Content Marketing that Sells, with Marcus Sheridan

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Content Marketing that Sells, with Marcus Sheridan

There are plenty of self-proclaimed content marketing experts around these days. The only thing these experts have ever seemed to market, however, is themselves.

That’s why it’s alway refreshing to chat with Marcus Sheridan. Like me, he cut his content marketing teeth in a traditional industry before beginning to teach it to others.

This episode of Unemployable is brought to you by the all new Freshbooks, easy accounting software for freelancers and small businesses. Sign up for an unrestricted 30-day free trial exclusively for listeners of the show by heading over to Freshbooks and entering Unemployable in the How Did You Hear About Us section.

In fact, Sheridan’s expertise came as a direct result of the economic collapse of 2008. His swimming pool company was on the brink of going out of business, and so in order to save it, he threw himself into learning and executing on the new “inbound” marketing he kept hearing about.

To make a long story short, these efforts turned his company River Pools into what is today the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world, garnering over 500,000 visitors a month. Yes, content can sell above ground swimming pools as well as it can sell software, freelance services, and just about anything else.

Tune in to hear valuable highlights from Sheridan’s new book, They Ask You Answer. It’s one of the most lucid explanations of content marketing you’ll find, and this conversation hits on some of the key points you must internalize to succeed with modern digital marketing.

Listen to Unemployable: Advice for Freelancers and Entrepreneurs below ...

The Show Notes

  • They Ask You Answer
  • The Sales Lion
  • Rate Unemployable at iTunes
  • The Transcript

    Content Marketing That Sells, with Marcus Sheridan

    Marcus Sheridan: Hey, I am Marcus Sheridan. A father of four. A former pool guy. And today I help companies sound really smart by not allowing their customers to feel stupid. Because of that, I’m completely unemployable.

    Voiceover: Welcome to Unemployable, the show for people who can get a job, they’re just not inclined to take one, and that’s putting it gently. In addition to this podcast, thousands of freelancers and entrepreneurs get actionable advice and other valuable resources from the weekly Unemployable email newsletter. Join us by registering for our free Profit Pillars course, or choose to sign up for the newsletter only at no charge. Simply head over to Unemployable.com and take your business and lifestyle to the next level. That’s Unemployable.com.

    Brian Clark: There are plenty of self-proclaimed content marketing experts around these days. The only thing these experts have ever seemed to market, however, is themselves. That’s why it’s always refreshing to chat with Marcus Sheridan. Like me, he cut his content marketing teeth in a traditional industry before beginning to teach it to others.

    I’m Brian Clark, and this is Unemployable. Thanks for tuning in. If you enjoy this episode, please leave a rating over at iTunes. You can hop directly over there by using the link Unemployable.com/iTunes. Thank you.

    Sheridan’s expertise came as a direct result of the economic collapse of 2008. His swimming pool company was on the brink of going out of business. In order to save it, he threw himself into learning and executing on the new inbound marketing he kept hearing about. To make a long story short, these efforts turned his company River Pools into what is today the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world, garnering over 500,000 visitors a month.

    Yes, content can sell above ground swimming pools as well as it can sell software, freelance services, and just about anything else. Tune in to hear valuable highlights from Sheridan’s new book, They Ask You Answer. It’s one of the most lucid explanations of content marketing you’ll find. This conversation hits on some of the key points you must internalize to succeed with modern digital marketing.

    This episode of Unemployable is brought to you by the all-new FreshBooks, easy accounting software for freelancers and small businesses. Sign up for an unrestricted, 30-day, free trial exclusively for listeners of the show by heading over to FreshBooks.com/Umemployable. And don’t forget to enter Unemployable in the “How did you hear about us?” section. Mr. Sheridan, how have you been, sir?

    Marcus Sheridan: Man, it’s been great. I’m just happy to be talking to you, one of the godfathers of content and of this industry. Man, it’s nice to catch up.

    Brian Clark: Please, That’s going to get you everywhere, and you know it. I’ll never forgive Pulizzi for claiming that title. He’s always a step ahead of me on this. He came up with the term content marketing and then he proclaims himself … Rightly, I guess. If you come up with the term, you’re the guy, right?

