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A Different Approach To Content Marketing with Marcus Sheridan | Ep. 177

BDD 177 | Content Marketing


One of the ways to attract and retain a potential or current customer is through content marketing wherein you provide them with valuable, consistent, and relevant content. Marcus Sheridan, content marketing expert and the author of the book They Ask You Answer, gives us more insight about what content marketing is and why we need to make them human-based. Marcus walks us through the time when his swimming pool company has been affected by The Great Recession in 2008 and how he used it as an opportunity to bounce back and recover through a different approach of content marketing. He shares the five subjects people are obsessed to ask that most businesses ignore and the importance of aligning those in our content. Marcus also touches on the role of video in doing content marketing.

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A Different Approach To Content Marketing with Marcus Sheridan

Our guest is one of the top experts on content marketing and customer experience. He’s the author of They Ask You Answer, which was named the number one marketing book by National. He’s now an international keynote speaker named by Forbes as one of the Top 20 Speakers You Do Not Want to Miss. He’s a rock star, a legend and a fireball of energy. I am pumped to welcome the one and only, Marcus Sheridan. I first met you at the Social Media Marketing World and listening to Scott McKain talk. We’re doing this weird exercise and then all of a sudden, I heard you speak and I was like, “This guy is unbelievable. One of the best speakers I’ve ever heard.” You’ve got to that point. Where I want to start is, we both started in similar situations. A few years ago, we were down to our last dollar. I had to sell our house. My wife and I were living on an air bed down to the last few dollars. You went through that during the recession. That changed the game for you and what you’re doing now. Can you share a little of context there?

I started a swimming pool company with two buddies in 2001. Things were going okay up until the economy crashes in 2008. Once the economy crashes, within the first 48 hours of the crash, we lost $250,000 in business. Over the coming weeks, it got worse and worse. By January of 2009, we’re going over the edge. I talked to three consultants and they all said the same thing, “You should file bankruptcy.” The problem was if I filed bankruptcy, I was going to lose my home. My two business partners will lose their homes. My sixteen employees at the time will lose their jobs. We had to figure out a way how to get back over that edge without spending any money to do it. That’s when I started to read about the internet. Also, as I look back on those times, it’s funny because so often we don’t do incredibly spectacular things in life and business until we are in trouble or peril. I look back on the crash as the turning point in my life. Professionally, it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It’s important that we remember that the next time any of us are going through something. I was like, “If you come through on the other side, there’s guaranteed growth.”

When you hit rock bottom, you have to define a new way to do things. It’s an assessment, which a lot of people don’t know. It conveys do you believe in what you’re doing? For us, it was like, “We better believe in this then we’re going all in.” It’s the same thing for you. You changed your approach. At that point, you’re at rock bottom. You said, “What we’re doing is not working,” you get into this content marketing. That’s what I want to share because it’s not what everyone thinks about content marketing. You had a whole different approach.

I was reading all these fancy phrases like inbound marketing, content marketing, digital, social and what I heard in my simple pool guy in mind at the time was, “Marcus, if you obsess over your customers’ questions and you’re willing to address them, whether they’re good, bad or ugly through texts and videos on your site, you might save your business.” If there’s one thing that I can do is I feel like I can communicate and teach. I brainstormed all the questions that we’d ever received about fiberglass pools. I had been selling them in homes for about several years. Each night, I would stay up late and I would write an answer to a question. It was a long answer. It was a very thorough explanation of it but I addressed questions that nobody in the industry had ever addressed. At this point in time, nobody had ever addressed how much does a fiberglass pool cost. Nobody had ever addressed that question and we could go into that subject easily.

Nobody had ever addressed the question fiberglass versus concrete pools. Nobody had ever addressed the question, what are the problems with fiberglass pools? Nobody had ever addressed the questions are fiberglass pools cheap or do they pop out of the ground or do they crack? All these, you would perceive them to be negative but, in reality, if you own that conversation, you have the possibility to induce the trust. We went all in. We became the Wikipedia pools and to make a long story short, and I’m sure we’ll backtrack on some, we became the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world. It saved the business. We got so many leads outside of our area of Virginia where we install the pools that I had a choice to either throw all those leads away from or I could do something with them. We started manufacturing pools as well. I took all the money that I made in 2009 and basically 2016, dumped it into a building and put it back into the business. We’ll manufacture about 550 fiberglass pools. We’ll probably be the largest manufacturer, not just installer, of fiberglass pools in the world within the next five years probably is where we’re trending right now.

