been doing it wrong, these are the right things I should be doing”?

Debbie:
Yeah, so there was a couple of things, like in the beginning I wasn’t talking about the right things in that, well first of all I was using it as kind of like a forum of what’s happening with our business so I was doing things like “oh, we’ve just got finance, here’s a blog on that”, “we’ve changed our logo, here’s a blog on that” which is fine but obviously it’s not really the things that people want to know before they buy something. There was a couple in there that were, like benefits of a sauna or how to close your hot tub down for winter, how to close your pool down for winter. But not only were they not written very well, they weren’t formatted nicely, they didn’t look nice, they didn’t really have a bit of experience, but they weren’t worded in a way that anyone was going to find them, so I think the one about closing down your pool for winter was called “Winter is coming” or something like that, cause Game of Thrones was quite big at this point. And, of course, nobody was searching for that to find how to close down their pool.

And then after we started to talk about the questions people needed to know during the sales process, like the main questions that people would ask when they came in about what tubs or pools or whatever it was, and I started to write them in a way that people would actually search for them so that they were able to find them when they were looking at buying a hot tub or a pool or sauna or steam room.

Chris:
That’s a big shift right, so this is a common area where lots of people are, they don’t think their content marketing is working for them, or they’re not getting the results because they’re not doing the right things in the right way, and it’s awesome that you’ve been through it. You’ve come over that threshold now into this new world where you are creating content that people can find when they’re looking for it and I guess at this point it would be good to talk a little bit about how that’s changed in terms of how you felt beforehand and you feel now about content marketing. So beforehand, obviously you weren’t getting any results, what do those results look like now that we’re … I guess we’re almost two years on from that moment where you were in that workshop, and what does the world look like now for your leisure and content marketing?

Debbie:
There have been a few stages to it, but quite quickly when we started to do it properly, we saw a massive increase in traffic and that on the website and that has only risen. And then we started to get a lot more leads, and those leads were a lot more qualified so we would quite often get people coming in beforehand just as one example, they wanted to buy a really cheap hot tub and then we started to talk about the cost of hot tubs, why are hot tubs a wee bit more expensive, and so now the people that tend to come in have already read that or have already watched that video and they know they’re gonna spend a wee bit more so they’re a wee bit more qualified and, if they’ve done their own research, the buying process is a wee bit shorter.

So it means that we have to spend a lot less time with them, we’ve got more sales, and just in general, it’s a nice buying experience for all of us because we have to put a wee bit less work in time management. You’re not answering the same questions over and over again, so it’s had a massive impact on the business in terms of helping out people’s jobs and also in a financial sense.

Chris:
There’s a lot of challenges that come along the way. You’ve mentioned that it sort of happened in stages, I think that’s important for people to realize, there is a bit of a journey. But you’ve also highlighted as well Debbie that immediately there was a change, it had more traffic or there were signals that this new approach to your content was working, and what I’d really like for you to share with the audience is along this journey over the last couple of years, what have been your major challenges in terms of implementing content marketing for either leisure.

Debbie:
I mean the major challenge was definitely getting buy-in. I think in the initial stages buy-in from myself because as I’ve already said I was doing it wrong for almost two years, well a year and a half sorry, so I didn’t think it really worked and that was quite a big challenge to overcome because I’d been doing it and we hadn’t seen any results so why would I continue? Obviously, I luckily fell into a position where I was taught about it and I realized very quickly that it was going to work, but then from that point on, getting buy-in of the rest of the company, the directors in particular who also happen to be my parents which made it a wee bit more difficult, and also the rest of the staff, and getting buy-in from them.

Particularly because again I had been doing it wrong, or hadn’t been doing it quite right for a couple of years so to them that proved that it hadn’t worked and it wouldn’t work so actually overcoming that was probably the biggest issue in terms of getting time and resources dedicated towards it, but luckily, as I said, I started to see signals very quickly that it was working which made me want to push ahead with it. And now, luckily, we’re in the position where they also see it and they saw the leads that come in as a result of it and they’ve seen the increase in sales and the increase in profit that’s come as a result of it. And people directly say to them now as well, the other people within the company and the directors, “I came here because I watched the study” or “I read this blog” so thankfully that challenge is almost overcome but it has taken a couple of years to get to that point.

Chris:
That’s awesome, I think a lot of people … I mean we call it buy-in but it’s the belief, isn’t it? It’s getting your … you’ve mentioned it there which I think is really important. First of all, to get other people to believe in it I have to believe in it first, so I’m gonna try this out, I’m gonna see if I can get the results, if we’re getting the results then I can showcase it to other people, other people see those results and they’re coming over to your way of seeing things, which is awesome. That buy-in process isn’t an overnight process, it takes time, I think, to get people to believe in what you believe in as well. Sorry.

Debbie:
I think to get people to really believe in it you have to or to really buy into it you have to show that it works, and to do that it’s going to take work and consistency and talking about the rights things, and until they see some sort of results they’re not really going to believe that it does work.

