In this week’s podcast we have the brilliant Marcus Sheridan who is the author of one of my favourite books – “They Ask, You Answer”. We are going to be talking about how this concept came about, why it is so important and how we can use this in our businesses going forward.
KEY TAKEAWAYS COVERED IN THE PODCAST
- Make sure you are talking to your customer through your content. Show them what they want to see.
- Don’t over-complicate your content.
- Focus on the questions that your buyers want to know.
- The 5 subjects customers research – price/cost, problems/negatives, comparisons, reviews/ratings and the best thing.
- The mistake most companies make with their content, is to talk about answers that are not even in the buying funnel or they are the top of the funnel – you have to start at the bottom.
- The questions at the bottom of your buying funnel are the questions you get asked all the time.
- You should aim for 75% of your content to be focused on the 5 subjects that customers research.
- Be brave with your content – you don’t have to follow the rules and worry about what your competitors are doing!
- Teaching equates to trust. Trust equates to sales.
- Be honest and transparent with your customers.
- Over 80% of all people will not go to a restaurant if they don’t advertise their prices in their online menu.
- Over half of people will not buy what is in their basket if they can’t find a discount code after seeing the code box.
- When discussing pricing in your business, help your customer to understand the market place in general.
- The more specific companies are in talking about cost and price, the better the results become – more leads.
- Give your customers an educational experience.
THE ONE THING YOU NEED TO REMEMBER ABOVE ALL ELSE…
Customers are unlikely to purchase the first time they see your product or service, but if you are helpful, supportive, answering questions and giving knowledge, they will take that and remember you to purchase in the future.
HIGHLIGHTS YOU SIMPLY CAN'T MISS
- An Introduction to Marcus 02:06
- Sales Initiative vs Marketing 09:22
- Revenue from Action 17:15
- Content Creation 20:23
- Answering your Customer’s Questions 26:30
- Being Brave with your Content 32:20
- Being Honest with your Customers 36:30
- Educational Resources 47:10
Hello and welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. How has your week been? I hope you've had a really good one. If you've been following me on Instagram, you'll see that my garden has been finished. If you're not fallowing me on Instagram, you might think, why am I talking about my garden? Well, basically, I have had some contractors in, and they have done my gardening, which is really exciting. And I've been putting on Instagram, and I got so much interaction that was wonderful. So I've been sharing the updates in there, and it was finished as I'm recording this, so a few days ago, by the time you get to listen to this. So, yeah, it's exciting stuff. So that's what I've been doing with my time. So I hope you've had a good week.
Anyway, this week we have a great interview for you. Now, you will know, because I've said it before, that one of my favourite books I've read for marketing is a book called They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan. And I was so very lucky to be given some of Marcus' time in order to bring him onto the podcast, to talk about how this came about, why it's so important, and how we can use it in our businesses going forward every day.
But, honestly, if you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it because it gives you some really interesting ideas on the importance of content creation, and you know I go on about that all the time, but also about the types of things you want to address in your content creation. So I really recommend that you go and buy that book. It's a really good one. I'll link to it in the show notes.
An Introduction to Marcus
But let me tell you a little bit about Marcus. So Marcus is a sought-after international keynote speaker, and he's known for his unique ability to excite, engage, and motivate audiences. In 2017, Forbes named Marcus one of 20 speakers you don't want to miss. And he's being dubbed the web marketing guru by The New York times, and featured in Inc, The Globe Mail, Forbes, and more.
As the finder and president of the Sales Lion, which recently merged with IMPACT in 2018, Marcus has established one of the most successful digital sales and marketing agencies in the country. Within his speaking company, Marcus Sheridan International, Inc, he gives over 70 global keynotes annually. Well, he probably did before lockdown happened. And Mashable rated his book, They Ask You Answer, as the number one marketing book to read in 2017. Forbes has listed it as 11 marketing books that every CMO should read.
So, honestly, this guy wrote a book that kind of changed how we viewed content marketing. And I am so very honoured to be able to bring him to you, to the podcast, and be today's interview. So I hope you enjoy.
Okay. I am really, really excited to welcome today's guest to the podcast. Marcus Sheridan, welcome to the podcast.
Yeah, Teresa, it's a pleasure to be here. And hopefully, we'll have a fruitful conversation for our listeners today. So I'm excited about it.
I am really excited about it, because I think my listeners know I listen and read books all the time, and I always get something from there. But you know, when you just devour a book and go, yes, yes, and yes, and yes?
That's what I did for the entire thing. So to get you on to talk about it is just brilliant. But before we do, can you just give a little bit of an overview for my listeners in case they haven't heard from you before, just kind of who you are, and how you got to do what you're doing today?
Well, I started actually right out of university as a pool guy, believe it or not. I fell into a business in 2001 with two friends. And I didn't ever think I was going to sell swimming pools, but that's just how it ended up after school. And things were going okay until 2008 when the market crashed. It looked like we were going to lose our business, and I talked to three consultants at that time, they all said the same thing, “You should file bankruptcy, Marcus.”