[bctt tweet=”We don’t do incredibly spectacular things in life until we are in trouble.” via=”no”]

The big thing, Marcus, is that I love in your book, you’re like, “We need to all think like teachers.” One of the quotes you’re like, “Think like teachers, not business owners. Teachers see the world differently. They obsessed not just over the questions but the way you answer them. It will make all the difference.” “It’s dumb not to dumb it down,” which I love. I started thinking about our people. It’s like our Director of Ticket Sales. He said to me, “I’ve never felt like I sold a ticket in my three years I’ve been here. I’m educating them about our product because it’s so much dramatically different. I tell them about the all you can eat tickets and what to expect with the show. I’ve never felt like a salesperson.” I wonder how many salespeople can say that and we’re trying to teach people how to be teachers. How do you show that? How do you share?

I like to go into companies and I’ll say something like, “How would you all define content marketing?” Usually, there are all these terrible answers that are marketing-based and they’re not human based. We got to make them human based if it’s going to become a movement within the company. I learned a long time ago if you want to get something approved in a business, you call it sales. If you want to get rejected, you call it marketing. If you want to alienate your team, you use marketing-based phrases. The way that I’ve always defined in this case what some might call content marketing is our ability to be the best, most helpful teachers in the world at what we do. To your point, what does a teacher do? Number one, a teacher is not looking to sound smart. We have seen a video. We have read an article where you can tell the person was trying to sound smart.

The moment you do that, you start to alienate yourself from the audience. The only goal that I have with any communication is that communion with the audience, in this case. I never tried to sound smart. Number two is, the teacher that I always think about is the kindergarten teacher. Why? They know that if they try to sound smart, they’re going to speak above their audience. If Johnny in the back raises his hand and ignore the question. Most businesses ignore the most fundamental questions that their buyers ask every single day. What we found, I found this with River Pools and I found it with companies all over the world, there are basically five subjects that buyers are obsessed with that businesses don’t want to talk about.

In other words, they don’t have the person raised their hand. Those five subjects are and this is anybody that’s researched anything. It doesn’t matter what you sell, product or service, everything we’re talking about with this philosophy of They Ask You Answer doesn’t change the big, small, local or national service product. It’s the same deal. That when you have somebody researching something, here’s what they want to know. They want to understand the cost. Everybody wants to know. It doesn’t matter if you can afford it or not, you want to understand it because you hate surprises. As buyers now, we abhor surprises.

BDD 177 | Content Marketing
They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer

The second is we obsessed with understanding how could this thing blow up in my face? In other words, what are the negatives? What are the issues? What are the drawbacks? How could it go wrong? We want to understand it. The moment we start to think we want it, we say, “How could it go wrong?” With every single thing in the world that we sell, there’s a set of questions that buyers ask that are like, “Is it true that? I heard that? Someone told me that?” With the fiberglass pool, in my case, it was, “Do they crack? Are they cheap? Do they look like a bathtub? Do they pop out of the ground? What are the problems with them? Are they ugly? Can you not customize them?” I saw all these things so I have a choice. I can either address them or I can allow the competitors to do so or somebody else. I refuse to allow someone else to own conversations that are happening all the time. Those are the first two, cost and the problems.

The third subject that people are obsessed with is we love to compare stuff. Again, it doesn’t matter. It’s a service or product. We love to compare two or three things so as to say, “I made the best decision. I have vetted well. I have researched it properly.” In my case with pools, that might’ve been fiberglass versus concrete pools. It also might’ve been brushed concrete versus stamped concrete for my patio because that’s a question that we were getting all the time. Salt versus regular chlorine for my pool? I’m using right now a B2C example but again, at least, half the clients that I’ve worked with my agency are service-based businesses. It doesn’t change whether it’s a tangible product or not, it doesn’t change.