Chris:
Yeah, when you’re talking to your team … say, for example, either a brand new team member of someone you’ve never really spoken to about content marketing before, you have to have a conversation with them at some point about getting them involved in the content marketing. What do you say to these people, or how do you define what content marketing is to people so that they understand that from a buy-in perspective, in other words, how do you share your belief with people so that they get it? What do you say, how do you define it, how do you make sense of it?

Debbie:
Well I usually try and look at it from the perspective of if you were going to buy something and you needed more information on it what would you do, like what would be the first thing you would do, how would you find that information and that, and the answer usually is that they would go online and search for that answer. And so I try and explain from the point of view well we’re answering the questions via blog and video, or be it a podcast or whatever you use that those people are typing into Google, so that when they type in those questions, we are the people that come up and answer those questions, and we answer those questions all the way through the sales process so that hopefully it builds some trust and they want to come in and buy from us rather than from somebody else.

Chris:
Why do you believe in it so much, Debbie? Why is it important that you go to market in this way?

Debbie:
I have said before if someone said … well we don’t pay for any marketing now, we don’t pay for Google ads or Facebook ads or anything else, but when we started we paid a lot of money to yale.com, which we don’t pay any more, and if someone said to me, “you can electronic marketing, you can only do content marketing I would be totally fine with that because for me it’s the one thing that’s really worked for our business. It’s made such a difference and it’s the main way that people find us now, so I believe in it and want to go to market in that way because I think it’s the way that works and I also think it works with how people shop now.

People don’t want to be sold to, they don’t want to come in and speak to a salesperson, they want to stay at home in their pajamas and find out the answer to their questions before they come in and speak to somebody, and that’s how I shop, that’s how I buy everything. I don’t want to speak to salespeople, I don’t want to be sold to, I don’t want to be pressured into buying something, so everything I do is at home on my own and then ill decide who I want to buy form and then I’ll go in and buy from them.

Debbie:
So not only does it work for a company, I think it really resonates with how I buy as a consumer these days.

Chris:
I think that’s a really important lesson for people listening to understand is that its not just about, well the result or the outcome is that it works for the business but the reason it works for the business is because you’re tapping into that process, you’re looking at how do our prospective customers go through that buying process, and how do we create content that helps them to move through that process quicker, easier, with more confidence, and ultimately, how do we shape our content so that people can find us online when they’ve never heard of us before. And you’ve taken all of those boxes which is awesome. Absolutely love what you’ve done over the last couple of years and how content marketing has not just changed Eagle Leisure, but also how it shaped your career as well which is … from our personal development perspective is really cool.

You were sharing with me a couple of stories, there was a story recently and I’d like you to share that if you can recall it about … and really the, where I’m going with this is with advertising, since you’ve mentioned it, you were spending money with advertising companies to put your products or services in front of other people versus creating content where people can find it when they’re looking for it rather than the other way round. The major difference here is that with advertising you have to spend money all the time, and as soon as you stop spending money it drives up the stocks, but with content, it becomes a real asset for your business, and you’ve got a bunch of stories that you’ve shared … maybe you can recall some of them about … with content that you created a long time ago that is still serving your company to this day. And in fact, not just serving but serving it better today then what it was even when you first created it.

Debbie:
Yeah, so there’s been a couple of instances of that. And even to this day I still find it surprising when someone says, even though I know it works, when someone says, “we came in because we saw this video you made two years ago”. It’s still a wee buzz of almost a disbelief that it’s still working and that it’s content that I’ve created as everything, and it’s going to stay evergreen for the business for hopefully as long as its around.

But there’s a couple of instances where people have been searching, one, in particular, an interior designer was searching for a sauna online and our video popped up, and at this point when she phoned me I think that video was about a year and a half old. I think it was the second video that I ever made and it talked about the cost of a sauna. So she watched that video knew she wanted a sauna and a hot tub and gave me a phone, and just wanted to come and double check that she liked us. Basically what I was as I was in the video and that the company was the type of company that she wanted to work with and so she came in the next day and bought a hot tub and the sauna and there have been quite a few instances of cases like that where they’ve watched videos from a year before or two years before and as a result come in and bought on the spot, which is really nice for our industry where the buying process can be three to six months, sometimes up to a year. So it’s saved us a lot of time as well as made us some money which is nice.

Chris:
Yeah, so I think this is the point isn’t it, the bit that we want to get to is that the business case for content marketing here is pretty clear for people listening will be able to pick this out no problem, is that that content is now not … it’s not that it’s not costing you money, you put your resources into that content a long time ago so the cost has been sunk now. Whatever time and energy you put into that, and if you spent any money on any design elements or whatever, that’s been sunk but what’s happening now is that content is starting to make the company money which to me just makes complete sense when you talk about it like that, that that’s what content marketing is supposed to do. You create it once but it serves the company forever, it’s like you said, evergreen.