The issue though was, if I had done that, I'd lose my home, my two business partners would lose their homes, my 16 employees at the time would lose their jobs, so we had to figure out how to really get back over that edge. We didn't have much money, we didn't have any money, we didn't have any [inaudible 00:04:50] time for the most part. And it was a really, really scary time in my life. But it was during this period of time where I essentially dove into all of the stuff that you and I today know as inbound marketing, content marketing, social media.
And, for me, really, it started at HubSpot's site, and that's where it started to click for me. What I had in my simple just pool guy mind was, Marcus, if you just obsess over your customers questions, and you're willing to address them honestly and transparently, you might save your business.
And so that's what we did. I brainstormed every single question I had ever received from a customer about pools. And I said, I'm going to write an answer in an article or video format once a day, until I stop, right?
And to make a long story short, we ended up becoming what is essentially the Wikipedia of in-ground swimming pools here in the US. And today, it's the most traffic swimming pool website in the world. And we went on to have … We were having so much success in terms of lead generation, and our brand became so national in many ways that we started manufacturing fibreglass pool shells as well.
So, today, we have fibreglass pool, [inaudible 00:06:06] river pools dealers, franchisees now, it's a franchise now, all over the country. We have dealers everywhere. We're was the fastest growing manufacturer in the US. And so that's been one major section of my life, and it's all because of the crash of 2008.
The other side of that, because what was happening, I started to write about it personally, like here's some things that I'm doing, these are working pretty cool. I figured everybody should know this stuff. And it turns out that I was doing stuff that just people had done. But they were obvious to me, this philosophy of They Ask You Answer led me to the 1000 mindset, I was like, I'm going to answer every question. But if you actually lean into that, you're doing stuff that's innovative, it's all get out.
And so I started writing about it. And then suddenly, I had events say, “Could you share that at our events?” Somebody would say, “Could you teach me how to do that?” So that led to demand to build out a consulting company, which has today become IMPACT, which is a almost 70-person firm in the US digital sales and marketing. So I have that and couple partners there.
And then I have a speaking company, and that's really what I do full time when we're not suffering from pandemics. And so, I have given about 60, 70 keynotes a year really just all over the world, the last 7, 8 years, something like that now. And it's really been amazing. It's been the most amazing ride, but all because of the crash of 2008.
I mean, that story is phenomenal in so many ways. That, first off, you said you went into it straight from university.
Because when you read, it almost feels like it was such a long time ago. It almost feels like you must be double the age you are because it feels like so much happened. So the fact that you went straight into business from university is kind of one thing, because that is a big scary thing to do. Was that always your intention? Did you always know, I'm going to run my-
No. And I certainly didn't know I was going to be a pool guy, right? Nobody grows up saying, “I want to be a pool guy,” right?
I think that's extremely rare. What happened was, believe it or not, my two friends had started this company, and they had just signed a lease for a retail outlet where they could sell hot tubs and stuff. And I had graduated from university, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And they said, “Hey, we've got this thing.” And I'm like, okay, I don't really want to do that. Because, again, who wants to be pool guy, right? And this was what was on my mind at the time. And I didn't realise that titles were actually quite overrated yet, but that you can … It's not about so much the type of business that dictates your happiness, it is more of what can I do to make this special? And you want to grow something, right?
So that's what I realised, is I just wanted to grow something. But I didn't know that. I was their first employee, they asked me six months in to be a partner. So that's how we were the first [inaudible 00:09:21] essentially.
But I became a partner because I obsessed over learning about the stuff that I was selling. I'm like, well, I'm here, I'm going to learn about it. So quickly, I knew more about hot tubs than they did in terms of information. And I just dove into it like I do with most stuff, and they were impressed, and they wanted me to be a partner. And so that's how that happened.
And I didn't have any business schooling or anything like that. You know what you're … I think one of the things I'm most grateful for is I didn't have any marketing schooling. I think marketing, especially in universities, screws people up big time. Not everybody, there's exceptions to this, but because it's moving so fast. I had never seen a university student read the book before, and I've had a bunch read the book because, thank goodness, I've now had professors find the book and start teaching it, and that's happening more commonly. But the ones that didn't have it in class, they were like, “I was never taught any of this stuff.” And they're not. It's just not being taught.
It's really unfortunate because I think, if you look at the theme of the book, which is, be the best teacher in the world, lean into transparency, be willing to do, think like a buyer, and adjust to what your buyers want in terms of the way that you say it, and teach it, and sell it. That should be common sense, right? But it's very uncommon.
And that's the thing. And that's what's interesting, like you said, A, you haven't come from marketing background. So, for me, being in marketing, having a degree in marketing, which I totally agree with you, and I openly tell the world that what I sat in university for three years and learnt is nowhere near what I do today.
And to be fair, it wasn't the case the minute I left university, it was a very different world. But it's the sheer fact that I've kept up with the speed of change, and embraced everything, and never sat there and thought, I know all this, hence why I read all the time. So I think the fact that you hadn't come from marketing, and yet you picked up on a concept that as a marketer is very hard to sell to businesses.
It's very difficult.