The fourth one is reviews. We could go on and on about that. People are obsessed with reviews. Therefore, you have a choice. You can either produce reviews or not, but again, somebody will. Let me give you an example of this. Bass Pro came to me and they said, “Marcus, we have this tracker line of boats and now we’re going to have a tracker line of ATVs, All-Terrain Vehicles. We want to follow They Ask You Answer. We’ve read the book and we believe in it. Where should we start?” I’m like, “Where we should start is reviews.” They’re like, “Reviews? You mean we should review our own stuff?” I said, “Yeah, because who understands your stuff as well as you do.” Not only should you review your stuff, but you should review competitors in your space. Not in the wrong way but in the right context. Speak to just facts and do an honest comparison. We did that and they’d gone off like, “It’s been amazing.” Finally, number five, people are obsessed with the best. We want to know when we are researching something. For example, what is the best type of swimming pool for my backyard? That’s a silly example, but that’s one example. Those are the five things, cost, problems, comparisons, reviews and best. We call them the big five. They run the economy but businesses, sadly, don’t like to talk about it.

Even when you were talking about the best, everything there it’s looking at you in some of the friction points that you go through. I was telling the team like, “Guys, parking.” When you come to a sporting event, parking is something like, “Is there parking? Where do I park?” For us, every day, “Will I find a seat? Are there seats?” We need to address that every single time. People are afraid to do it. You made a point earlier, too. Teaching is different. Marketing is about you. With teaching, if you’re a good teacher, it’s about the student, it’s about the person that you’re teaching. For us, it’s top marketing, start putting on a show because that’s what we’re all about, but it starts answering questions and start caring for your people. You’ve got those five areas. As the starting point, we talked about this in your speech, is write down the questions that you’re hearing from your customers. Is that as simple as that?

[bctt tweet=”Every single question that somebody is researching is a potential buyer.” via=”no”]

It really is that simple, which is why the sales team and anybody that’s customer-facing, should be involved in what you might call your editorial calendar or this content ideation process. Generally, they should be aligned with the big five. The reason why so many companies struggle with content and I have so many come to me and say, “I’ve been producing content. We’re not seeing traffic lead sales. Our industry is too saturated.” No. Here’s the litmus test. How can you know something is a good piece of content, especially those that are just getting into this? One question you have to ask yourself is, could the sales team or my customer servicing, could they use this piece of content now?

If it’s good, the sales team’s going to say, “I have been dealing with that question over and over again.” Finally, I have another tool in my toolbox that I can use. This is the litmus test. With so much content that gets produced, it’s fluffy stuff. Let me give you a dumb example. Again, I will go back to the pools because it’s easy. I’ve seen this before. Swimming pool companies might produce an article or do a video that’s like five fun games to play in your swimming pool. That’s nice but guess what? Nobody ever asked me. I was a pool guy for several years of my life and not once did somebody asked me, “Marcus, what are some fun games I could play in my swimming pool?” Although that might be something that people are researching, that’s not my buyer. You’ll have your chance to answer those fluffy questions. For your first few months of doing this, you focus on what will move the sales needle and what your customers want to know right now. You start at the bottom funnel and you work your way out. You don’t start at the outside of the funnel and work your way down. This is the great mistake that many companies make.

I had a realization, one of the bestselling books there is What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What if every company had a “what to expect when you’re expecting” to work with us? Every company, this is it. For us, I think about it like it’s a different experience. It’s not a baseball game, it’s a circus. Every ticket is all-inclusive. It’s a lot of different things. People were like, “What is this?” You have it laid out. You can have it in a written form and video as well. It’s simple. Marcus, why are companies not doing this?

There’s a set that is still living in 1995 if we’re being honest with ourselves, which is sad but true. In other words, they believe that consumer ignorance is a viable sales and marketing strategy and it no longer is. Because the buyers are not dumb. Even the uninformed, eventually will become informed. When you accept this reality, it gives you the ability to talk about things that nobody in your space could talk about. Let me give you an example. I once wrote an article that was wildly successful in my site, which was Who Are The Best Pool Builders in Richmond, Virginia Review/Ratings. I came up with a list of five of the best pool builders in the city of Richmond, which is one of my major areas. I listed my five biggest competitors. I wasn’t even on it. You want to say, “Why are we not on it?”