    Marcus Sheridan: Yeah. Not to throw too much lavish praise, but everybody has a beginning. When they begin, they have those people they look up to. Copyblogger — as a million people have told you — had a dramatic impact on me, my life, and my business. For that, I’m really grateful.

    Brian Clark: I appreciate that. You’re not doing too badly yourself. I’ve been watching you for years. Love to watch you speak. Did not get to see you last year — I took a break from our usual conference circuit — but I’ll be back this year. Are you doing the social media marketing thing in San Diego?

    Marcus Sheridan: Yeah.

    Brian Clark: Yeah, that’s a couple days from when this airs, so hopefully I will see you there.

    Marcus Sheridan: Yeah. I’m doing Content Marketing World at least one more year while Joe is still there.

    Brian Clark: Exactly. I told him it was my last hurrah. I’ll show up before he’s …

    Marcus Sheridan: Yeah, probably my last hurrah too. In inbound, of course.

    Marcus’s Journey

    Brian Clark: I want to talk to you about your book. It is fantastic. I think it’s what content marketing needed to reach the next level of businesspeople. First, for those who aren’t familiar with your amazing story, it’s one of the best ones I think I’ve ever heard. Take us on the journey from … Well, let’s start even before “Marcus the pool guy.” I don’t know that part. Let’s start there and talk about the journey up until this point.

    Marcus Sheridan: I never explain the before part, so I’ll do a brief explanation. When I was in college, I thought I was going to be a PE teacher. I went to West Virginia and I ended up, believe it or not, getting a major in Spanish because I was fluent in Spanish. I got a minor in PE. Then, I quickly got a job working for almost like a Sylvan Learning Center after college.

    I realized quickly, “Man, this job sucks.” I didn’t like it. I felt like there was a lot of red tape. It didn’t seem like the growth was there. It didn’t seem like a good fit. That’s when I said, “You know what? I’ve just got to go. I’ve got to get out of here.” I went back to where I basically grew up, in this little town in Virginia, and my two buddies had started a swimming pool company. When they did this — they wanted to be out installing pools. They said to me, “Marcus, will you come and run the retail store?” I said, “Sure, I would love to.”

    Of course, I started that not thinking I was going to be a pool guy. Because nobody ever says, “I want to be a pool guy when I grow up.” It just doesn’t happen. I jumped into it, and six months later they said, “Do you want to be a third partner?” So I became a third partner in the business. Over the next few years we survived, Brian, but then in 2008, 2009, that’s when the market collapsed. That’s when everything changed. And that’s when I thought I was going to lose the business. It was the most difficult time of my life. I was looking over the edge. Some consultant said, “You should file bankruptcy.” I was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was a brutal time. That was roughly January of 2009 when I hit the low point.

    It was during that same time that I said, “Okay, I got to generate more traffic, more leads, and more sales than I ever have. I don’t really have any money to do it with advertising.” That’s when I started to read about the Internet and saw these fancy phrases that I hadn’t seen before like inbound, content marketing, digital, and this stuff. Basically, to me, Brian, it was really simple. My pool guy brain said, “All right, Marcus, if you just listen and obsess over the questions you’re being asked every single day by your customers, your prospects, and you’re willing to address them on your website — you just might win. You just might win. You just might save your business.”

    I embraced this little four-word philosophy that eventually went on to change my life — and, of course, lots of others — which is, “They ask, you answer.” Which is the title of the book. To make a long story really short, because of doing that, it became the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world. Today, it gets about 750,000 visitors a month. Not only are we really successful on the retail side, but now we’re manufacturing pools as well and we have dealers all over the country. It’s been a really amazing ride.

    Brian Clark: Don’t let me hear anyone out there say content marketing isn’t going to work for so and so or this or that. I mean, come on. That’s an amazing story. I love it. I love to hear it every time. You’ve been remarkably consistent with the “answer all the questions” from the first time I came across you on your site and in your presentations.