So as a marketer, you can look at this concept, and see how amazing it is, and what it can do to try and then go into a company, and go, this is what you should do. That very resistant tip because there's lots of things that probably come up for them. So for you to sit there and think, you know what, this is a really good idea, and just effectively come up with it yourself, effectively just go, how could this benefit the business? And then just go and do it without coming from that background, I just think is absolutely insightful.
Well, I think that what's fascinating to me is, over the course of talking about this stuff over 10 years now, the number one email that I've received from readers, and listeners, and audience members, you would think would be, “Hey, Marcus, I'm on a business, and I need more traffic leads and sales.” That's actually number two. Number one is from marketers who are frustrated in their organisation, and they're ready to leave because they feel like they catch a vision, but their cohorts, their peers, their sales manager, or the leadership team doesn't catch the vision. And so because of that, they want to leave. It's the number, one email that I've received. And I probably get a couple a week. It's really fascinating. So why is that happening?
I think there's a few different reasons why this is happening. But, ultimately, I really do for the most part blame marketers. And the reason for that is, I think we as marketers talk like marketers. And it's not until you learn to talk the language of sales, and the language of leadership, that you really start to get the ear of everybody else that you need to win within the organisation.
And again, this goes back to the way universities can mess us up, again, there's exceptions. But the reason why They Ask You Answer has just done so well as a book, it's because it wasn't written for marketers, and it doesn't have marketing speak, marketing lingo in it, right? So in other words, no business owner, I shouldn't say no, but very few get really pumped about content, right? They surely don't get pumped about marketing. What they get pumped about is if you say things like, so if you had a choice, would you like to be the most trusted voice in your space? When anybody thinks of a question they think of a need, that they think your company name, would you like that as a business owner? Everybody's going to say, yes.
If I go to a business owner and I say to them, “So do you think teaching, really teaching, really addressing your customer's questions needs, worries, concerns, do you think that's going to be fundamental to your business in 20 years?” Every single one's going to say, “Oh, absolutely.” But if I said to them, “So do you think content marketing is going to be fundamental to your business in 20 years?” They're going to be like … you're going to get this whole array of answers. And so that's part of the problem.
So when I teach or speak, I literally obsess over using as little marketing-isms as possible. And one other thing I'll say about this, I learned a long time ago that if you want to get something approved in business, you call it a sales initiative. If you want to get it rejected or tabled for later, you call it marketing.
That is such a good point. And when I think back two years ago, when I used to work in corporate world, I did marketing for Land Rover, and you'd barely be near the sales team. Whereas, now, when you think about how it should be, it's like, how on earth did we do our jobs, when we literally had no contact with the customer or very little contact with the customer? How did we even know what to say, or do, or how to connect to them? And how the world is now, and how all of that is almost mashed into one, and needs to come from the same common place, which is serving the customer, and listening to the customer, and hearing what they've got to say.
Yeah. So I think this is a really good point. Some of the most progressive companies that I've worked with when it comes to business mindset, they've literally said, “So we have a revenue team that consists of sales and marketing,” right, individuals. And if you look too, at the way the buyer has changed, so much of the sale happens before they even you know them as a company, before the first handshake, etc. Then we have to make major adjustments for this whole, the 70% of the buy decision is made before they actually talk to the company.
So as part of that, I think the two responsibilities sets to be viewed is this, sales teams have to say, we are very responsible for the marketing side of the business, we are responsible to these subject matter experts, we are responsible to make sure that during that 70% when they're engaging us, but we don't know it, when they're vetting us digitally, that they get everything that they could possibly want to know, they could find everything they could possibly want to know, that nothing slows them down. There's no friction. We're not holding back on them. That's sales job, because they're the ones that have their ear to the ground, right? They're the ones that have all these questions.
They're supposed to be the best subject matter experts.
And then marketing's job though now has to evolve too. They can't be like they always were and be in the land of [inaudible 00:17:12]. They have to be responsible for revenue, for certain element of revenue, not all of the revenue, but they have to.
And marketers are notoriously underpaid. The reason why they're underpaid is because they don't show revenue. The moment you start showing revenue, you get raises. You just do. But if you don't show revenue, you can't expect for a CFO to come in and say, “You know what, you're just doing a great job, your campaigns are just so beautiful, your impressions are really great and wonderful.” So you don't get raises off of impressions. That's not how it works, people. You should tie revenue back to campaigns. And when you do that, you win, right?
And so, the other thing about the book is, you notice in the book, I consistently say things like, so you should talk about cost and price in your website, and we did this one time, and here's how we did it. And here's the piece of content, and it generated over, now to that 10 million in sales or some stupid number now. But I always put a number in the book, a revenue number with an action. That was really, really important, because, again, it was written for the C-suite, for the ones that are obsessing about revenue.
And although that might not sound idealistic, or romantic, it's reality, and we have to speak in terms of realities, because even the best of intentions for marketing teams, the best intention campaigns, whatever you want to call them, eventually a CFO is going to walk into somebody's office one day or whoever's responsible for money, and they're going to say, “So show me how this is really helping us make money.”
This has really been the last … if we look at the last two months, you're not seeing companies do fluffy campaigns all of a sudden.