First off, they are reading the segment and they are on my website. Secondly, they quickly figure out by reading it like, “This is the guy that I trust.” You have to read it, go to Google Best Poll Builders Richmond, Virginia and read it for yourself. The point is the first year I did that article, it generated $150,000. Oftentimes when somebody is researching my competitors, let’s say Reviews XYZ Pools Richmond, Virginia, they’re going to learn about that competitor on my website. Again, every single question that somebody is researching that is a potential buyer of mine, I want to be a part of the conversation. That is the choice that I have. That is a fun choice to make and I have not seen the exception to this in the industry that I’ve worked with.

BDD 177 | Content Marketing
Content Marketing: The moment you’re willing to say what you are not in life is the moment you become dramatically more attractive to those who you are a good fit for.


After I read the book, I came and told our staff, “By the end of the week, every question you get asked, send me an email. Let’s put this in. Let’s build this. I had them do it and I was like, “Next week, let’s do it again.” I’m like, “They’re the same questions.” What our Director of Ticket Sales do, he did a whole ticket tutorial and put that together. It’s a game changer. You have to do it because we do content in a fun way and we believe every company is an entertainment company. You also not only entertain you need to answer questions.

Where I want to go now, Marcus is the power of video because what started as blogs for you and again, the point you made before, you weren’t a great writer, you weren’t great on video when you started. We have no idea what we were doing when we started here. You get better. You do and you learn, but with video, where it’s at right now? I’ve heard some statistics that by 2021, 85% of contents are going to be video. What’s the role that you’re working with companies because you were fired out about it?

I’m all in on video. In fact, a couple of years ago I went to my team. I have a swimming pool company and I have an agency. With my agency, I have about 65 employees. I started that because so many people said to me, “I could see how that would work for you as a pool guy, but I’m not sure it would work for me,” because everybody thinks they’re different, which is one of the great flaws of businesses. The most successful businesses that I run to around the world don’t sit there and say how different they are. They don’t say, “No, but we’re different so therefore, we’re the exception.” They say, “Fundamentally, we’re like everybody else because we’re like everybody else, our business is based on trust. Therefore, we’re going to obsess over that,” and they become very different.

You look at a video and it’s taking over the world. I went to my team and I said, “Is it possible to teach companies how to have a culture of video in house?” I’m like, “No, I don’t think so. They need to hire a video production company.” I’m like, “Do you think in 2019 and beyond that outsourcing all of your videos are going to be the future when we got teenagers all day long are doing their own videos? Why are they all of a sudden one day going to put the phone down and say, “This isn’t inefficient. I’m going to outsource it to somebody else?” It doesn’t make any sense and it’s economical.

Most people think that video production is so expensive. When you insource it, it is incredibly cost-effective, especially as a sales tool first because when you look at video for the majority of businesses you said, “First, let’s integrate it as a sales tool and marketing and branding element for the business. That’s how you would want to view it. You start with sales and again, you moved to the marketing and branding side of things. What we discovered as we worked with companies helping them to develop this culture of video is there are basically seven types of videos. That if you create these, they will have the greatest impact on the sales process.

[bctt tweet=”You can have fun and do something memorable and not spend a ton of money.” via=”no”]

I can tell you one other thing about this. The number one video that companies produce that makes the least amount of revenue that has the lowest ROI in most cases is the About Us video. You know this by the fact that if anybody has a sales team and you’ve never heard a salesperson, for the most part, say, “I can’t wait for our About Us video. It’s going to help me address many of these questions and doubts and worries that my buyers have.” It doesn’t. What are the videos that move the needle? The first one is what we call the 80% video. It is a video that addresses the 80% most repeated questions you get asked all the time. If you have multiple products, what you want to do is brainstorm the most common questions you get on those most popular services or products that you sell. You want to choose the top seven questions for each one and you create a mashup video of those seven questions being answered on video that you send out to the prospect as soon as they get essentially into the funnel.

Your case with ticket sales, as soon as somebody says, “I’ve got questions about ticket sales,” you’ve already got a video that’s made that you know is going to address those top 80%. The other thing about that is one of the problems that so many people have in business is let’s say that person comes to you and ask questions about ticket sales, but they have to go to other decision makers on the team and answer their questions. They don’t do nearly as good of a job being the messenger as they do the listener. What you want is a video that they can deliver to the other decision-makers that are going to address the major questions that they have as well.