    The book is really a remarkable resource. It’s very extensive. I was really impressed. I’m not going to name names, but there have been some books out there that I thought were a little fluffy. That is not something you can say about this book. They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales Content Marketing in Today’s Digital Consumer. You got every buzzword you could get in there. There are people out there going, “I’ve heard some things about inbound and some content marketing.” You got it right there in the subhead.

    Content Marketing as Teaching

    Marcus Sheridan: Yeah, well you mentioned one thing a second ago, and I have to say this. People say, “Will this content marketing thing work?” I think, fundamentally, the way people understand content marketing and the way that it’s taught is completely screwed up. Thus, the way that it’s defined is screwed up. Because if you look at the way that it’s defined, it’s generally marketing speak. And because it’s marketing speak, Brian, sales teams and leadership teams in organizations, they don’t get their arms around it.

    In other words, there’s never been a CEO, I’m guessing, that says, “I want to be the greatest content marketer in the world.” They don’t say that. The way that we define it really matters. If I’m teaching a group, especially a group of CEOs, I define it like this. I think it’s critical. That is, “Content marketing is your company’s ability to be the best and most helpful teachers in the world at what you do — online and off.” Any marketer that hears that is going to cringe and say, “I hate that.”

    But here’s what I know. If somebody views content marketing as teaching and solving someone’s problem, and you say to that person, “Okay, is great teaching, communication, and solving your customers’ problems going to be relevant to your business in 20 or 50 or even 100 years?” Most are going to say, “Yeah, absolutely.” But if you say, “Is content marketing going to be relevant to your business in 20 years?” They’re probably going to say, “I don’t know. It’s a fad. It’s a phase.” Whatever that thing is.

    Words matter, and the way that we teach it and describe it matters. I think the reason why this message has at all resonated for me is because I never tried to sound smart with any of this stuff, Brian. I really am that pool guy. Like the saying goes, “The moment you try to sound smart is the moment you begin to look stupid.” I just want people to say, “Okay. Now I got it. Now it makes sense.”

    Brian Clark: Yeah, that’s great. It’s interesting because I came back to Copyblogger at the beginning of the year. I’m running editorial again and writing again, and I’ve loved it. I found a new way to teach, focusing more on process instead of lecture. Some of my partners call me Professor Clark — or at least did in the past — and it wasn’t a compliment. But yeah, that’s been an evolution in my own ability and desire to connect with people more. I will tell you that when I launched into this series on developing and documenting a content marketing strategy, I said, “Okay, what’s your objective?” I didn’t let people decide. I said, “Your objective is sales.”

    Marcus Sheridan: Amen.

    Brian Clark: I got so many back channel pats on the back for that, because that’s what people are missing. It grew out of the Kumbaya blogging scene. It grew out of the marketing 2.0 people. I was always about, “Look, it’s Copyblogger. Copy is the selling. Blogging is the content. You need them both.” I appreciate the fact that people are like, “Look, this is a very ethical, highly useful approach to sales. It’s an educational approach to sales.” That’s what selling is. But if you’re afraid of the word selling, I don’t know why you’re in business.

    Marcus Sheridan: Doesn’t make any sense. It simply makes no sense. Essentially, we all are in this position of asking people for their money. That is what we are doing. If we’re going to do that, we better do whatever it takes to earn their trust. The power behind that word “trust” is … No matter who is listening to this, Brian, it’s the one tie that binds all of us together.

    Brian Clark: It’s so right. That’s my next question, so it’s almost like you’re reading my mind. In the simplest terms: no light trust. But people fail at trust. There’s this lingering feeling that you have to withhold information to have leverage over the buyer. The buyer’s in charge. The Internet changed that. For 20 years at least people have been going, “I don’t need to talk to a salesperson quite yet — if ever.” Now, in the book you talk about building trust through the principal of disarmament. I want you to talk about this a little bit.

