When I first started to transition from my teaching career into the world of content marketing and social media, one of the first names I encountered was Marcus Sheridan. I started reading his blog posts and learned about his story: he’d grown his business, River Pools & Spas, in a big way with content marketing. As I read about all of this, I started to understand what content marketing was all about. And not only that, but I also found it all very exciting. As someone who’d always held a special place in her heart for publishing, I found his site inspiring in the sense that I couldn’t wait to start creating and publishing my own content.
Sheridan’s site is about so much more than just blog posts, after all. When you arrive, you’re greeted with a variety of content – much of it above the fold – so right away you know that you’re in the company of someone who really gets content marketing.
That’s four different kinds of major content above the fold, and it’s laid out well, so it doesn’t seem overwhelming at all.
Something else I learned along the way is that you find these people, with fantastic sites like this, and you think that there’s so much you could learn from them. So you reach out – often through social media – only to never receive a reply back. Marcus Sheridan is not one of those people. Not even close. In fact, I’d venture so far as to say that he’s one of the most approachable people out there!
So naturally I was thrilled when he agreed to talk to me a bit about content marketing – his experiences with it, as well as what advice he had for others. Here is the interview:
Renee: When you first started creating and marketing content for River Pools & Spas, did you know that’s what you were doing? Were content marketing and SEO familiar terms to you, or was it something that you realized after the fact?
Marcus: I really didn’t know what I was doing, other than I wanted to start answering consumer questions. I wasn’t scientific in my approach at all. I took every question I’d ever received and turned it into a title of a blog post, and then answered the questions. I didn’t use Google Keyword at all, as the simple act of “listening” was my great keyword tool.
Because of this long-tail approach, the SEO worked, and our traffic and leads grew accordingly. So although I slightly knew of SEO and Content Marketing, I didn’t “Know” them until I actually got down and dirty with writing and analyzing the results.
Renee: It’s been said that content marketing can substitute/satisfy up to 80% of the sales process. Would you agree or disagree with that statement?
Marcus: I agree 100%. In fact, the number is higher than that. I’ve sold $50,000 pools on the phone, never having met the person face to face, but because they watched all my videos, read all my articles—the trust was there. Content is the greatest sales tool in the world. Period.
Renee: As a follow up to that question, how do you think content marketing has changed the sales process, even just in the last five years or so?
Marcus: It has for me. Now I require people to read my content before I’ll give them a quote on anything. Content is the great filter, but it also is the great advancer when it comes to the sales process.
Renee: Did you notice a change in website traffic and sales soon after you started creating content for River Pools & Spas, or was it more of a gradual increase over time?
Marcus: It really started to pop after 3 months. And within a year, I knew we were going to be huge. Now granted, the swimming pool industry wasn’t saturated with content at the time, so it was ripe for the picking.
Renee: You have been very successful with content marketing. What keeps you motivated and excited about doing it?
Marcus: Simple–Content marketing saved my business. It also saved the jobs of my employees. It has brought me financial peace and allows me to spend more time with my wife and four kids. That alone is enough to make any man or woman passionate about a subject.
Renee: Do you think your customers are drawn to that enthusiasm as well as the excellent content? In other words, do you think it’s important for a company or solopreneur to let their personalities shine through in their content?
Marcus: I think it’s huge. You’ve got to be the opposite of a boring college professor. You not only need passion, and lots of it, but you need enthusiasm as well. You’ve got to push and push and push, and be relentless. And this is exactly why many aren’t successful with content marketing—they simply don’t love what they’re writing about and what they do.
Renee: You run a great site with lots of helpful content over at The Sales Lion. Do you use an editorial calendar when planning your content, or do you base it off of what your customers want to read/breaking news/lightening strikes of inspiration?
Marcus: I have no articles stored up, just ideas in my head. I typically post 2 times a week as inspiration hits, and it’s a rhythm that fits me well. 🙂
Renee: Do you have a favorite kind of content to create?
Marcus: I love sarcastic, opinionated pieces. They’re easily the most enjoyable for me to write. I also really enjoy writing a good list post here and there.
Renee: Is there a certain kind of “rising” content (video, infographics, etc.) that you think is one to watch for content marketers?
Marcus: I think podcasting is really on the rise. I also think, at least stylistically, we’re learning to write like we talk, and not be so dang boring and lifeless.
Renee: What are the biggest challenges content marketers face?
1. Giving CM the time it deserves.
2. Thinking like a consumer, NOT as a business owner.
3. Being fearless in the face of those that disagree.
4. Learning to allow their staff to be a part of the content creation process.
Renee: How do you work to overcome these challenges?
Marcus: It’s cliche, but you’ve just got to write and write and write and push the envelope while you do it. No “breaks” allowed in the world of content marketing…at least not if you want to be great.
Renee: It’s Day 1 of my content marketing journey. What advice would you give me?
Marcus: Write down every single question you’ve ever heard asked about your product or service in complete sentence form.
Once you reach 50 questions, turn each into 50 titles of your first 50 blog posts….and then start writing. 🙂
Thank you, Marcus! We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us!
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