Another one is the bio video. It is a quick video that gives a little bit about you personally and professionally, but the key is that you put it in your email signature. Email signatures are grossly underutilized. One of the easiest things that you can do to help people hear your voice, see your face and get to know you better is by putting a bio video in your email signature. The best tools that I’ve seen for that is a super simple tool called Wisestamp. It’s a great email signature tool. They have one for teams. They’ve got a free version. They’ve got a pro version. I highly recommend it. The third type of video is product service pages. On every major product or service page you have on your site, you want to have at least one specific video that addresses that product or that service. Here’s the key. It’s got to have two parts. The first part is who the product is for or who the services are for and the problem it solves, etc. The second part is who that product or service is not a good fit for? This is so stinking fundamental.

On that note, we posted an ad on who should not apply for this job. Whenever we do that, we tell people who should not work for us every single time.

It cuts to the chase and the moment you’re willing to say what’s you’re not in life, is the moment you become dramatically more attractive to those who you are a good fit for.

Is this for every product? For a retail company or even for us, we sell 50 different merchandise items. How specific do you suggest getting on that stuff?

This is going to be one of those where I think there are times when you don’t necessarily need to say it, but if there are clear reasons why somebody would be debating a particular product. For example, you have special team activities at the stadium. That would be a perfect case of what types of companies really get the most out of this and what types are probably not the ideal fit for this type of activity. That type of one where there’s a lot of decision making going into it. If it’s a granular thing, I probably wouldn’t worry about it so much. Either way, let your questions from the buyers be the guide.

Number four is a video on your landing pages next to your forms that somebody can fill out on your website. There are basically four major fears that we have when we fill out forms. Number one, are you going to spam me to death? Number two, are you going to call me to death? Number three, what are you going to do with my information? It’s a privacy concern. Number four, what’s going to happen if I fill out this form? It’s very similar to what you said, “What’s going to happen when?” What to expect when you’re expecting is the same thing here. Here’s what we found. This is a magical super simple quick technique and it can be a game-changer in terms of your lead generation.

You put a video immediately next to that contact us form or get a quote form or whatever type of form it is. With that video, you’ve got to have a title that’s very clear. Otherwise, people aren’t going to click on the video because they don’t understand why it’s there. The title is key as well. It should sound something like this, “See exactly what will happen if you fill out this form.” What a lot of people will do is they’ll say something like the title will be, “Why you should fill out this form?” That’s not right because if you say why you should fill out this form that denotes you’re biased. We do this all the time in business. For example, a lot of copy on websites are wrong. Sometimes you’ll see people say, “What makes us special?” That’s actually not the right way to say it. The better way to say it is, “Are we any different than anybody else?”

You should also know what your brand is. For instance, what will happen when you fill out this form? It goes to a video of us, “They filled out the form!” All of us in banana costume celebrating, throwing things, going crazy and having a party. After the celebration, this is what happens. Again, it fits your brand how you answered, it doesn’t have to be all serious. That’s probably a key component, too.

[bctt tweet=”The more you celebrate your employees, the more they become aligned and loyal to your brand.” via=”no”]

We had this one where the guy that filled out a form on our site, he did this video where he brings this whole stack of mail and he’s like, “I’m sorry, I’m late. I’ve been busy reading Marcus’ fan mail from around the world.” He makes this big joke out of it, “Marcus is the Mother Teresa of content marketing.” This was his idea and I let him go with it. I didn’t even see it until the end. It was so funny and people who watched it, they said, “You’ve got personality. We like you guys.” If you see it with my swimming pool company, it’s the same thing. If you get a chance, go to my pool website. Go to the Contact Us page and you’ll see a video next to the contact desk or get a product or get a quote form. You’ll see my videographer. He’s very funny. There’s a couple of Easter eggs in the video that you might spot. It’s this real. It’s good stuff and it works. We have found consistently with our clients that if they put a video like this next to that form on their site, they’ll get an 80% lift on average of the total conversions for that particular form. Can you imagine getting double the number of people filling out your Contact Us page?

The only reason people aren’t doing it because of fear. You have to answer this question, why are people not doing it? Because it’s such a no-brainer.