    Building Trust Through Disarmament

    Marcus Sheridan: You’ll appreciate this as a copy guy, because this is all about psychology and how psychology impacts our copy. When I say “our copy,” I’m talking about the words we use in communication, be it on text, via video, audio — whatever it is. When we begin to teach and somebody knows that ultimately it’s our goal to sell them, there is a part of them that is thinking, “All right. When’s the BS meter going to go up? When are they going to get biased? When are they going to try to schlep me here with whatever it is that they’re going to try to sell me?” We, as great communicators, have to do whatever it takes to immediately make somebody feel safe and lean in. Physically lean in and say, “Huh. These guys are different.”

    Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. Of course, the philosophy is “they ask, you answer.” As a pool guy, for years, people used to come to me, Brian. They’d say, “All right. I’m looking at concrete pools, too. Tell me, Marcus, why should I choose concrete over fiber glass?” Or, “Why should I choose fiber glass over concrete?” We only sold fiber glass pools. Now, we produce a piece of content on that. How do you use disarmament in a piece of content like fiber glass versus concrete pools, knowing you only sell fiber glass? Well, to do this right, you’ve got to be outrageously transparent and you’ve got to get rid of all the elephants in the room.

    If I was doing a video, or if I was doing an article — whatever it is on that, any type of communication — I might sound like this, “Every year we get asked by hundreds of people, ‘Alright, be honest, tell me why I should choose fiber glass over concrete?’ Well, you’ve got to understand a few things first. Number one, we only do fiber glass. Furthermore, we understand that fiber glass isn’t necessarily the best fit for everyone. In fact, there are times when concrete pools are the better option. What this article, or what this video’s going to do is it’s going to show you the pros and the cons of both types of pools. Then by the end, you’ll be able to decide which is the best for you.”

    That is the principle of disarmament. It is getting rid of all the elephants in the room so that they say, “Dead on. He is totally being real with me right now, and therefore I trust this guy, I trust this gal, I trust this company.” They start to listen.

    Brian Clark: I love it, absolutely. That is an old copywriting trick. Throw the objection up there up front.

    Marcus Sheridan: Yup, you own it and you turn it into your advantage. That is absolutely the key.

    Why Businesses Should Not Be Afraid to Run the Wrong People Off

    Brian Clark: I wouldn’t call it a trick, necessarily. It is a legitimate thing. It shows that you’re a straight shooter, but it’s also weeding out people you don’t want to spend any time with. That’s my next thing, which I love that you touched on — the bad fits. I’ve been trying for years to get people … Look, whether you want to call it authenticity or core values, you choose your audience. You choose your prospects. I think the first mindset is, “Let’s sell to everyone on the planet,” and you sell to no one.

    Number two, you’re afraid of offending someone. Guess what? In this day and age, I don’t care what you say, you’re going to offend someone if you even express a belief of anything. Who cares? That actually connects better with the people you want to attract as customers. Talk about how you view bad fits. I think to a certain degree people are like, “Oh, I just answer all the questions and then everyone will want to buy a pool from me.” You gave an example before about how you put yourself out there in a way that weeds people out. What else do you think is essential for businesspeople to have the backbone to not be afraid to run the wrong people off?

    Before we get to Marcus’ answer, let me talk a little bit about our sponsor, FreshBooks. No one wants to mess with accounting. It’s a necessary evil of running a small business, of running your freelance business, or your consulting practice. You got to get paid. No one wants to use accounting software that’s archaic and built for larger companies, or not designed for the way you do business. That’s what’s so great about the all-new, all-redesigned FreshBooks. It’s built for the way you do business. You’re going to have to get paid. You’re going to have to take care of those invoices. You’re going to have to make sure clients are paying you on time.

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    Here’s what I want you to do: just try it. Try it for yourself without spending a dime for 30 days. That’s right, FreshBooks is offering a 30-day, unrestricted free trial to listeners of Unemployable. All you have to do to claim it is just go to FreshBooks.com/Unemployable and enter Unemployable in the, “How did you hear about us?” section. Check it out today. That’s FreshBooks.com/Unemployable. Okay, let’s hear what Marcus has to say about running off the wrong people from your business.

