Adapting to ever-changing times is essential, especially from a business perspective. In this episode, Jesse Cole talks with Marcus Sheridan about marketing differently during uncertain times, particularly during this COVID pandemic. Marcus, is a sought-after international keynote speaker and web marketing guru. Today, he shares some tips on how you can add more value to your businesses even through unusual times. He also expands on the three major things that your homepage should have right now. Listen to his advice and start growing your business at home through your homepage and social media accounts.
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Marketing Differently During Uncertain Times With Marcus Sheridan
I am fired up to have Marcus Sheridan back. Episode 177 is one of the most popular episodes we had. He’s the author of They Ask You Answer, an international speaker and self-proclaimed former pool boy as well. Marcus, I’m pumped to have you at this challenging time.
I’m happy to be here. It is a challenging time, but pain leads to innovation. It did in 2008 and it certainly is and will more so in 2020. I’m excited to be here.
One of the most popular quotes from the first episode that you said, “We don’t do incredibly spectacular things in life until we are in trouble.” I was like, “Here we go, let’s do it.” I’ve got to have you back and share for everyone that’s going through it. I believe you can either play defense, you can play offense. You are the one that likes to play offense, get ahead and make things happen. Even from the speaking, the pool, other companies you work with, what are you doing right now?
I know some don’t know my story. In 2008, we are going to lose our swimming pool company and we ended up embracing this philosophy called They Ask You Answer. We became prolific online. We became like the Wikipedia or the WebMD of pools. We hit the most traffic swimming pool website in the world and that’s all because of 2008. I tell people all the time that other than my wife and four kids, 2008 was the greatest blessing of my life. I very intentionally came into 2020 once all this stuff hit the fan and everything was going wrong.
I said, “I’m going to make this a catalyst event for my life.” I do believe that making a statement like that at the beginning of it is a big deal. Do you know how we have vision boards? It’s critical that we have a vision board for something like this. It could be a stated vision, but something that you wrote down at least at a minimum that essentially says what you’re trying to get out or from this experience. In other words, what I said my vision for this was when COVID passes, when we’re through this period, I want people to say to me, “Marcus, that time sucked, but I knew if I came to you then I was going to receive some learning and I was going to experience hope.”
That’s my vision for what’s happening. That’s the thing that’s driving me in my tonality. Instead of the moments when I want to be maybe a little bit frustrated. I am choosing to find the positivity because this is the vision that I have. There seems to be a little bit of a debate because first of all, none of us have ever gone through this. I’ve heard many people say, “If you don’t want to do anything now, if you want to watch Netflix, give yourself that mental health day and watch Netflix.” I’m thinking to myself, “We’ve got to have a worthy cause.” What gets us out of depression are worthy causes. There’s a reason why the system of Alcoholics Anonymous works so well.
It goes beyond you helping yourself because you sponsor someone else. That’s the beauty of AA. This is also why that action allows us to find ourselves because we get engaged in worthy causes. My son was kneeling next to his bed. His phone was on the bed. He was looking down at it. I noticed he was doing something. I was like, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m eliminating all the apps on my phone right now that are negatively affecting me.” He’s sixteen. He’s got a good soul. I said, “Which ones are you eliminating?” He was like, “Let me give an example. TikTok, I’ve noticed every single time I get off of it, I don’t feel better. Even though I might get sucked in, I don’t feel better. I’m eliminating it from my phone right now.”What gets us out of depression are worthy causes. Click To Tweet
That’s the mindset that I have. The other mindset that I have is it’s not my goal to pick up another TV show during COVID-19. I go to social media. I see people saying, “Do you have any recommendations for shows?” I was thinking to myself, “We’ve got this amazing opportunity. I’ve got this opportunity to learn stuff right now that I haven’t thought about before or haven’t done before, that have been prompting me. Now is my chance to do that because I’m not going from airplane to Uber to stage. I’ve got this time to be able to do this, I’ll take advantage of it.”
