Are your building reader trust? Are your readers ready to buy from you? It’s easy to overlook these questions but they could be crucial to your success.
When Marcus Sheridan started blogging for his failing swimming pool company he went straight in with bottom of the funnel content. His blog captured people who were ready to buy. He ignored the fluffy posts and produced articles and video that people would find when they were researching their purchase. This strategy turned the fortunes of the company around.
I’m not sure when I first heard of Marcus but when I started reading his stuff I realised I’d been doing it wrong. I’d been doing the fluffy, top of the funnel content but had forgotten about the people who were ready to buy.
Marcus has a lot of advice to share with small business owners, how to maximise our limited marketing time, what type of content we should create and techniques to build reader trust.
Listen to my interview with Marcus Sheridan below
The River Pools Story
Marcus Sheridan set up RiverPools, a swimming pool company, with friends and it grew until the economy crashed. Suddenly it looked like they would go out of business. Consultants told him to file for bankruptcy but that would mean losing his home. He needed a solution and it was blogging and content marketing that offered it.
After reading about content marketing and inbound marketing he realised:
“If you are willing to hear the questions people are asking and willing to address them on your website with text and video you just might save your company, and that’s what we did.”
They Ask We Answer
In the past, I’ve steered away from talking about price and I advised others to do the same. That’s until I heard the RiverPools story. Marcus points to a post ‘How Much Does a Fiberglass Pool Cost‘
That post alone has generated 3 million dollars in sales so far. So it seems talking about price might be a very good thing. In fact, the top five pages on the River Pools blog are all to do with cost and price
RiverPools is now the most trafficked website in the world getting around 600,000 visitors a month. Their goal was to become the Wikipedia of the swimming pool industry and that should be the goal of any small business blog.
How do you do that? Make sure you address any question from your customers. Be it good, bad or ugly.
[Tweet “Small businesses have the opportunity to be a digital David in a land of Goliaths-Marcus Sheridan”]
If someone was starting a business today what would you tell them?
“Small businesses have the opportunity to be a digital David in a land of Goliaths.”
The nice thing about being a small business according to Marcus is that you don’t have to ask permission. You don’t have the red tape and lawyers that hold big business back. This allows us to be outliers and create new rules.
Marcus had customers asking him to recommend his competitors, other people they could go to that do the same as him.
He figured if they were asking him they were asking the internet too. So he wrote a review of the top 5 pool builders in his area. Now if you search for pool companies in Richmond Virginia or any of his competitors you’ll find his blog post.
It would be impossible to get a big company to do that, to take that risk. This is a huge advantage for small businesses, we can have an idea and act on it without having to wait for approval.
5 questions we ask when we want to buy something:
- Cost and price
- Problems, negatives, drawbacks
- Compare with other things
- The best stuff about those things
As small businesses, it’s important to address all these questions with our content. If we do we’re grabbing customers when they are ready to buy.
The mistake a lot of business bloggers make is the one I’ve made too often and that’s to create fluffy content for the top of the buying cycle rather than tackle buyer based questions .
For example: “5 fun games to play in your swimming pool” could get traffic ,but the people it attracts may not be interested in buying a pool.
Whereas: “Who are the best pool providers in Richmond Virginia?” is a search someone would do when they are looking to buy.
A key takeaway for us as small business bloggers is to focus on what people want to know when they are ready to buy
Is video the way forward? Is written content dead?
In a recent BuzzFeed interview Mark Zuckerburg anticipated that in 5 years most of the content consumed and shared on Facebook would be video.
But no, Marcus doesn’t believe the written word is dead, it will, however, lessen in the future. As web content creators we need to talk about communication rather than writing. World class communication will never be dead.
“Communication, the ability to make people trust you, like you and be motivated by you through your words whether they are written spoken or on a stage is a skill a lot of people miss out on.”
A lot of the principles of good blogging apply to video. For example trust:
Buyers expect sellers to be biased. If we want to build trust, we need to show people immediately we’re not biased.
Marcus wrote an article comparing fiberglass pools to concrete pools and it’s been read 100s of thousands of times. It’s not an article telling readers that fiberglass is better. It’s an article that shows the pros and cons of both.