There's no, let's just improve the world campaigns, with our … no, let's just be nicer to everybody. That's all wonderful. But in times like this, look what's happened, fluffy content has been just, they turn it off, it's the first thing to go. But they're not turning off the person that's showing rev, after rev, after rev next to their name because of the content they produce or with the campaigns that they ran. That's the person that doesn't get cut, or slashed, or furloughed.
And you say that in terms of … one of the things you addressed in the book is actually bringing on a full time content person. And to try and justify that without those figures, you basically said all way through the book-
… you've said, we did this, it made this, we did this, it made this.
So let me just take you back one second to the beginning, so when you said that you just started writing every single day. As a content producer, as a person who has a podcast, I don't write, I have the podcast, just doing it once a week, it's a lot of work. Producing content is no small feat. This is not a two-second job. I just want to know your mindset in terms of doing that. And at that point, I'm guessing you had no idea that this was going to end in the results that ended in.
So how did you do it? How did you motivate yourself to get that done?
So the honest answer to where it started was, I just got the impression that I should. It just made sense to me, and I said, well, this is how I'm learning. This is the stuff that I would want to know. So, of course, I should talk about it, and don't over complicate it Marcus, right?
And so, I literally, at that time, I went to my wife. Normally, back in this period, we'd go to bed around 10:00 PM, 10:30 PM at night. And I went to her one night and I said, “So here's the thing, I'm going to lose the business as you know. I got to work some miracles. I need to produce content. I don't want to do it while all the kids were awake, so I'm going to do it when you go to the bed. So we can't go to bed together anymore at the same time.” And she said, “Oh, okay, if that's what you feel it's necessary.”
And the comments she's made before, which I find is really fascinating, she said, “I'll never forget those couple of years where I would be in bed on asleep and I could hear the kitchen on the kitchen table, sound of the keys slapping the keyboard. And she knew that was, of course, me in there. That's the part that nobody really fully understands, right?
But at the same time, my whole approach to almost everything is, let's not over complicate this, right? So they ask me, what's your most simple strategy ever? And the writing for me was simple too, because I said, look, I've been asked all these questions in the home every day, almost every single sales appointment that I've gone on, and I've been on hundreds at this point, just fricking answer the question, Marcus, don't over-complicate this matter, like you're talking to somebody in the home, you're sitting with them at their kitchen table.
And so, that's really what I did. It wasn't light answers though. I mean, I really gave the mean potatoes as we've learned is the best way to do it, certainly in terms of search in terms of UX. And so, I just wanted to do one on a tonight. And I mean, I got to the point where 30 to 45 minutes later I was done. But at first it was slow, man. I was really, really slow at first, it was drudgery a bit. And you would have said, you're not a good writer. Today, people are like, “You're really natural writer, Marcus. That's amazing. What happened?” [crosstalk 00:23:06]
It's your producer.
[crosstalk 00:23:08] words, right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So that's just how it goes. And of course, it's the same thing with video, it's the same thing with anything else in life.
And so that's the way literally that it went for me for those couple of years. I knew I was onto something within six months. Six months, I could see a clear jump in traffic. I clearly saw leads that were coming in, that didn't come in before. And I was getting really unique comments from people, stuffs like they would call and say, “I just want to thank you. Finally, somebody addressed that question. I'm so frustrated because I've been trying to research and nobody's bothered to talk about these things, and you guys are the only ones. Or I feel everything I've learned about pools I've learned from you guys,” right?
And that's just where it was. And what's funny, Theresa, is I can't even instal … me, I cannot instal a pool, I'm not a pool expert, but I can ask questions, I can explain stuff, but I can't do it, I can't physically do it. Doing the thing, the capabilities to do it is very, very overrated, right?
It's like what they say, if you can't do it, teach it. It's like if you can't do it, and I couldn't instal a pool, I can't turn on the equipment, I can't shoot a grade, I can't do a lot of the things that you would need to do, I can't run the plumbing. But I can, I can absolutely teach about it. And I can ask somebody, and then turn that into words that somebody else would understand. And that's what made it so special.
By the time I was, I guess it was by 2011, probably, so two years in, we just dominated the industry. Everybody was afraid of us, in terms of big manufacturers. They still are to this day because now we are manufacturing ourselves, and we're blowing up. So we have had many companies approach us because we're now the snowball rolling down the Hill, and you can't stop it at this point.
Just the momentum is so unbelievable. That's the beauty behind this, you do it the right way, you create something that's really built to last.
And that's the thing, is that it's about the consistency, and the content that's out there, that once it's out there, once it's caught, and once people are looking at it, it doesn't stop. It's not going to … The hundred and something episodes I've already done, I'm not like, oh, well, we'll throw them in the bin now, they're there. When someone finds me, they go back and listen.
And the other thing, I loved what you said is, well, one, not over-complicating things. And two, talking to them. Now, I've had conversations with so many different business owners, where we've talked about content in general, whether it be writing a blog, or doing a video. And I was talking to a real estate agent, and I was like, “What about doing a live video showing someone around the house?” And he's like, “Oh, no, no, no.” And I was like, “But don't you do that every single day?” And I said, “So treat the camera as if it's someone you're talking to.”
