When Marcus Sheridan started River Pools & Spas in 2001, they were doing okay. But by the time October 10th 2008 arrived, the DOW went down – way down. It was a bad day for everyone and very bad day for pool guys. On that day, five customers who had deposits down, withdrew them. And as the months went on, business kept going down. By January 2009 the business was over the edge.
Everyone told Marcus and his two business partners to file for bankruptcy. Problem is, if he filed for bankruptcy, Marcus would lose his home, his two business partners would lose their homes and their 16 employees would lose their home. They were going over the edge.
Now, Marcus is here to tell you how they came back from that edge.
The biggest challenge to overcome is thinking you are different than everyone else. You may be different but the biggest reason someone buys from you (pools, house, etc.) is trust. So regardless of what you do or how you classify yourself, you can take Marcus’ core philosophy: THEY ASK. YOU ANSWER and become the most trusted voice in your space by owning what your customer needs.
First things first: 70%.
This is the number that is changing the game for everyone. It is making business’ freak out and making businesses say WOW.
This number has everything to do with the ZERO MOMENT OF TRUTH: the first time a potential customer contacts you and you know they exist.
There is a lot of ways the ZERO MOMENT OF TRUTH can happen for you but in the end, it’s the moment you know you might want to do business with this customer.
Today on average:
- 70% of the buying decision is made before the ZERO MOMENT OF TRUTH.
So what does that mean? Where is this number going? Where is it going to stop?
It means that this number is a big pill and if we don’t swallow it – property management could be the next Kmart.
Now, if this number is true it means that the marketing department is going to have the biggest impact on the actual sale. However, when financial trouble hits, the marketing department is the first to receive cuts. Then, when we want to grow, the first department hired is sales.
WHY? Because we’ve been doing it that way forever.
So, how do we take THEY ASK. YOU ANSWER and use it to become successful?
Let’s use the psychology of Ostrich Marketing: when an ostrich has a problem – it sticks it’s head in the sand. It thinks this will make the problem will go away.
Guest what? IT NEVER GOES AWAY. (Like that little piece of the property you don’t think they’ll see when they visit.)
Now, think if you were to bring the problems up first? That’s how you become the most trusted voice in your space.
Enter: THE BIG 5 (the five subjects that everyone buying wants to talk about and people selling want to avoid).
If you produce content that covers the BIG 5, you have found the topics that buyers and search engines love:
- Best in Class (school district, safest, etc.)
this runs the economy!!
However, when we go to the websites and platform – we aren’t addressing these.
- Cost: Money.
THEY ASK: What does a fiberglass pool cost? How much does it cost to install?
YOU ANSWER: Put the pricing on the site.
Pricing depends? Great, explain why it depends.
RESULT: One single article that discussed why pricing depends resulted in $3,500,000 in business. Google thought ‘finally’ someone is answering the question people are searching. Buyers thought ‘finally someone is speaking my language and caring more about the customer!”
After working with businesses all over the world – the number one driver is cost. Marcus isn’t asking you to put up a price list but you HAVE to discuss price.
THEY ASK: What are the problems with fiberglass pools?
*How many companies were addressing this up front – ZERO.
YOU ANSWER: Address the problems.
What is a perceived disadvantage to you is a perceived as an advantage to others. It’s all about how you show it.
RESULTS: Once Marcus addressed the problems – the number one phrase that generated the most sales appointments over the next two years was “fiberglass pools problems”.
You are OWNING it and are obsessed with the way the customer is thinking, hence you are different from the rest.
THEY ASK: Buyer can’t decide so they compare. Google: Fiberglass vs. Concrete.
Ever wonder why you keep answering the same questions over and over? No one is addressing the questions.
YOU ANSWER: Marcus decided to address not only Fiberglass pools but also Concrete. Even if they don’t sell it, they are going to compare because they are here to teach and share with the industry.
RESULTS: Today if you go online with one in ground pool with any other in ground pool, River Pools & Spas pops up first. Customers already have built a relationship with you. You aren’t answering the same questions and you have built trust with the customer.
Even if we don’t sell it we like to compare because we are here to teach and share with the industry.
- Reviews + 5. Best In Class
THEY ASK: We like you and we are interested in doing business with you BUT if we don’t, is there anyone else you would recommend?
Normally no one offers suggestions – we are the best.
YOU ANSWER: Marcus wrote article on Who are the best pool builders in Richmond, VA.
Was Marcus on that list? NO. Because the moment you create a best of list and include yourself – you lose credibility and therefore TRUST.
RESULTS: That article generated $150,000 in revenue that year. If you are searching his competitors, you are usually reading about them on Marcus’ site
Consumer ignorance is no longer a viable strategy. They will find the answers. So address them first!
By applying YOU ASK. THEY ANSWER River Pools & Spas went from 2000 to now 600,000 visitors to their site in one year. They are now the most searched pool website in the world. The company has now started manufacturing and have dealers around the world.
Out of debt. Credit cards paid off. No more leans. Gave him his life back.
Used to think you had to work harder. That almost cost him everything.
You get excited but then buyers change, rules change. The tides always change, so you’ve got to be willing to “move the chair” and stay ahead.
How to prepare for the future:
Five Qualities of Organizations Built for the Future of Digital
- Principles vs. Platforms: Integrity, Customer First, vs. Snapchat, Facebook.