    Marcus Sheridan: You always talk about, read about, or hear about all these people talking about, “Know who you are.” Finding who you are, your company culture, and your mission statement — all that stuff is nice, Brian. But I’m going to tell you what, business sucks until you learn to say “no.” You can’t say “no” until you know who you don’t want to do business with. What services or products you don’t want to offer. This comes from knowing who you’re not a good fit for.

    The moment you know who you’re not a good fit for, now you have the power to say “no.” That’s powerful. I’ll tell you what else — this is for myself and this is for a huge number of our clients — one of the highest converting pages of your website that almost nobody listening to this has is the page on your site that says, “Who we are not a good fit for.”

    Incredibly effective. When you say who you’re not — those that do fall in your category, under your umbrella, now they become dramatically more attracted to you, to your service, to your unique differentiators, whatever that thing is. There’s so many different ways to do this. But the companies that own it, Brian, they’re happier because they’re not doing the thing that drags them down. It’s funny, man, it’s funny. You talk to anybody that hates their job or has a bad customer, it’s generally because … Companies have problems for two reasons: they took on bad customers, or they took on bad employees. It always has to do with fit, always. You get rid of those two issues, man, life is good.

    Brian Clark: I agree with you. Absolutely. I think we’ve got good customers and I think we’ve got great employees. But we aren’t afraid to be us. We don’t go on — well, not normally you know, naked political rants, but people generally have a feel for where we’re at. Even the stories you choose to tell, that exposes your worldview. Everyone knows I’m a big pop culture guy because I love to make those analogies and all that. That’s not going to connect with everyone, but you’re right. I love how you put that. You’re just happy. Things are good. You make more money, too. What could be better? I just don’t know how to get past the fear people have.

    Marcus Sheridan: Let me give you another silly example. I’ll use the exact same example we did before. Hopefully if you’re listening to this right now and you have a service-based B2B business, you’re not thinking,” I don’t see the application because I’m listening to a pool guy.” Look, at least half of our clients are B2B service-based businesses. They follow “they ask, you answer” to a tee, and they crush it. For the longest time, there wasn’t a pool company in the world on their website that talked about the differences between concrete and fiber glass. There wasn’t a single one.

    The logic of fiber glass pool guy — they were saying, “Okay, our biggest competitor isn’t other fiber glass pool guys, it’s concrete pools, so this is how we’re going to deal with the problem. We won’t even talk about them on the website. And if we don’t talk about them, nobody will know they exist.” Which is like … ? Who doesn’t know that concrete pools don’t exist?

    Here’s the reality. Buyers aren’t dumb. They are going to find out. The company or the brand that’s willing to say, “They’re not stupid, they’re going to find out, so we may as well be the one that leads the conversation.” So much of this battle that we’re in, in terms of branding, is just being able to take part in the conversation. It doesn’t mean that you have to have the best thing, be the best one, or this or that. But you are there. You are present. You have a part in the conversation. If you do that, you’re going to be more successful.

    Brian Clark: The corollary to that is interesting in certain fields. The competition or the reason they don’t buy from you is not that they chose someone else, it’s that they didn’t have the confidence to think they could solve the problem. If you don’t answer that question, overcome that objection … And it happens all the time. People don’t really understand who they’re talking to. They see it from their perspective as a seller without realizing the pain or the angst or the objections of the buyer.

    Marcus Sheridan: Dude, I know you get into this too. If you ask somebody, “When you go to a website, are you more concerned about your issues, concerns, worries, and problems, or are you more concerned about the company that you’re visiting?” Everybody says, “Yeah, I just care about myself.” Yet, notwithstanding, 90 plus percent of all websites — as soon as you go there, what are they talking about?

    Brian Clark: Themselves.

    Marcus Sheridan: Themselves. They’re not talking about the problems they solve. Everything comes down to the problems that you have solved.