There are misnomers to that, too. People are saying, “I’m not good on video.” That’s the biggest lie in the history of Earth because if you go to any salesperson or if you go to most people that are customer facing like yourself and this has never been a problem for you. Here’s the first question you want to ask your team. I love to ask salespeople, “Are you good with people?” 100% of the time they say, “I’m good with people.” The problem is we don’t see the camera as a customer. The moment you see the camera as a real person, everything starts to change. It’s game over moment. I have found a very small amount of training, most people are very good on camera.

We’ve done four so far, the 80% video, bio video, product service and the landing pages. What are the last few?

Customer journey videos, you don’t want written reviews on your site. Show me the whole journey. In your case, I’m sure you have this, but let’s say you have the journey of it’s the parent and they’re saying, “I was trying to think of a way for us to get together as a family, have fun, not spend a ton of money and do something memorable. I wanted to do something different.” Suddenly, they transition over. Then you have them walking that journey of what they went through at the game, the reaction of the kids and you have the end part of the video where they talk about, “As I reflect back on it, this is what I got out of the experience.”

BDD 177 | Content Marketing
Content Marketing: Most companies are so traditional while most marketers are trying to be more progressive that you have this dichotomy which is a very bad thing.


There are always three parts of these journey videos. It’s the problem they had like where they were, the journey they went on with you and your company, and where they ended up. It’s super simple and effective. I find that most people if you do a good job for them, would love to be in these. We are not a good fit for in and of itself is a very good one. The last one is you want to have cost price videos as well. Don’t do it in text. You have to address the questions of cost and price in videos. Although we didn’t talk a lot about cost and price because a lot of people are thinking, “You don’t understand, Marcus.”

If you read the book, They Ask You Answer, I go to the psychology behind this but ultimately what you have to at least do when you talk about cost and price, you have to teach people what drives costs up and what keeps it down, help them understand their options and make sure they don’t have any surprises. You don’t have to put a definitive price list per se of yourself, which you do have to be willing to address it. Somebody like you is probably going to be a lot more specific with pricing because you sell tickets. Other companies that sell services, they might not give the exact pricing, but they should at least give ranges. They should talk about the factors that are going to drive it up and down in the industry. Now the person says, “I understand that’s the key to addressing cost and price.”

You do a great example of that because I am doing a lot of speaking now and a lot of live workshops. I looked at Joey Coleman‘s website and he’s got specific prices on there. While you, I noticed is you have ranges of what it’s like to get a certain level of a speaker, but you don’t specifically list it. You give the education of this is a $5,000 speaker, this is a $10,000 speaker. Was there a conscious decision on that because that’s a tough thing? I’m going through it, “Should I put my exact prices?”

In my case because sometimes people say, “Marcus, you didn’t put your prices to your point.” I actually did about 2,000 words on how much a keynote speaker costs. It is extremely thorough. It does a great job of educating someone who’s like, “I see how this all works.” In my case, there are times when I’ll charge X and there are other times when I charge Y. That’s the reason why I don’t have super specifics on there. I’ll do a couple of pro-bono events per year. I’ll do some events at a much lower rate because I’m looking to get into the industry. I have other events where I’ve been in that industry, I’m in high demand so the price is going to scale out. My pricing model is much closer to what an airline charges than what a traditional product is. It’s almost the same thing every single time. Based on what the person says to us, that’s what we ended up charging. Either way, at least I’ve given them a great sense. I said, “This is what I’m dealing with here.”

We’re going to have a couple of games. I created a new one for you. This is a They Ask You Answer Showdown but I’m making it into video based. I’m going to name a type of industry. You can maybe suggest one unique, fun, different video they could do and you can throw one back at me, realtor.

[bctt tweet=”You don’t need to sound smart to be viewed as incredibly intelligent.” via=”no”]

I would do one on the schooling system. I would do a complete review of the different schooling systems in that area because this is the number one question that parents want to know as they move into an area. It’s a powerful subject and almost no realtors do it. My industry for you is medical marijuana.

That’s so far out of my element. I would think a feature on someone, a unique story that’s more produced on the impact that it’s made on their life. That’s a serious feature. You could also do a fun one. What would you do on that one?

I would do a “who is medical marijuana for and not for” because people are living in a state of ignorance about it. They’re wondering, “I’ve got pain. Is this something I should be considering?” That’s what they’re asking. The beauty behind it, if you simplify it down to what is the issues, worries, concerns, fears, in this case, the buyer, then you can quickly find something that’s very original. It’s like, “That makes total sense,” but nobody’s done it. You don’t see these medical marijuana companies.