By doing this he disarms the buyer and encourages them to read on. It builds trust because it’s showing he’s not biased. Readers won’t have expected that.
Video content is a big part of business today and small businesses need to embrace it
Marcus thinks we should all begin to think like a videographer, become the videographer for our own businesses. We might not be comfortable with it, we may not like it but it’s something we have to do.
“Consumers and buyers don’t care if we like video, but they know they like it. Too often as companies, we allow our opinions or size screw up great sales and marketing practices.”
“There’s a reason why we have more rich teens in the world than we ever had. That’s because they aren’t too scared to embrace technology.”
As small businesses, we need to start to focus on progress over perfection. To bite the bullet and be willing to put out more raw content. Perfection will just hold us back.
“I look back on my old articles on river pools and they were bad. The focus on perfection has destroyed a lot of art.”
“Self-labelling yourself that you are not good at something is not a business model. We are so impatient as consumers today. I feel that if I don’t know what you look like I don’t want to give you my money.”
By letting our customers see us we’re building trust, something we will never be able to do if we hide behind perfect corporate content. And it is us, our personalities that are at the heart of our businesses after all.
Marcus has recently embarked on his own video project, ‘The Balance’. It’s about finding the elusive work-life balance that all small business owners dream of.
“We’ve heard so much about this hustle culture, grind grind grind work work work. People want to be a success business wise but they also want to be personally fulfilled.”
The Balance is a counter balance to the Gary Vaynerchuk lifestyle. Although Gary Vee is someone we can admire we’re not all going to be able to work the hours he does. It can be hard to measure up to his standards.
When we are online we do compare ourselves to other people, whether that is Gary Vee or a Facebook friend and that can lead to self-doubt and depression.
How can you fit creating content into a busy work schedule and family life:
During the grind years, before you are successful enough to find extra time Marcus has a few tricks, some of them will sound familiar and some of them won’t be easy for us to swallow:
- Stop watching TV
- Sleep less (Marcus used to write blog posts at midnight for RiverPools)
- Use video, we can be more prolific with video as it’s much easier to create.
- Don’t be too picky with your content
Small business bloggers often lose their mojo after blogging for a while, but don’t let it get to you. You may be bored of creating the same kind of content over and over but your customers aren’t.
Marcus points to ProBlogger who are writing about the same sort of stuff they did 5 years ago.
If you are stuck for content tell us what you are angry about, if you are in a content rut tell us something about your industry that bothers you.
“When you are angry you sometimes write the best content. When something bothers us there’s a good chance it bothers other people and it needs to be talked about.”
“If you are scared to hit publish there’s a good chance it’s good. Some of the best pieces of content I’ve published my hands were shaking when I hit publish. If you wonder if you are saying something out of anger or truth step away for a while or sleep on it.”
However, it’s important to balance what we say in anger or when we rant. We still need to build that trust. We need to tell people it’s ‘how we feel’ that ‘we might be wrong but this is why I feel this way’.
If you are good in the way that you disagree you can actually endear people to you. If you have the attitude that you are the smartest guy in the room you will alienate them.
“It’s ok to have an opinion but we don’t want to say other people are flat out idiots (unless it’s your brand).”
“If you are really trying to reach as many people as possible then there’s no reason to do that. The quickest way to eliminate trust is for the person we are watching truly believes they are intellectually superior to us.”
So look around you, what annoys you? Don’t be scared to voice your opinion but make sure you do it in a humble way. When people see you rant they are looking for a reason to disagree, make sure you are opening a conversation, not closing one.
4 Key Takeaways
- Produce content that will attract buyers when they are ready to buy
- Build trust by sharing unbiased opinion
- Create video content, your customers enjoy it so you have to conquer your fears
- Don’t be scared of controversy but make sure you aren’t arrogant with your opinions
Find out more about Marcus:
If you’ve been following my challenges or if you have done something on your blog that has worked well I’d love to hear about it. You can leave me a comment below, tweet me @spiderworking or snap me @spiderworking.
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