    Content Creation Advice for Small Businesses and Soloprenuers

    Brian Clark: Yup. Let’s talk a little bit about practical matters in the sense of content creation. I would say, myself included, that a lot of the early people in blogging, podcasting, content marketing — we wanted to write and we could. We wanted to be a part of the nascent new media. We’ll talk about that in a little bit, because you make an interesting point about that. But we’re not normal people. You’ve got to take it to the level of someone running a construction company, or whatever the case may be.

    A lot of our listeners are smaller businesses, solopreneurs, leveraging technology in the virtual freelance world in order to do outsized things, which I find fascinating, personally. Now, in the book you talk about insourcing, using existing staff within the company — or as I like to call it, “You can’t outsource vision.” What’s your advice for the smaller people in that regard? Do they have to create the content themselves, or is it okay for them to learn strategy and manage execution with the help of others?

    Marcus Sheridan: In a perfect world, you do have help. The problem is, your content really does represent the soul of your business. Sometimes when we outsource it, boy does that soul start to look like a completely different person, a different entity, a different body. I would venture to say that you as the leader, unless you’re very engaged … It doesn’t mean that you’re turning out blog posts late at night. It doesn’t mean you’re the one that’s always on the video. But unless you’re very aware and involved in that storytelling, in that content production process, there’s a good chance you’re never going to stand out. In my case with River Pools, I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t hire anybody. When I embraced “they ask, you answer” in 2009, Brian, I literally said …

    This is going to get a little bit personal, hopefully you won’t mind. I was the guy for years that my wife and I — we went to bed at 10:30, 11:00 at night. When I said to myself, “We’re going to be the best teachers in the world when it comes to fiber glass pools,” I realized that in order to do that I was going to have to make changes with respect to my schedule. I went to my wife and I said, “Honey, I need to save this business. I think the only way I’m going to save it is to do this content thing. I can’t go to bed anymore — not at 10:00 at night, not 10:30.”

    Basically, I went from eight to six hours of sleep a night. I don’t recommend this to people, but this is also a story that I tell because when somebody comes to me and feels sorry for themselves, I generally don’t have much empathy. I didn’t have any money. I stopped watching all TV. Nothing, zero TV. I said, “If I get free time, and if I’m not with my wife and kids, I’m going to be producing content. I’ve got to hurry up and save this business or I’m going to lose it.” It was that simple.

    I was a crap writer at first. I was terrible on video. I had no skills. But somehow, stuff resonated. The goal here is progress over perfection. I think so many people — they feel like it’s got to be perfect. Sometimes that looks less sincere and genuine if it is perfect. So I went on this quest, and eventually I did become a better writer. Eventually I did become probably what some would say is good on video. But there was a long season there where it was a huge learning curve. It was a good season.

    I look back on those bad videos and those bad articles and I say, “What a big win.” I think that too, in and of itself, is a big issue today. You’ve got so much of the Internet police that are saying, “If it’s not amazing, if it’s not great, if it’s not awesome, or if somebody else has already said it, don’t do it. Don’t write it. Don’t produce it.” I fundamentally don’t believe that. I think we’ve all got to learn to crawl before we walk. I went through that phase.

    Yes, if you can get somebody to do it for you that really is with you, that’s wonderful. If you’ve got a team, even better. If you have a team, if you have employees — daggone, they’re already doing “they ask, you answer.” They’re already producing emails and answering customers’ questions all day long, probably. Leverage what’s in their head and get it up on the screen. You might need some help. You might need a content manager, per se, or somebody like that. Yes, you got to do it. It might be you late at night, or it might be your team.

    Brian Clark: Man, you just made an excellent point that I’ve been trying to get across to people for years. I think it’s the pool guy thing that really drove it home for me. When I chose, in 2001, to take what I had learned about building audiences with content with a very small law practice … I chose real estate on purpose because it’s high dollar and –I’m sorry realtors out there — in 2001 it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Marcus Sheridan: Easy, pickings.

    Brian Clark: Easy pickings.

    Marcus Sheridan: That’s it.

    Brian Clark: They didn’t know what a landing page was. I mean, come on. I hate to say it, but in 2017 I could go do it again. It’s not like what you hear about 10X content in the sense that those of us in the SEO and content marketing world are in a nuclear arms race to outdo each other. That is not what it’s like in the real world.

