The 19 Marketing Podcast by Orange Label

Content Marketing “Rules” with Author Marcus Sheridan

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December 01, 2023

Did you make any purchases on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Even as marketers, we got caught up in influencer posts about the “hottest Amazon sale items you need.” If you’re like us and 82% of adults, when searching for said items, you end up deep in the reviews section. In our new podcast, author and inbound marketer Marcus Sheridan shares the value of addressing the burning questions buyers are asking about, like price and value, that businesses too often ignore. Because why rely on just reviews when you can take the floor and address their questions yourself? Get an inside look at the successful inbound sales and content marketing strategy from Sheridan’s book, “They Ask You Answer,” (which has 1,000+ reviews on Amazon, if you’re wondering) and see what’s missing from your 2024 marketing strategy.

[00:00:00] Rochelle Reiter: This is The 19, a 19 minute or less podcast that brings you marketing insights aimed at improving lives. Presented by Orange Label, the leading response marketing agency for wellness brands that grow when their customers do.

[00:20:00] Rochelle Reiter: Hello and welcome to The 19. I’m Rochelle Reiter, President of Orange Label. Today, we’re diving into the dynamic world of inbound marketing with a very special guest, Marcus Sheridan. I had the pleasure of hearing Marcus speak at the AI for Agencies Summit and knew he would be a great podcast guest. He’s a thought leader in inbound sales and marketing, author of Mashable’s number one marketing book to read, “They Ask, You Answer,” and a champion for customer-centered content creation. Together, we’ll explore the evolving landscape of digital marketing and uncover strategies to really connect with our audiences. Marcus, welcome to The 19. It’s great to have you on our show today.

[00:00:57] Marcus Sheridan: I appreciate it, Rochelle. It’s very, very nice meeting you.

[00:00:59] Rochelle Reiter: So Marcus, for those that are new to the concept, could you explain inbound marketing, what it is and how it’s evolved in recent years?

[00:01:11] Marcus Sheridan: Yeah. I mean, I, you know, I think if we simplify inbound marketing it’s the process of giving the world value and by giving them value for the things that they want to know, for the things that they want to learn, for the things that they want to understand, you gain their trust. And by gaining their trust, that in turn means they might want to work with you. Right? And so that’s inbound marketing to me in a nutshell. It has evolved quite a bit because, in the early stages or days of inbound marketing, which let’s call that circa 2007, 2008, because that’s when HubSpot just got going. It was pretty easy to get noticed online and to give value and to generate that trust because there wasn’t as much noise, right? You know, in my book, I actually reference this as the CSI or the content saturation index of an industry, right? And the CSI has significantly increased in quite a few industries, and so it is harder to stand out and win that trust, but it’s still absolutely there and in some industries still to this day and, you know, it’s near 2024 at this point, we’ve got a lot of people that aren’t doing it well, but there’s other industries that have, right? But that being said, it’s a little bit harder to show up. There’s a lot more video today, a lot more social component matters and AI is affecting all of it. And that’s, it’s going to continue to send this ripple effect, especially just with search. And, you know, I think if somebody is completely search dependent, like SEO organic search dependent today, then that could really pose a problem for them in the coming years. They might be fine today or next year, but in the coming years, it’s going to be a problem.

[00:03:02] Rochelle Reiter: I agree. So you’ve been a strong advocate for content marketing. What are some of the strategies you recommend to create engaging and effective content to really stand out and get noticed among the clutter?

[00:03:14] Marcus Sheridan: Yeah. So, obviously I’m pretty biased, but I think the best content marketing strategy framework out there is “They Ask, You Answer.” I think, what’s beautiful about, “They Ask, You Answer” is it simplifies what is the complicated, right? Just take every question, worry, fear, issue, concern that your buyer has, brainstorm all of them and then address them online on your website, on social, through text, through video, through audio, like we’re doing right now, et cetera. That to me is the ultimate like golden rule of marketing. Treat your potential customers as you yourself would want to be treated. Teach your potential customers and existing customers what you yourself would want to know if you were a buyer in that moment. And, you know, one of the things that I talk about a lot in “They Ask, You Answer” is, the core of the dashboard as a framework, is what’s known as the big five, which are the five subjects that move the needle in every single industry, I don’t care the industry. This is what buyers want to know whenever anybody’s vetting a company, they’re vetting a product or vetting a service B2B, B2C, they want to know five things. They want to understand how much is it? So they have cost questions. They want to know what are the negatives, the problems, the issues with it? So fear-based questions, worry questions. Number three, they want to know comparisons. How does it compare to this other thing that I’m looking at? Number four, they want to know reviews. What’s everybody saying about it? And then number five, they want to know best. What is the best, the most, the top, et cetera? So cost, problems, comparisons, reviews, best. Those are the big five. That’s what buyers want to know. That’s what really runs the economy of search right now is those five subjects. And despite the fact that buyers and consumers are so, so very interested in learning about these things, businesses still 2024 don’t want to talk about them and so it creates a paradox at once. And so if you want to stand out from the crowd, all you have to do is be willing to talk about that, which your competitors are not. Starts with the big five.

