They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan: Summary, Notes & Lessons
A refreshing take on how to create content that matches modern buying habits. A solid read for inbound marketers, but not a classic by any stretch.
Don't fall into the trap of "Ostrich Marketing"
Consumer expectations have changed when they're researching companies and products online. Ignorance isn't a viable marketing strategy. If you don't talk about your flaws online, your would-be customers will find out anyways. Don't miss an opportunity to get out ahead of your customers' problems and concerns.
The Big 5 Types of Content
- Pricing and Costs
- Versus and Comparisons
- Best in Class
The CarMax Effect
CarMax did two things other used car companies weren't willing to do:
- Admit their industry had a problem because consumers didn't trust them
- Ask themselves how to re-earn consumer trust
Businesses who listen to the consumer and change their business model in response set the new, standard rules for their space.
Today's greatest rule-making companies are obsessed with consumer fear. Why? They know if they can eliminate fears and negative emotions from the buying process — the only response remaining is trust.
Generate Your Best Content Ideas with "Fear Brainstorming"
- Take a few minutes to brainstorm the top 10-20 reasons (fears, worries, questions & concerns) that would cause a customer to not buy from your company.
- Evaluate how well your current website currently addresses each top issue. Typically 10-20% are totally ignored.
Pricing & Costs
Consumers get frustrated and upset when they can't find pricing because they know the business has the answer. It feels like your business is hiding it from them (and they'll assume it's probably not for a good reason!)
Marcus found, "Fewer than 10 percent of all businesses in the world (not including e-commerce) address pricing and costs on their company website."
The main reason why companies hide pricing?
- They say every solution is "different" and prices vary. (Explain the rationale — the why — anyways! That's all people want.)
- They're worried competitors will find out. (Competitors already know. This is a bad reason.)
- They think they'll scare customers away. (Wrong. Prices scare bad-fit, unqualified customers away.)
In the experience of Marcus' agency, The Sales Lion, the #1 content-type that drove traffic, leads and sales for more than 80% of clients was related to money. Costs or salaries also count.
How to Address Pricing on Your Website
- List the major products you sell.
- Identify the biggest revenue opportunities.
- Produce at least one article and video for each revenue opportunity explaining costs, industry expectations, and where your company falls.
- Publish to your website and make it highly visible.
- Apply to your sales process.
Address the elephant in the room
Consumers aren't dumb or ignorant. They'll find out about your problems anyways — so be upfront.
Allow your consumer to discover your "elephant" problem immediately so you can frame it as an opportunity to build trust, rather than lost it.
How to Turn Your Problems Into Strengths
Ask yourself two key questions:
- What does the competition say is a negative about your product or service?
- What do buyers see as negatives about your product?
Now, ask yourself how to address each concern honestly to turn it into an advantage in your website or sales process.
Versus and Comparisons
When you assume your future customers can access information about every competing product and solution, an opportunity opens up for you to publish an "unbiased" review of the options with the advantage of an insider's expertise.
Write down every question you've ever received from a prospect or customer asking you to compare two or more things.
Use disarmament to your advantage by eliminating all the big objections right out of the gate.
- Start by explaining why your solution isn't right for everyone and any trade-offs involved.
- Look for examples to show what's great about other solutions to consider.
- Honestly explain the pros and cons of each solution so your prospect can decide on their own.
Reviews & Best in Class
Are there "best in class" types of content you can produce in your industry?
Brainstorm the top competitors and companies in your space, then lay out the facts about what makes them stand out. Avoid opinion when talking about competitors on your site.
Adopt a Teaching Mindset Centered on Customers
Three Factors in a "Triangle of Influence" determine whether your company will embrace a "listening" mentality key to great inbound marketing:
- The competition — "I don't want the competition to use our information against us."
- The bad fits — "I don't want to scare customers away."
- The customer — The only group that truly matters.
Most companies won't embrace "They Ask, You Answer" effectively for two reasons:
- They're not thinking like teachers.
- They have a scarcity mentality.
"It's dumb not to dump it down... The moment a business or brand tries to sound smart is generally the moment they start to look stupid."
"Obsess not just over their questions, but the way you answer them. It will make all the difference."
Duties of a Content Manager in an Average Week
- Create at least three new pieces of content (5-15 hours)
- Email marketing (1-3 hours)
- Site analytics, SEO (3-5 hours)
- Social media engagement (1-2 hours)
- Premium content production: ebooks, webinars, etc. (3-5 hours)
- General website enhancements: New pages, CTA placement, etc. (2-4 hours)
- Continual education/training on marketing trends & tools (3-5 hours)
- Meeting with the sales team to discuss needed content, have trainings (2-4 hours)