And I talked about, this is social media, people write for the internet, and it's not the internet reading it, there's a human on the end of that. And like you said, with genuine questions, with genuine concerns of thoughts. So let's just touch on that. The power of answering those questions. And what I really particularly like is answering the questions that no one wants to answer, or the questions that if someone asks you in person, you'll say but you'd never have the guts to do it in a public forum. So just on that because obviously a big in the book in terms of picking those things that people want to know.
Yeah. So companies come to me all the time and say, “Marcus, we're not getting momentum with our content strategy, why?” Almost 99% of the time it's the exact same reason. It's because they're not focused on the questions that buyers really want to know.
Now, in the book there's five main subjects that we talk about that buyers are obsessed with. That buyers you and me, B2B, B2C service product, it doesn't matter, buyers want to know these things before they engage a company, before they contact the company, before they walk into the company's doors, whatever that thing is.
The five subjects that we all research prolifically online are as follows. We want to know, generally speaking, all of our costs and price. We want to know problems or negatives. In other words, so I make this purchase, how could it blow up in my face? What could go wrong if I make this choice, right? This is why we tend to search for things like negative reviews, right? It's because we want to know what are the issues with particular thing or problems with.
We want to comparison, we love to compare. We like to compare because we like to stack things up against each other because it helps us to feel like we've vetted thoroughly enough to make a buying decision. It helps mitigate the risk that we sense.
We love to know what everybody else says about stuff too, i.e reviews, or ratings. We're obsessed with those. And then, finally, we love to know what the best thing is. We love researching best. If you're listening to this, think of how many times have you researched just online in Google best such and such in a search. Prolific. So those are the big five, cost, problems, reviews, versus best. Those are the five.
No, let's say the traditional buyers funnels that we've all heard about a million times in different talks and articles, and you aligned those subjects with a section of the funnel, middle, top, or bottom, here's what you would find, those questions at bottom portion of the funnel. The mistake that most companies make with their content, it's either talk about and answer subject, some questions that are not even in the funnel, or they're top of funnel. You always start at the bottom and you work your way out, not at the top, and slowly work your way in. Which, again, is what most companies do.
Here's the litmus test to how you know if something is really bottom of the funnel. Does your sales team get the question all the time, okay? So if your sales team constantly hears, “So how much is it?” Which 100% of them do, that's the bottom of the funnel question. If your sales teams hears all the time, “So tell me how would that product or that service compared to this other one that I heard about?” It's again, bottom funnel. It's a real buyer. They're serious, right? If a salesperson hears, “Somebody told me that this one had a particular issue. Is that true? What's your take on that?” Once again, this is a serious buyer.
Because guess what, well, you don't want to know what's wrong with something if we're not interested in buying it. Once we're interested in buying it, then we want to pick it apart, right? This is how it works, when we're going to invest in something, that's when we try to punch holes in it. And so, these big five, that's the fricking market all day long. It runs our economy, it runs search. And most companies still to this day, they'll talk about these five things.
Now, whenever somebody approaches me, a company, and they say, “Okay, we want to do content,” that's what I look for first. On average, 10% of the content that companies produce aligns with those five things, all right, 10%, where it should be a 75% or higher. So if you're listening to this right now, here's the things that you should be thinking. Okay. What percentage of my content would the sales team say, “Yeah, I could absolutely integrate with that in my sales appointment right now.” Would they want to use it, would address a major question they deal with all the time. If the answer's, no, you just wasted everybody's time, effort, energy, and money 99% of the time, okay?
The other thing is, ask yourself, what percentage of my content deals with these five major subjects? If it's not 75%, once again, you're wasting tremendous amount of time, you're probably never going to get raised like you should because you're not going to be able to show revenue. These are the things that lead to revenue, and that's what's going to make you a very valuable, valuable person on your team. This why so many people that have [inaudible 00:31:12] they asked me if that started off as a content person on the team, eventually became literally a CMO of their company because they became just this linchpin of revenue that they could track back to it and say, sales team loves this person, right, because they're helping sales so much. And they have just completely revolutionised the amount of traffic leads and sales the company is getting at the digital level, right?
So this is what's possible, but still, to this day, most companies don't do it, which is great for me because it means I've got a long runway of trying to teach people what transparency really looks like.
And do you think the reason why they're not doing it is dying to the fact of a bravery thing or a concern thing, or is it just a lack of knowledge? Because we tend to see them putting out the content that they want to put out, that they want to tell you how brilliant something is, or they want to demonstrate something without even that the thought that the customer actually, that isn't what's on their mind right now. So why do you think they're not doing that?
There's a number one reason by far, there's one primary reason. The biggest reason why we don't talk about these things is because none of our competitors have. That's the number one reason. Because let me tell you, as soon as a chip falls and one of your competitors, all heck, all heck breaks loose, then all of a sudden that's when you see a bunch of leadership team members around the boardroom tables saying, “Oh, [She 00:32:47], did you see what they just did? Did you see what they … They can't do that. They can't do that. What the heck is going on here? What gives them the right to say that or to answer that.”