I think this opportunity is available for anybody that’s listening, any company that they run if they’re willing to put the work in, and I do want to talk a little about that because there are obviously some major challenges that come with, like people listening, they’ll have loads of objections about why they can’t do this or why someone might not let them do it or there’ll be some barriers to entry in terms of them going ahead and doing this and what I’d love from you is to reflect on your journey and perhaps how … obviously, this is part of us recommending that people start this journey, but what are they gonna come across? What challenges are they gonna have and how can they make sure that they are successful along the way? How would you recommend that other people start their journey with content marketing?

Debbie:
Well I don’t know the challenges that they’re going to face and actually, as I’ve already touched on, it will probably be that it may not work because they’re doing things that their business or their industry is different from everybody else’s, and it doesn’t matter if it’s worked for all of you guys, it’s probably not gonna work for me. So I think that that’s gonna be one of the challenges they face as well as time and consistency probably.

For me the best way to start would be to learn about the fundamentals of content marketing and for me that was to – Marcus Sheridan’s book, They Ask, You Answer, and of course through joining CMA because not only does that have courses within it to teach about the fundamentals so that you can actually layer in their works, and it works for everybody that does it and does it properly. But the main aspect for me within that as well as the accountability, specifically through the 90 day challenge because that was what really pushed me to start creating video content and to be consistent with blog content and it was as a result of that I started to see results. And I don’t think I would’ve seen that and I don’t think I would’ve been as consistent as I have been if I didn’t have that cause it’s so easy to say, “oh I don’t have time, I’ll do that next week” and then it goes on to the next week and then it goes on to the next week.

But with a structure and people around you to say it needs to be done this week, you just get it done and then you start to see results really quickly and now I’m at the stage where I wouldn’t give up content marketing. For me that it the best way to market any business I think, and to educate your customers.

So I think really learning about it and sitting down yourself with people that will help motivate you is the best way to start your content marketing journey. Even if you think that you won’t have time to do it, even if you think there’s someone else in your business that will do it, I think it’s worth learning about it so you understand the value of it, and so that you want to keep pushing ahead with it, even when it seems like you’re not getting results because sometimes it can take a wee bit to get those results. They don’t always appear instantly, it’s not a quick fix and you really need to understand why you’re doing it, and what the purpose of it is.

Chris:
Absolutely Debbie. So you’re recommending that people join the Content Marketing Academy, is that right?

Debbie:
Of course! What else?

Chris:
So, we’ve got a few minutes here. Tell us what’s next for you then. I know that you’re on this journey just now personally you’re working with Eagle Leisure, you’re there full time, you’ve moved on, you’re starting to do other things. Tell us all about your new venture for a minute or two and then I can wrap things up.

Debbie:
Okay, so I’m currently doing freelance marketing. So I am still working with Eagle Leisure and doing all of their content and I’m working with a couple of companies as well. And as well as that I’m starting a sustainable swimwear line. So it’s a swimwear line made of recycled plastic which is currently in the factory getting made into samples, which should hopefully be here, fingers crossed, next week.

And of course, content marketing is going to play a massive part in that and helping educate people on why sustainable fashion and swim fashion and sustainable living in general is a massive deal because its something I think a lot of people still don’t understand but I think it is becoming increasingly important so content is going to continue to play a massive part in both on the marketing side for me through Eagle Leisure and the other companies and also through my new venture.

Chris:
That’s awesome. I think that’s really cool that you can take the skills that you have learned over the last couple of years and take them to other companies that you can help within your freelancing role and also take it to a completely new venture which I really cool. So that’s awesome that you’re doing that. So form a personal development perspective, content marketing is sort of ticking all the boxes which is really really cool.

We are massively behind you on your new venture as well. we really want to support you, we can’t wait to see what you do with your own thing from scratch with content marketing. It’s gonna be exciting, and I’m sure we’ll get you back on to the Content Marketing Academy podcast and we can talk about what you’ve been up to going into a completely different market from basically starting from nothing, which is awesome.

Debbie:
It’s exciting!

Chris:
Yeah, it’s really exciting. It’s really exciting for you. I think that’s definitely one of the words we want to be using, exciting, I’m sure there’ll be a bunch of other feelings as well.

Debbie:
Yeah, definitely but exciting is one of them.

Chris:
Well, thanks very much for joining me today and sharing your story Debbie, it’s really exciting stuff. I hope that people take a lot away from what you’ve said, and there’s a whole bunch of lessons in there that hopefully, people can pick out.

The only thing left to say is if people do want to get in touch with you, they’ve got a question about anything that you’ve covered today, where’s the best place for them to find you?

Debbie:
Either LinkedIn or I spend a lot of time on Instagram, so that’s a good one as well. That’s probably the best places to get a hold of me.

Chris:
Cool, we’ll drop a couple of links into this for you as well and they can follow you on Instagram I’m sure they’ll find a way to follow your new swimwear line as well which is really cool.

Awesome Debbie, thank very much for coming today, appreciate it.

Debbie:
Thank you so much for having me, have a nice day.

Chris:
You too.

Debbie:
Thank you, bye.

Chris:
Bye.

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