    Now, if you’re trying to be like Marcus and I — I don’t think you should. I think you should go get some low-hanging fruit, because it still exists out there. I think you made that point so well, that a lot of businesses out there, you may … In this day and age, there’s one business that’s doing it. Look at what we have to do to fight against each other. We don’t fight, we’re all friends, but we’re still friendly trying to outdo each other. I think that gives people the wrong impression. This is not the real world. You could go out there as a plumber. Concrete pools — go tell your story about why fiber glass sucks. Sorry, Marcus, I know you still own the company.

    Marcus Sheridan: No, do it. I’ll be thrilled.

    Brian Clark: That’s the truth, right? Am I wrong?

    Marcus Sheridan: Look, everybody is different in this regard. My one answer to that — you might say, “That’s not a very good answer.” My one answer is this: when people are vetting you, before you even know them but they know you, do they say, “This guy, this gal, they’re a teacher. They get me. Because they get me and because they’ve answered my questions, I trust them enough to make that phone call, to fill out that form, to walk into that store.” That’s the battle we’re in. Whatever it takes for you to get there, get there. Whatever it takes.

    But I can tell you, despite the fact that it’s 2017 and despite the fact that there’s billions of pages of content out there, the majority of businesses still don’t think like this. The majority still aren’t good teachers. Heck, there’s a huge portion of CEOs that still don’t even know what the phrase “content marketing” even means.

    Brian Clark: I know. It’s amazing. Everyone says, “Oh, it’s a 40 plus billion dollar industry.” So? It’s all relative. I do want to talk about something interesting that jumped out at me when I read the book, which was you say that everyone is a media company. Yes, we all say that. In fact, one of my big breakthroughs was explaining content marketing as media not marketing, in that it touches on trust, it touches on attraction, attention, and engagement.

    Make something worth paying attention to, and then people are more receptive to the fact that you may have something related to sell to them. You directly equated this media idea with video. Now, text is a medium. Audio’s a medium. You’re big on video, and I think I know why. But I still find it interesting that you went right there. From that premise of “you have to act like a media company,” video was the answer to that particular question — to put it in terms of the book.

    If You Say It but Don’t Show It, “It” Doesn’t Exist

    Marcus Sheridan: So much of this. I have a couple philosophies with this. The first philosophy, first and foremost, is this: I think we’re at the point that if we just say it but we don’t show it, “it” doesn’t exist. The reason for that is everybody else is probably saying “it” too. Case in point, tell me a company that doesn’t say, “It’s our people that make us different.” At this point everybody believes it’s their people that make them different, therefore, they all have special people that work for them. That may or may not be true.

    If everybody is saying it in your industry, then what does it mean? It means nothing until you show the thing. Plus, the reason why video’s such a major focus is because, like you said earlier, everything we’re talking about comes down to selling. It comes down to earning their trust enough that they will say, “Hmm, okay. I will give you my money.” In terms of great teaching and in terms of earning that trust on the front end, video’s dramatically better than text, and I’ll tell you why. Do you realize how many salespeople are out in the marketplace right now and the first time the prospect sees their face or hears their voice is when they have that first sales meeting? That, fundamentally, is flawed to the max — especially in 2017 and beyond.

    By this point in time, if we can help it, Brian, before we arrive to that home or to that office for that sales appointment — whatever that thing is — they should have seen our face, they should have heard our voice, they should have listened to our teachings. From that, when we get there, we’re already way down in the funnel because they get us, they respect us, they like us, and as you said, they know, like, and trust us. Little example here. For the longest time when I was selling pools in homes, I would knock on the door late at night like for a 6:00 p.m. appointment. I would hear in the background when I would knock on the door this little kid — always happened — said, “Mom, Dad, pool guy’s here.” For years I heard that.