[00:05:07] Rochelle Reiter: What percentage of companies do you say do that?

[00:05:08] Marcus Sheridan: Okay. So when it comes to, let’s say a B2B service based business, less than 5 percent talk about cost and price on their website. Yet, if you say to every single visitor of said website, would you like to better understand cost and price? 100 percent are going to say, I sure wish they would give me a little bit more here. Throw me a bone, if you will. Right. And so now it’s a little bit higher in other places, but I have people sometimes tell me, yeah, we talk about cost and price. We’re e commerce company. No, you just give a price, but that’s not talking about cost and price. when you talk about cost and price, you’re teaching the world how value is defined in your industry. You’re literally teaching someone how to shop, how to buy, how to research that thing. You know, for years I did just swimming pools, before I, became a, just a marketing guy. I was the first company in the world to talk about the cost of an in ground fiberglass pool on our website. First one in the world. I wrote that, the initial article I wrote in 2009, it still gets us hundreds of leads a year. it’s generated for our company in Virginia over 35 million in sales off of one. Single article, how much does a fiberglass pool cost? And you still have pool companies that sit there and say, but we can’t talk about it because every job is different. It’s customized. It’s variable, or we don’t want our competitors to know, or we don’t want to scare them away, which is all actually not the way that works. You see what scares, potential buyers away is ignorance. We hate ignorance. We hate not knowing. We hate not finding it drives us crazy online. and if somebody is just willing to. Explain to us, really, here’s what you could expect. Here’s what drives cost up, down, left, right, front, center, right? Here’s why some companies are expensive. Here’s why some companies are cheap. Now suddenly we’re like, okay, now I get it. Now I understand how, how you define value in this space and therefore they’re able to move forward. That’s, that’s powerful.

[00:06:56] Rochelle Reiter: That is powerful. It makes perfect sense. like logically, right?

[00:07:01] Marcus Sheridan: It’s so like, duh! But yet most still will sit there and Jeff, well, we’re a wholesaler or we’re a manufacturer. I have a manufacturing company. We still talk a ton about cost price. We just give ranges. You see, the problem is people might hear me say they ask you answer Or something of that nature and they might say, well I can’t answer that question. Sure you can. You can answer any question you want, you just can’t be as specific as you want. Like maybe the perfect title of the book would have been, They Ask, You Address It Really Really Well. But you see, that’s not catchy. Right? They Ask, You Answer! That’s catchy! So… That’s why it’s called that. But the mindset that you have to have is I got to be a part of the conversation. I can’t ignore what everybody wants to know. And so I’d say that is the premier content strategy. to this day, it’s still the best SEO strategy, bar none, not even close. It’s still the best UX strategy in terms of you know what you want the visitor to experience on your website. And, you know, as a, as an aside from that, you know, if you said to me, what’s the other, just, just really major brand awareness strategy today. I think it’s short form video. I just think it’s absolutely massive. I love short form video. I don’t really love. How we’re also very impatient and it’s just stunning to me what’s happened to the TikTok-ification of the world. But at the same time, you can’t necessarily fight it you know, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, Rochelle is like, don’t let your personal opinions Marcus scripts, smart business decisions, so just because you might not like something doesn’t mean that you don’t meet the buyer where they are. Right. And a lot of business owners, I think have forgotten that. They’re like, well, I don’t like video or I don’t like social media. I don’t like the tick tock or whatever the thing is. Well, guess what? The marketplace doesn’t really care about your opinions. And the quicker we get over our opinions and say, what does the marketplace want? Again, they ask, they’re asking to meet them. Are we willing to answer that? Where they are, where they want to learn, how they want to learn.

[00:08:53] Rochelle Reiter: Well, and I think you’ve touched on this, customer centric approach to marketing. What are some of the examples that you can share that have been successful in businesses?