My rule is during this time, I am only allowed to watch TV while I’m on the treadmill. That’s the standard. If I’m on the treadmill, I could watch sixteen hours of TV straight, but I’ve got to be on the treadmill. That’s the deal that I’ve made with myself. It’s the standard that I’ve said. It’s managed to work well. The last thing is this whole component of pain leads to innovation. For years with my pool company, I’ve said to our sales team, “How come we don’t do virtual selling? Why don’t we sell via video?” We had these reasons like, “We’ve got to see the yard, Marcus.” “Could we do it? Could we do this?” Instead of driving two hours to wherever they are sitting in their home for a couple of hours, driving back two hours, maybe getting one appointment in a day, two max because of time.
As soon as COVID happened, we added on our form on our website, “Would you like a virtual sales experience?” It’s a simple question. Suddenly, everybody started saying yes. Lo and behold, now all of a sudden, our sales team is able to give 3 to 4 sales appointments in a day and still eat dinner with the kids. That is amazing. That’s not going to go away. All of a sudden, they realize there are all these inherent benefits to these virtual sales appointments via Zoom. That’s the platform that we use, but video conferencing. You might say, “How do you pull it off?”
We created a video that teaches homeowners how to take photos of their driveway, their side yard in their backyard to be able to allow us to see what they would show us if we came out to their house. We don’t have to go to the house in order to see the backyard and give them a definitive price. It’s unbelievably efficient. Jesse, when this is done, let’s say we’re a year removed from COVID, I guarantee you at worst case, at least 50%, probably 75% of our sales appointments are still going to be virtual because of what’s happened. What a wonderful innovation.
You were talking about basically, consumption versus creating and at this time create over consume, and you said, “We’re going to create this. We’re going to put it out. We’re going to make it happen.” At the beginning, you talked about a couple of words that stand out and for you, learning and hope. For us, it’s fun and optimism. That’s why we immediately started having our staff, our fans do music videos, getting engaged and doing things that we could put out and entertain. That’s what we wanted to show. What are the words that you want people thinking about you, and then reverse engineer what that means from a creation standpoint? That’s what they can take from that.
That’s the end goal. For me, learning and hope. For you, fun and optimism. We can latch onto those as a business. As a brand, we can say, “Whatever this thing that we’re going to try to do right now, does it align with that?” The beauty is once you have those, you can say, “It doesn’t align. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to post that.”
You didn’t get everyone on board. Everyone in our team is an entertainer to produce more fun and optimistic ideas in entertainment. Everyone’s a producer in content. You’ve got to start with what’s that vision forward. For us, we painted the vision of opening night and how people are running into the stadium. The entire stadium is singing the National Anthem louder than you’ve ever heard of before, as an ambulance is flying the field and nurses get outside of the ambulance and they are lined up with the players. We’re giving a deafening round of applause and paint that visual so that people feel like they’re part of something. That’s what we’re working towards.
We’re showing content to keep people entertained and have fun and content. This goes into why people resonate with you so much, Marcus, is that you give such great practical advice. When you talk about marketing, it’s not marketing the way it is. It’s content to serve value and serve your people. I’d love to get into that marketing strategy, which is even more relevant than ever before. What are those things that you’re doing that people can say, “I should be doing more of this, not selling, but serving, adding value?”
When it comes to general marketing, now is the time to fill the seller. What inevitably happens during times like this is what people will do in organizations is they’ll cut marketing because they purely see it, flawed thinking here, as an expense. Because of that, this means there’s a glut of opportunity in the marketplace because now there’s a void of content. What we are seeing is amazing in terms of people are very much interested in buying at a minimum, learning about something. They can’t always buy, but they can learn.
If you’re reading this and you are on LinkedIn, make sure you connect with me. I posted a stat and it has to do with the numbers that we’re seeing that will blow your mind in terms of what’s happening in the marketplace for us. It’s wild because the buyer is willing to spend the time. Here are the stats that I shared. My swimming pool company received 406 sales qualified lead. This is because of They Ask You Answer and if you read the previous episode, you know what that is. It’s the fact that we became the Wikipedia pools essentially.