    When I started integrating video into the process of the way we sell, and making sure they watched that video and they saw me and heard me before I got there, then all of a sudden I started to hear when I knocked on the doors … The first time it happened I was like, “Holy crap, that was awesome.” I heard this little kid say, “Mom, Dad, the guy on the video is here.” Then, eventually, I heard, “Mom, Dad, Marcus is here.” That’s when I knew it was going to be a very different conversation. I think “Marcus is here,” I think that is viable. I think it’s possible for any sales organization.

    Is Video Necessary for Digital Entrepreneurs?

    Brian Clark: What do you think about people who sell online? We sell completely online, yet the only reason we’re not doing video is because I’ve been resistant to it to a certain degree, and probably because we have this very rich textual heritage. We appeal a lot to writers and they like to read, but it’s becoming inescapable, I think. What do you feel?

    Marcus Sheridan: I know you’ve heard this stat, but I’m going to … Sometimes we get sick of stats. But the stat that I’m obsessing about right now is the one that says by the year 2019, which is basically 22 months away from right now, 80% of the content consumed online is going to be video or visually-based content. I just think, “My gosh.” Now, even if it takes a little bit longer than that, if that is true, am I setting up my business so that it is consistent with what the buyer wants? The big part of “they ask, you answer” — it goes so much further than, “answer their questions,” because it’s also “address their needs and their wants.” Part of that is, “How do they want to buy?”

    If somebody wants to buy in a way that they say, “I just want to feel comfortable with this company before I give them my money.” What’s going to allow them to feel the most comfortable? If they see a face and a voice behind simple words and behind copy. Now in your case, you’ve got this huge advantage because you’ve got this amazing foundation, you’ve got this amazing brand. Little bit of a different story. But if somebody gets into the game now, then I would argue yes, they have to be. Frankly, those that are figuring out video today, they’re going to be primed to possibly figure out virtual tomorrow. But if we can’t figure out video today, bro … I know everybody’s like, “Oh come on, Marcus, virtual …” It’s the reality. It’s a way that we’re going to learn. It’s happening right now. It’s going to happen more so. That’s why I am all-in on video, because I want to be ready for VR when the stuff hits the fan, and it’s starting to happen.

    Brian Clark: You just tied it all together there. Think about it. “It’s Marcus at the door.” Everyone’s thinking, “That doesn’t apply to me. I don’t do in-house sales calls.” But when virtual reality comes, what do you think you’re going to be doing?

    Marcus Sheridan: Exactly. I’ve got a big, lofty goal right now for the pool company, which is we want people to swim in our pools before they swim in our pools.

    Brian Clark: Excellent.

    Marcus Sheridan: That’s the goal. I think it’s going to be possible. This applies to everything. Everything we’re talking about, Brian, is just as service-based, it’s just as B2B-based as it is B2C. The companies that recognize the consistent principles across the board, they’re the ones that tie it all together and say, “Oh yeah, I see the application. Yeah, we’re a human business. Yeah, we’ve got to be more human than ever.”

    Brian Clark: Marcus, I appreciate your time. This is why I call my podcast “free consulting for Brian,” because I get to talk to smart people. My mind’s already racing. I’m feeling the audience is having the same experience. Let them know where they can get the book and connect with you further.

    Marcus Sheridan: Well, if you’re going to get the book, you can go to TheyAskYouAnswer.com, but it’s easier to go to Amazon and type in “They Ask You Answer.” Go to Barnes and Noble, it’s there. If you want to reach me, you can email me directly, it’s Marcus@TheSalesLion.com. I’m on Twitter to TheSalesLion. Brian, it’s been nice catching up, and hopefully I’ve said something today that the audience is going to say, “You know what? That resonates. I’m going to do something about that.”

    Brian Clark: I think that’s pretty much assured. I will hopefully see you in a couple days in San Diego. Great to catch up. Everyone, get the book. It’s solid. There’s a lot of content marketing books out there that you don’t hear me mention. You know why. It’s solid. It’s practical. It’s pragmatic. And it’s got its eye set on where we’re going, not where we’ve been. I think that’s what you need. Pick it up. And, as always, keep going.

    119 episodes available. A new episode about every 9 days averaging 35 mins duration .