Do we really know the difference between principles and platforms?
No matter what platform comes out next, the successful companies carry the principles (example: integrity) from one platform to the next.
Why is this important?
In less than a decade there are like 70+ platforms. (33 dead, 30 alive, 12 tinkering on death).
Marcus is not saying Facebook is bad. What is bad, is not understanding what makes Facebook (or the next platform) work for you. If you have focused on what makes a platform work for you, then you won’t get sucked into the next great platform just because it’s new.
Here’s how to find your focus:
- When potential customers visit our website, do we help answer their questions better than anyone else in the world?
In 20 years, helping resolve a customer’s questions and problems is still going to a relevant and necessary. So make sure you put the emphasis on principles not platforms.
- Management & Team Buy-In.
The number one email that Marcus receives after his talks is from the marketing department. “Marcus, I believe in what you are saying but when I go to sales and management with ideas, they say NO. They say it’s not in the budget.”
One might say it’s not in the budget but if you know something generates revenue, it’s in the budget.
This is evidence of the great divide. In every industry, you have visionaries but you also have the ones that don’t want to change.
Example: Henry Ford: you can have any color you want as long as it’s black.
**What we forget is Henry almost lost his business because of that phrase. He didn’t want to adjust to the marketplace.
Don’t let your pride get in the way. You must do your best to get everyone on the same page. Everyone should want to teach and solve problems.
- They don’t treat digital like a beta test.
Don’t ever dip your toes. Jump full in or don’t do it all!
“I promise it will get warmer if you stay in the water”.
As we get older we get less willing to change.
Example: Steve from Yale Appliance Sales
Steve had been working on inbound and content and wasn’t getting any growth. He was feeling like a hamster spinning a wheel.
Marcus’ feedback: it’s not about what Steve thinks is awesome.
So Steve took YOU ASK. THEY ANSWER and today, Yale Appliance Sales Team is required to participate in the company’s Content Marketing Efforts. Sharing allows them to understand the customer’s platform.
Result: They now produce content that is quality and is different from anyone else.
In conclusion: You have to have guts. You have to be real.
- They understand we’re all media organizations, whether we like it or not.
With Marcus’ company SalesLion, that makes 1.1. million a year, they have full time videographer on staff. Why? Because he understands he is a media company that specializes in sales.
The moment you ask someone for their money, you lose the right to say “I don’t want to give them a reason to trust me”.
Marcus now goes into big companies and teaches sales staff to be on camera and how to communicate. With even 30 minutes, one can create 15-20 videos.
Remember: If they can’t see it, it doesn’t exist!
Don’t allow yourself to say, “I don’t watch it, so we don’t need to do it”. It doesn’t matter what you use. Your personal behaviors don’t matter to the buyer. Especially when it comes to generational gaps.
The organizations obsessing over video today will be ready for virtual tomorrow.
Marcus wants people to be able to swim in the pools before they swim in the pools. A good VR experience will be a game changer. When prospects can put on a pair of goggles and feel like they are in the pool, then for days, weeks, months, they are thinking about when they can get that pool.
Don’t get left behind.
- The power of content to sell
How many pages of your website would a potential customer be willing to read?
Every single industry thinks 2 or 3. Nope!
The average potential customer needs to read 30 pages.
If someone reads 30 or more pages before first visit the likelihood of a sale was 80%. If they didn’t, the likelihood of sale went down to 20%.
What should you do differently? More content!
However, make sure you integrate the content before, during and after the sales.
After discovering the power of 30, the sales process changed:
- When they call and ask for quote : “Sure, I’d love to but you’re getting ready to spend a lot of money. To make sure you aren’t making a mistake, I want to make sure you are well educated. So, I will send two documents. One is a video for whole installation process and the other is a guide that will answer all your specific questions. Will you take the time to review that before I visit to make quote?
90% of the time, the answer to if they will take the time was “sure”.
Does it matter if only 50% read it, because it will lead to an 80% likelihood of sale!
- Lead, Bill, searched for cost of fiberglass pools. Read 375 pages!
- Wife Joni, also searched Richmond Virginia pools. Read 149 pages!
- What was that sales appointment like? Bill had a spreadsheet with the pool he wants along with every accessory he wants. Bill only needed price. Marcus walked out 45 minutes later with contract.
How much selling had I done that day? Zero. Bill had done all the work
Since that day, Marcus realized that assuming you offer honest and transparent content, it can be the greatest sales and trust-building tool in the world. Period.
Is there anything revolutionary about answering your customer’s questions?
In principle – NO. In practice – YES.
Nothing you’ve heard in this talk is complex.
So, follow what you already know to be true: Do unto them as you would like them to do unto you.
Be the best teacher in the world, obsess over their questions, run into technology. If you do this, everything will change!
Marcus Sheridan is a pioneer in small business content marketing. He cut his teeth building a small pool company that grew, through the power of inbound marketing, into one of the largest pool installers in the US and currently has the most visited swimming pool website in the world.
Following this success, Sheridan founded and educational company called The Sales Lion which has become synonymous with inbound and content marketing excellence while being featured in multiple industry publications, including the New York Times where he was referred to as a “web marketing guru.” Today Marcus regularly keynotes at some of the preeminent sales and marketing events around the world.