Of this group, here’s where it gets interesting. One hundred eighty-seven of the 406 have viewed twenty or more pages of the website. One hundred twenty-two of the 406 leads have viewed 30 or more pages of the website. That’s 30% of the leads have viewed more than 30 pages of the website. If that isn’t some junk, I don’t know what is. That shows you that people are spending tremendous time learning about that thing. They might not be able to make that purchase, but they’re learning. The question is when they come to your site, are they fed? Do they get the meat and the potatoes or is it a Jenny Craig meal? We need to associate the marketplace, the viewer, the reader, whoever that is because we’re willing to feed them what they want, what’s on their menu, the questions, the worries, the fears, all of those that they have that we’re willing to give it to them. That’s one of the things that we can do.
A lot of us, and we struggle with this, we do a lot of our content producing on social media. We’re very heavy on social media.
You’re very social, great B2C organization. It’s very social. It makes total sense.
I would say our website is lacking. We don’t put everything on our website. A lot of people may think always marketing social first but not as their hub where people can buy from, whether it’s for us, merchandise tickets, etc. What would you suggest for someone that’s maybe more social media, fun, little entertaining? On our standpoint, if you were a baseball team or someone else that maybe doesn’t have a pool where it’s such an educational component, it’s such a big purchase. What would you suggest because I’m thinking about this constantly? I wish our website could get more traffic. What would you be putting out there?Some companies these days try to be the jack-of-all-social-media-trades but end up being the master of none. Click To Tweet
I don’t think you’re necessarily doing it the wrong way because you’re such a brand that to your point is not purely educational. I would be leaning more to your point, into the thing like “I’d have a wonderful YouTube page.” YouTube in so many ways is that visual experience and I would be doubling down on my YouTube visual experience. Would all of those be available to see on the site? Yes, but YouTube would still be the hub. Would those videos be the ones that I’m potentially posting on social? Yes, they would be. The mistake that companies make sometimes is they try to be social media trades or digital marketing trades and they end up being a master of none. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that you recognize. In fact, it’s good that you recognize. We need to be incredibly fun. We need to be very visual and we need to crush on certain social media platforms. You as the speaker, you do great on LinkedIn. The baseball team is not rocking it on LinkedIn. It’s not happening.
Know your main area and going on it. Putting this into context, you’re doubling down more on even educational in different ways.
Let me give an example. On LinkedIn, I’ve moved to at least five posts a week. I was doing probably three before. I’m trying to be there daily for my audience and my reach is growing fast on the platform. I’m also doing things like leaning into what is happening. Let me give one tip. This is important for everybody who’s reading this. This is critical for every business. I think this could be one of the best takeaways of the show. If your website is the same right now as it was 45 days ago, you’re off track, especially your homepage. Your homepage should not look right this second like it did 45 days ago pre-COVID. What should it have? There are three major things that your homepage should have right now that it didn’t have 45 days ago.
Number one, it should have a statement of essentially empathy and awareness regarding COVID. Number two, it should show or explain clearly the state of your business. What does that mean? There are a lot of people that are wondering, “Are you open for business and to what context are you open?” The mistake that a lot of businesses make is we assume that they know that our whole staff knows. That’s not the case. They don’t necessarily know. They don’t know if your retail shop is closed. Are you open for an appointment only? Are you open for anybody? Are there unique hours? We don’t know those things. That should be clear.
The number three, and you may have had this before, but never has it been more important to do this the right way. You definitively show front and center how they can engage you right now. Let give you some examples. Let’s go back to the homepage headline thing that we were talking about. On my swimming pool website, the headline that you will find that again, you want to show empathy. You want to show that you’re open for business or however that looks for you. If you’re close, you might say, “We’re ready to roar in whatever.” In my case, the big headline says, “Create a staycation in your backyard.” That’s the first part of this headline. The second part, find joy in turbulent times. There’s the empathy, recognition of what’s going on. The third part, we are here for you. Create a staycation in your backyard. That is one of the movements that are happening because of COVID. People are investing in their homes more. I am trying to control the conversation of staycation.