I’m throwing another one at you, YMCA, maybe specifically because this group has been talking to me a lot. They run sports programs for the kids. What’s a video you would do for a YMCA running sports programs?

On this one, I would go to a major problem that parents are having, which is kids disconnecting and improving their physical and therefore mental health through exercise. I would do a series of interviews with the participants of the program that specifically talked about how did this make me feel by disconnecting from my phone over the course of an hour and doing this exercise and this game? Parents would be nodding their head the whole time saying, “That’s exactly what I want for my child.”

Is there one other company or industry that maybe stands out that did a unique video that you worked with and you saw and you’re like, “This killed it?”

I had a good one. It’s going to sound potentially plain but it was a metal roofing manufacturer and they said, “We’ve got two buyers, builders and homeowners that are looking to get a metal roof. How do we do something for both?” They said, “Why don’t we create a video that shows a documentary of a customer getting quotes from different builders. Therefore, teach the homeowner how the quoting process works for getting a new roof while at the same time teaching builders how different types of builders give quotes.”

It’s thinking outside the box a little bit, but also bring it in and say, “What do people need to know?” It’s about our people. If you’re going back to your team and you want to get buy-in, how would you suggest getting the best buy-in?

A few of these are going to sound self-serving, but this is a major problem that you said. The number one email that I’ve received over the course of almost ten years writing and speaking about digital sales and marketing comes from marketers who are frustrated, who are about to leave their job. They’re frustrated because they feel handcuffed that they can’t exercise their creative juices. If somebody works for you, the more creative the better but that’s a rarity. That’s an anomaly. Most companies are so traditional and most marketers that are trying to be more progressive. What happens is you have this dichotomy of ones and it’s a very bad thing. You’ve got to last for marketers who still explain it to their team, but they get pushed back. The reason is you can be a prophet to the world, but nobody listens to you in your hometown.

What you have to do is you have to educate your leadership through another means and there are different means. One means is by having them read a book and that sounds so silly but it’s so freaking true. I wrote They Ask You Answer not for marketers. I wrote it for CEOs that are hardheaded because now they had a tool for these marketers to get by. Another thing is, generally speaking when you go to all these events, the fact that you as a CEO were at Social Media Marketing World is rare. Usually, the marketers there and the CEO is not. This is why you’re killing it whereas others struggle because you were there, you had the ideas. They’ve got to get to the events. They’ve got to read the books. I do a lot of in-house workshops to get the buy-in. This is a big problem. What you can do is you can send out an email that says, “Let’s start answering all of our customers’ questions and be more transparent than anybody else in our space.” Generally, that’s met with pushback.

If you put into people’s perspective, what we’re looking at is we’re saying, “We also want to make you even more well-known.” We’re doing Facebook Lives every single day. We have Ticket Talks. We talk about where we’re doing. We have Trivia because now in this video culture, it’s not answering the questions, but it’s showing off the people behind the brand because people buy from people. They don’t buy from these silly brands. One of the favorite videos that I would get so excited about when you share was the bio videos. We want to know who you are. That’s a win-win. You can also be a part of this. It’s not about the CEO and the company, it’s about you.

How many companies are using the phrase, “It’s our people that make us different?” This is the most prolific catchall phrase I’m hearing from businesses. It’s condescending in some ways because that’s like saying, “Somehow the humans that work for you are superior to everybody else,” which is funny. It’s not until you show your people in action and people can hear their voice, they can hear their story, they can watch them and that they’re able to say, “Their people are different.” Chick-fil-A employees are incredibly different acting but they’re not different people. Everybody says they’re different. Why? Because we’ve experienced the fact that they always say, “My pleasure.” They do all those things that they do. The same thing with these brands that it feels like people are real. It’s a completely different experience. Can we show that experience that they achieve at the ballpark? Can we show that beforehand? I believe in many ways we can and we can do so much of a better job. The last one I make about this, the more you show your employees, the more you celebrate them, the more they become aligned and loyal to your brand.

Marcus, I’ve been grilling you and asking you a lot of questions. We’re now doing Flip the Script. You can ask me one question.

What was the biggest mistake you’ve made in business in the past years?