Do you know how many times I had a manufacturer of fibreglass pools, who were the … When I say manufacturer, look at it like I was like a Volvo dealership or a Ford dealership. And this is Volvo and Ford were coming to me and saying, “You can't say these things. You're not the leader of this space, we are the leader of the space.” Well, that's what was happening with fibreglass pools. And they would say to me, “What gives you the right to say that?” And I would say, “What gives me the right to say is the fact that I said.” That's the beauty of the thing that we call the internet.
And this is why digital Davids constantly slay Goliaths online. And really river pools is one of the great original digital Davids of this space, because we could be fast, nimble quick. We didn't have to follow the stinking rules that everybody had falsely created within their industry of the dos and the don't, the silent can and can'ts, which are just ridiculous, and they don't align with what buyers really want.
And what's funny is, you can still … I mean, I do it all the time. I go to the CEO and I'd say, “So if you were a customer, all right, if you're in a buying experience, you're shopping a service or a product B2B or B2C, would you want to understand pricing really well before you engage the company?” “Of course, I would.” “Would you appreciate it if the company taught you all about pricing in the marketplace and what drives costs up and down?” “Of course, I would.” Okay. “Do you do this with your customers?” “Well, no Marcus, because you don't understand our [inaudible 00:34:32] is different,” which is the biggest pile of BS in the history of the world. It's just not true, it's not true.
The industries, better stated, the people, the companies that sit there and wallow in this, but we're different and you don't understand mindset, they're the ones that are constantly being left behind. I appreciate the fact that everybody's got differentiators, that doesn't make you special, and it doesn't exclude you from every law of psychology that has been around since the beginning of earth, right? Teaching equates to trust, right? Trust equates to sales. There's no science behind this. It's undeniable, right?
And this is also why when I'm having a … Let's say I go meet with an audience, right, I know a lot of those people in that room. I'm going to take them from a place of clearly not wanting to talk about these things, and by the end, they're going to want to talk about it. But I have to establish commonality at the beginning of the conversation.
And so, the commonality that I establish goes back to trust, right? And I say, this is not a conversation about marketing, it's not a conversation about your sales [inaudible 00:35:49], and is trust going to be paramount to your success in 20 years? Everybody always says, yes. Is trust fundamental to your business right now. Everybody says, yes. If I could show you how to become the most trusted voice in your space, would you want to know how? Everybody says, well, yes. And then we start the conversation.
And that's the key, right, because you've got to start at that place that everybody agrees. Then later on when they want to say we're different, but they're … which leads to more trust, “Yeah, you're right, Marcus. You're right, you're right, you're right.”
Do you think that some people are scared to be honest in case they lose their customers, or someone might come and buy from them? Whereas, for me, the way I take this, if someone comes to me and says, “Why should I join your online academy? Why should I take part in this?” It's like, “Okay, these are the reasons you should. But if you're looking for X, Y, Z, this is not for you.”
And the way I think about the honesty and the transparency is, I don't want to put myself in a position where someone is expecting something from me, that I'm not going to deliver, because all that's going to do is cause them really horrible mess between me and them.
So in being completely transparent, and open, and honest about what I do, who I do it for, what results they can expect from it, what it costs, it just means that we're putting all our cards on the table, you know what you're going to get, I know you know what you're going to get. You're not going to expect too much or not enough. And it just makes that whole conversation so much easier. Do you think they just didn't see that? Do you think that's like …
Yeah. The thing that I like to say is, the happiest day in the life of the business it's not when they figure out who they are, but it's when they rather figure out what they're not. Because when you know what you're not, that's when you know who you don't want to sell to, and what products and services you don't want to offer. Because the things that you don't want to do, or don't want to sell to, or don't want to sell, those are the things that fundamentally cause us the most headaches, right? And we sell them because we need the money. But then after we sell them, we regret it because we say, it's just wasn't worth it, right? And so, when we released that, then we can lean into that which we are, and we know it. And it's so very, very powerful.
And you mentioned also that we're afraid we're going to lose the customer. But what's funny about that is, like if I said to a … Let me give an example here, and if you're listening to this, look at it from a psychological level, not from a, yeah, but it's not the same thing, because again, it's all psychology, it's all trust. So if I said to you, all right, let's say that you want to go to a new restaurant tonight. You've never been to that restaurant before, you're going to take a loved one, you want it to be a great experience.
So in order to make sure it's a great experience, or it's going to be a great experience, other than make a reservation, there's good chance you're going to do two things before you go to the restaurant. What are the two things you're going to do? Most people are going to say, “I'm going to read the reviews, and I'm going to go online and look at their menu.” That's what most people say, okay? It's 99% of the people.
Now, here's where it gets interesting. If you go to the menu on their website and there is no pricing, are you still going to go to that restaurant? No, it's really fascinating because we've found at that moment over 80% of all people will not go. And it's not because they can't afford it, but it's because the moment they left it blank, they planted the seed of doubt. And when seeds of doubt exist, inertia occurs.
This is the same reason why. I'll give you another hypothetical. It's the same reason why. Most of us listening to this right now have gone on a shopping cart page before. We're ready to grab our credit card, we're ready to essentially enter the information, but we noticed that there's a coupon code on that page. And as soon as we see the coupon code, we're like, huh, I'm going to have a coupon code. And then what do we do? Often times we go look for it.