Two, I’m saying find joy in turbulent times. Three, we are open for you. We have three clear buckets that they can design their pool on our website and get a price or they can schedule a virtual video sales call with a design team member. They can do those three things. I’ve got a friend that’s a retailer in Boston, Massachusetts. His name is Steve Sheinkopf. He’s in the book, They Ask You Answer and an amazing company, YaleAppliance.com. If you go to their homepage, you’re going to see a headline says, “During these trying times, we are here for you.” Empathy and awareness, we are here for you. We’re still open. They show you exactly how you can engage them. Here’s what’s so powerful. One example of what Steve did, he’s got a clear big phone number right there and it says, “We are now open for phone calls from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM a night.” Thirteen hours a day, they are receiving phone calls. They have their sales team manning the phones. That’s powerful.
They’re getting 130 phone calls a day as a kitchen appliance retailer in Boston. Their live chat opens thirteen hours a day. Retailer here, 8:00 to 9:00 PM. Do you want to do a virtual tour of the showroom with your cell phone? That’s available right there. Do you want to buy online directly? It’s available right there, but you have very clear buckets of how you can engage them. They even say, “You want a showroom visit? We can take a showroom visit, but we can only have three at a time. Schedule yours right now.” This allows me as the consumer to immediately go there and say, “I see how I can engage this company if I want to engage with this company.” They don’t have to search it. It’s right there. All of these things have been adjustments based on COVID-19. Those are the three things everybody should do to your homepage.
It goes exactly on what you teach and what you preach. As soon as we read, They Ask You Answer, sent to our whole team, we all wrote down what are the questions we get asked about tickets all the time. We did ticket tutorials. We put it in our website. We immediately started addressing. We have not changed our website, and a lot of it is because we don’t know when our season is starting. That doesn’t matter. We can still answer and give empathy. We’re here for you. We are going to have an opening night. We’re not sure what it is but our hours are here.
Your headline, Jesse, could be something like, “Even though we’re not playing baseball during these difficult times, we are still spreading our joy.” You have different means by which you’re spreading joy. It could be some of the videos like, “Watch some of our amazing videos from our people.”
We’re doing drive-throughs with our Slippery Banana drink.
That’s all those things wrapped up and they’re like, “It’s Savannah Bananas. These guys are still balling out even though they’re not open.”
For one thing, it’s fans first, entertain always. We’re still entertaining you. This is how you can get entertained. The one other piece too, it should be pinned on all of your social media. There’s one statement, one video, one thing of this type should be pinned on top of all of your social media, the same thing as a website so everyone can see it immediately what’s going on. Marcus, I don’t know what other way to finish then, that’s something we can all do now. Let’s have that empathy. Let’s have that understanding. Let’s be there and show them that we’re there. Even though we’re not open, a lot of us, we are still open to take care of people and whatever that means. Marcus, thank you as always for giving so much. I appreciate you.
It’s my pleasure.
- Episode 177 – Previous episode of Marcus Sheridan
- They Ask You Answer
- LinkedIn – Marcus Sheridan
About Marcus Sheridan
Marcus is a highly sought-after international keynote speaker known for his unique ability to excite, engage and motivate audiences. In 2017 Forbes named Marcus 1 of 20 “Speakers You Don’t Want to Miss.” Marcus has been dubbed a “Web Marketing Guru” by the New York Times and featured in Inc., The Globe and Mail, Forbes, and more.
As founder and president of The Sales Lion, which recently merged with IMPACT in 2018, Marcus has established one of the most successful digital sales and marketing agencies in the country. Within his speaking company, Marcus Sheridan International, Inc., he gives over 70 global keynotes annually where he inspires audiences in the areas of sales, marketing, leadership, and communication.
Mashable rated his book, “They Ask, You Answer,” the “#1 Marketing Book” to read in 2017. Forbes listed it as one of “11 Marketing Books Every CMO Should Read.”
Keynote topics include: The Digital Consumer; We’re All Media Companies; The Future of Sales and Marketing; The Business of Trust; Letting Go of “The Way It Has Always Been Done”
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