I skipped so much over all the failures. We have a lot of them. I don’t even think about that but clarity. The sense that we’re jumping from thing to thing to thing and I’m this crazy idea guy that sometimes I tell my staff with all different things. We’ve probably had some missteps here and there. Several ago was the biggest misstep when we tried to be like everyone else. We came into the city. I wasn’t wearing the yellow tux because I was too scared in the beginning. We were trying to market like everyone else. We said, “No, we’re going all in on this crazy brand, The Bananas.” For us, whenever we aren’t our real selves, we’re bonkers. Some people aren’t going to like us. Baseball fans hate us because we’re not a baseball game.

We say we’re very clear, we’re a circus when a baseball game breaks out. I think any time that we try to look at what someone else is doing may be in the industry and try to be like that, that is a colossal failure. We’ve done some of that because it’s scary to go so far in the other direction. I’m moving on because you can get me going for a while but questions are everything. If you want better answers in business, you need to ask better questions. That’s what you preach. What are some of the best questions right now? If you could have questions that you’re asking people, what are you asking?

In terms of digital, I like to ask questions like, “How often do your sales and marketing team meet together and share ideas?” You learn a ton about a company with that simple question right there. I also ask, “How often does your leadership team attend events with the Marketing Department?” I know exactly how bought in they are after I get that answer. I’d say those are two right there.

What’s one thing you’ve done to stand out in business and in life?

The biggest thing that I’ve done as a speaker is I got off the stage and I had a conversation with the audience and everybody said, “They’re not going to like that and they’re going to feel like you’re invading their space.” The beauty is even though less than 5% feel that way, the other 95% say, “This is one of the more invigorating experiences that I’ve ever had with a speaker.”

You singled out fifteen or twenty people in a conversation in one 45-minute keynote. It was extremely powerful. Your four kids, if you were to give them advice as they go off into the professional world, what would you tell your kids?

My advice to my kids is the Mark Twain, “Never let your schooling get in the way of your education.” We’re obsessed with education, but I’m definitely not obsessed with schooling in the wrong context.

What are some of the best advice you’ve received? I don’t know if you had certain mentors or certain coaches in your life but something that stands out for you.

The one I said earlier, it’s the big one that is you don’t need to sound smart to be viewed as incredibly intelligent. When I released that from all my writing, from all my communications that were massive. The other one for me is how as a speaker, as a teacher, as a presenter, it’s not my goal to tell the audience. My goal is to help them discover the thing that I’m trying to tell them before I tell it to them.

Finally, Marcus, how do you want to be remembered?

If I had to choose them, it would say, “He was a great teacher,” and I’ll be very satisfied.

You shared new insights for me after hearing you speak. I can’t thank you enough. They Ask You Answer was the last book that I bought multiple copies for our team. We have a Better Book Club. We pay everyone on our team to read. We paid out thousands of dollars. Reading is everything for us and that was the last book. It was a no-brainer for our whole team to read. You got to check that out. Marcus, where else can they learn from you? and if you’re like, “I didn’t understand one thing they said,” email me directly. It’s [email protected]. I’ll answer your questions. Jesse, this was fun. I adore what you’re doing. I can’t wait to bring my kids to one of your games.

We’d love to have you. You are a game-changer. Thanks again, Marcus.

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About Marcus Sheridan

BDD 177 | Content Marketing

Today Marcus Sheridan is a highly sought-after international keynote speaker known for his unique ability to excite, engage and motivate live audiences with his simple, yet powerful transformational business approach. Marcus has been dubbed a “Web Marketing Guru” by the New York Times and in 2017 Forbes names Marcus one of 20 “Speakers You Don’t Want to Miss.” Not one to be limited to the stage, Marcus is most often found walking through the crowd, calling audience members by name, and bringing them into his presentation.

As author of the content marketing guidebook, “They Ask, you Answer,” Marcus has not only inspired thousands to achieve their potential but has given them the tools they need to get there. Mashable rated his book the “#1 Marketing Book” to read in 2017. Forbes listed it as one of “11 Marketing Books Every CMO Should Read.” Marcus has been featured in the New York Times, Inc., The Globe and Mail, Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, and more. He has inspired thousands of audiences and helped millions of people from all over the world to achieve their own success with his “They Ask, You Answer” philosophy.