Now, this is where it gets really interesting, this is where it gets really fascinating. When we don't find it, based on the studies that I've done, over half of the people will not now buy it. Now, a second ago, they were going to go buy. They were moving forward. This is why coupon codes hurt conversion rates on shopping cart pages. And people are like, “[inaudible 00:40:09], I never thought about it until now.” Yep, and that is the psychology of the way that we think.
That is amazing. And it's so right. It's exactly what I do. I'll go and search something. Because like you said it puts that seed of doubt. And I think, in the online world, more than anything, we try to protect ourselves, we're trying to make sure that we're not fleeced, that we're not wasting our money, that we're not being made a fool of, that we're not getting into something that it's not what expect.
And at any single point, and when I talk about funnels, and processes, and the more kind of the online-y bit-ness of it, it's like you need to be transparent, and open, and consistent, because at any point, anything that doesn't sit right, anything that makes me feel a bit like, okay, hang on a minute, I'm off-
True. There it is. [crosstalk 00:40:59].
… I'm gone. [crosstalk 00:41:01]. I love it.
Every time, every single time. Now, somebody listening to this might say, well, Marcus, you just don't understand, because, for example, I can't talk about my pricing because I'm a manufacturer, or I'm a supplier in somebody else, I'm not selling to the end user. All of that is honestly a terrible excuse. Because, let me give you an example, I'm a manufacturer of fibreglass pools, I know that everybody wants to know how much it costs, so how can I find a happy medium there?
There's many things that I can do. Number one, I've got lots of articles and videos on my site. I teach people about what to expect when buying a pool. Here's the thing, most people haven't had practise buying pools, right? So that's why, Theresa, if I said to you or most people, how much do you think the in-ground pool cost to instal? Most people, if we're talking US dollars, they're going to say, “I don't know, around 30,000.” No, no. It's more on average, about 75,000 USD. That's average. So most people are like, “I had no idea.”
Oh, why did they have no idea? It's because they weren't taught. You don't learn this in the university. And so every buyer starts off in an ignorant place for the most part. And furthermore, even the ones that are informed or at least think they're informed, oftentimes, they have preconceived notions, and therefore don't fully understand why things are priced the way that the priced.
So the most important part of when companies discuss pricing, isn't what you cost, it's helping me understand the marketplace in general. So, for example, if you're selling a course online, what's not as important at first is explaining to me what you charge. So as you research courses online for this particular subject, here's what you're going to find. You're going to find some courses are going to be in this range, some that are going to be in this range, some that are going to be in this range. Now, here's oftentimes the differences between those ranges, here's what you can expect, here's why some companies are expensive, here's why some companies are cheap. But you're really helping me understand, oh, okay, now I understand. Now, once you've done that, then you can explain what you charge.
Now, some people will say, well, how specific do I have to be? Well, you can be as specific as you want, but I will tell you this. We find that the more specific companies are in talking about cost and price, the better the results become. In other words, the more leads they get, and the more qualified the leads are. And so they lean into it more, not less.
This is why, for anybody that has stuff that can be built, and so you might say, “Well, our stuff is very project based, and so therefore, it could cost as little as this, as much as this, Marcus. So you want me to put a big gold fat, $100,000 or a £100,000 range?” I'm like, okay, what you can do explain what dictates those ranges, what they could expect, and then also you could build calculators to help me understand.
So as a manufacturer, who is selling to dealers, but also selling to the end user, so we're a B2B2C, which is actually what many of companies are. They're not a straight B2B, they're B2B2C. Well, then like that, you can go on the river pools website right now. And if you're listening to this, go riverpoolsandspas.com, okay, riverpoolsandspas.com, just go there, and you can price your pool. And you'll go through the whole process of selecting your options, we'll teach you along the way, and then we're going to give you a range at the end.
Why? Because there are hidden costs, but I least want to give you more than everybody is wanting to give you. I'm going to say to you, okay, that's going to be between $60 and $80,000, but that is going to make you say, I just love the fact that they at least gave me a feel for this. I respect that.
And like you said, by the time they come to you, if they know what the cost is, and they're still coming to you saying, “Okay, now I want more information, I want …”
Exactly. Because if someone goes to that price and goes, “Oh, where are my range?” Or, “Actually, that was not what I expected.” And weirdly, just the other day, my husband's and I were searching, we're having our garden done, well, not at the moment because it's lockdown, but when lockdown is over, and we have changed our mind from having a raised bed to potentially have a hot tub, which is way more exciting than a raised bed.
And so, of course, what's the first thing we do? I genuinely have never bought a hot tub, I have no idea what it is, what's … So, of course, he starts researching. He does stuff, electrical, so he can do a certain [inaudible 00:45:55] when he knows he needs the things. So he's doing that, and I'm researching the cost, and what it might look like, and how you might house it.
And because, like you said, it's a need to know information, and I did exactly the same thing. I went on one site, it gave me prices that are great, another site, nothing.
And I immediately went, gone, bye, see you later.
And of course, what are they saying? Call for price, call for quote, which is basically, them giving you the middle finger and saying … which is really not that interested in being very honest with you right now.
Well, you just stated that is today's buyer, right? And the thing about a hot tub, right, you take the hot tub as a spa, at least for US dollars, you're going to be anywhere between $4 to $15,000. That's where you're going to be, right?
And so, that's a huge range. So what constitutes that range?
How are you supposed to know what defines value? And the mistake that a lot of companies make too is, one thing that I've been talking about, and I deal a lot with hot tub manufacturers. I've got a few different clients in that space. They're like many others. And they're a B2B2C because they're building it, they have dealers all over the world, and then you have an end user. But what these people want to do, is they want you to grab their hand, and they want to understand what do I need to know as I'm making this decision, right?
So in a perfect world, you could go, and my guess is you haven't experienced this yet, Theresa, but this is something I'm working on some of the manufacturers, and this is where they ask you to answer, that you go to the site, and it says something more like to the effect, never bought a hot tub, start here, right?
And then it asks you a series of different questions. For example, it would say, so which of the following are you most interested in with your hot tub? And it could be a play area for the family, it could be hydrotherapy, right? It could be intimacy with my spouse or lover. Whatever that thing is, right? And so, based on the series of questions, that allows the manufacturer in this case to at the end of that recommend to you particular model.
Now, the thing is, who lead that sales process? You led that sales process. And at the end of that, now you've got a model. You already know what you want based on the fact that they took you through the sales process they would have taken you through if you went to the showroom.
You see, this is the huge mistake that a lot of companies, a lot of retailers are making right now. Is they're saying, well, I want to save the sales experience for when we talk face-to-face. That is deaths in 2020, that'd be [crosstalk 00:48:35]. Let that freaking go, let that go.
Virtual selling is fundamental, and that's why self-selection tools, and choose your own adventure tools on your website are essential. And they're very much a part of this whole They Ask You Answer, because part of They Ask You Answer isn't just the questions are asking. It's I really like it if, I wish I could do this as a buyer. Well, because you just design and build your hot tub based on a series of questions, and then be able to price it accordingly, and be able to see the different ranges, and you could do that on my swimming pool site, right?
And if I was a hot tub manufacturer, you better think and believe I would have that, as a dealer I would have that. And as a dealer, I wouldn't wait on the manufacturer to do that for me, because they're, again, the Goliaths, and they're slow. Sometimes you see these small businesses, they're waiting for someone that they buy from to create awesome stuff. You want to be a mover and a shaker in your space, do not wait for your vendors, do not wait for providers, you address what the buyer in the marketplace wants. Then you become a linchpin, you become an influencer.
So much of the stupid influencer marketing you hear about, it's by people that are “celebrities.” Now, the best influencers are the ones that are willing to talk about stuff that nobody else is willing to address in that marketplace, or at least show it in a way that nobody else has understood or figured to show it, like the calculators, and all those other self-selection tools that's possible in websites today.
And like you said, even if, and obviously, my first look at it, I am not going to check out and go, yeah, I'm buying that right now. But the point is, if someone has been helpful, and supported me, and has answered my questions, and is giving me options, and giving me knowledge, I'm obviously going to take that. And then the next time I'm going to go, what was that site again? And I'm going to go back to that site, and then I might email them, and then I might do something else. But it leaves you in a good place.
Whereas the other site, who, obviously, I don't know, I can't remember who it was, literally went to it, no information, no help, no nothing, see you later, you can have the best hot tubs in the world but I'm not buying one for me. But they're-
They're still living in a la-la land that your primary goal is to come to the showroom. And especially post COVID-19. What these retailers should be doing right now is allow you to buy virtually right now. You would buy a hot tub virtually. You're like, how could I? We buy cars, automobiles, virtually all the time without trying them first? They got to allow you to feel safe enough to say, I have fed it this thoroughly, I am well-informed. And even though I haven't necessarily touched it, I feel like I know it inside and out through this educational experience that I have gone on this journey with this company.
Marcus, thank you so very much. Honestly, I'm so very grateful for your time and the advice.
If you're listening to this now, and you haven't read Marcus' book, then obviously, I'm going to link up to all of his stuff and everything into the show notes, do go and check it out because that was so much valuable. I mean, we've literally scraped the tip of the iceberg here.
We've only scratched it, yeah.
We literally have, because there's so much good stuff. So do go check it out.
But, Marcus, thank you so very much. I really appreciate being on.
I appreciate it. If you're listening to this, if you use LinkedIn, that's the best place to find me. So check me out on LinkedIn because I post almost every day, and I'd love to hear from you.
And, Theresa, thank you so much for having me on your show. I appreciate it.
Thank you. It was such a pleasure to do that interview. He was such a nice guy, and so very passionate about his sort of message in terms of content marketing.
And what I love about the story itself is the industry he was in, and the fact that you might look at that industry and think that maybe that wouldn't be the industry where content marketing was so very important. So I love the fact that he really kind of demonstrates that in any industry, any business, this really is super, super key to your business.
So I do hope you enjoyed today's interview. Like I said, it was really real pleasure having him on. I will be back next week with a episode. And have a wonderful week, and I will see you soon.