[00:09:03] Marcus Sheridan: Well, I mean, if you talk about just, customer centric, pretty broad that, right? In some ways, it just starts with giving them exactly what they want. We talked about, addressing those five subjects. Another major, let’s say, customer centric trend, I would say, that everybody wants is based on a recent stat from Gartner that said 33 percent of all buyers would prefer to have a seller free sales experience. So if that’s the case, y’all, what does it mean? Well, it means that we don’t hate salespeople. We just don’t want to work with a salesperson until we feel like we are ready until we’re informed, until we’re not going to make a mistake. And so the way that you can take advantage of this trend, because a lot of people will see this trend and say, Oh, geez, it’s the end of salespeople as we know it. But if you’re. If you’re smart, you’ll, you’ll look at the trends and you’ll say, okay, how do I take advantage of the trend? And so the way you take advantage of it is through self service and self service, manifests itself with different, tools on your website, like self assessment tools, self scheduling tools, and, uh, self pricing tools. So a self pricing tool. A. K. A. calculator. Can you create a calculator for your website? So, with our SwingPool manufacturing company, we sell fiberglass pool shells to dealers who install it for end users. So how can a manufacturer who is a B2B2C company create a pricing calculator? Well, once again, you give ranges. That’s what you do. So you can build and price your pool on our manufacturer website. That’s extremely, extremely powerful, it’s a, just a cash cow. It’s a lead, it’s incredible what it does when we say self selection, what self selection is, is a recommendations. So again, let’s just use the silly pool example. Cause that’s easy one for people to understand. So let’s say you went to my swimming pool website right now, riverpoolsandspas. com. And you’re like, I don’t know what type of in ground pool I want. Well, we’ve got a tool there that’ll help you decide what type of pool you want. Do you want a concrete in ground pool? Do you want a fiberglass? Do you want a vinyl liner? Those are the three types. And so through a series of questions, That you can answer on the website and it’s very interactive. Once you give us those answers, you’re going to get an honest, assessment or recommendation as, you know, Hey, Rochelle, based on what you just said, you should probably get a fiberglass swimming pool. And so any company can do this. if you’re listening to this right now, think of all the times where a potential customer has said to you, well, if you were me, what would you choose? Or, I’m looking for the best such and such. And so if you’re getting those questions, Well, then you could easily say, you’re a lawn care company and you’ve got three different tiers of lawn care service. So, you know, you might have a tool on your site that says, what’s the best lawn care, tier for your yard. And then you have a series of questions that again, they can answer not by talking to a human, but by having that interactive experience on your website. And then boom, they get a recommendation that’s honest and transparent. Like on our pool site, we recommend other types of pools all the time. we’re not only recommending ours by any stretch. In fact, more pools are that we recommend are not fiberglass and our fiberglass, which is pretty crazy. You know, if you’re a company like a HubSpot, let’s say you could easily say, okay, you know, HubSpot’s got three different tiers of HubSpot. They should have a tool that says, what is the best tier of HubSpot for you? And then you answer a series of questions. And then they could say, well, based on what you just said, we would recommend ‘X’. But you see, they haven’t done that because they’re trying to upsell you to the biggest tier. And, that’s the reason why they haven’t done that. HubSpot’s listening right now saying, Marcus, that’s mean. But you know it’s true. I love you HubSpot. I love you. But come on now. Let’s be honest. You should have a self assessment tool like that on your website.

[00:12:34] Rochelle Reiter: That’s a great tip. So you mentioned video. being hot right now. What are some tips to maximize the effectiveness of a video?

[00:12:41] Marcus Sheridan: Well, so we talked about short form, which I think is absolutely huge. And if you’re going to do short form video, there’s a few, keys. And let me give you a simple, mnemonic or rhyme, for the key to short video two things, one, make them click. Number two, make them stick. That’s, that’s the key. So you’ve got to create the curiosity of, Oh geez, how does this end? Like, how’s this going to go? So make them click. And then make them stick. And the way you make them stick is you have a cut in the scene every three to five seconds. So you want to constantly be changing. And so it’s amazing how you could tell a story that happens over the course of, let’s say, a year with a project, and you could do it in 60 seconds. It can be a wild, beautiful, cool story. That’s really fascinating for people. And they got Pretty much all the main points are the main phases and so the make them click, make them stick is essential for short form video. Now in terms of long form video, which I’m still a huge advocate of, one of the most successful long form videos that we’ve helped our clients create is what we call the 80 percent video. What’s the 80 percent video? If you go to any sales team and you say, what are the most repeated questions that you get all the time? You’re oftentimes going to hear, then just say, well, I hear this every time I hear this every time I hear this every time. And so if you ask them, well, what percentage of the questions you hear are repeated? They’re going to say probably about 80%. In other words, 80 percent of the questions they get, they hear. Every single time. So what you want to do is you want to brainstorm the most repeated questions that you get for each major product and service that you have and create one video that addresses those top seven to 10 most repeated questions. And then you send that video out to the prospect before you meet with them. Of course, that’s key. And now all of a sudden. instead of spending so much time teaching them answers to questions, they should already know. Now you’re spending more time selling them. And that’s the idea. that’s what we want to do. You know, there’s everybody’s got, the there’s diminishing returns by spending too much time with anybody during the buying process. They’re just going to like flame out on you. And so the idea, especially if you’re in sales, you’re using video the right way is that you’re spending. less time, like I said, teaching because that’s what they’re doing on your website with your content, et cetera, and you’re spending more time actually moving the ball forward and selling. That’s the idea.

[00:14:52] Rochelle Reiter: Sure. What are the biggest challenges you see marketers are facing right now? I mean, there’s AI. I think there’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace about that. there a common one that you’re seeing right now in the marketplace?

[00:15:03] Marcus Sheridan: Well, you know, we’ve all got this like AI BS meter that we’ve developed really, really quickly. Like some of you have noticed, how did my friends get so smart all of a sudden? And, and it’s like, you didn’t write like that before, Sonny. So, Look, folks, if you’re going to use AI, which I’m all about, and I use AI every single day, although I don’t really use it for posting, like the actual body of the post. I like AI for ideation, idea generation. I am not a big fan for using it for writing, but it’s fine if you still want to use it for writing, but if you’re going to use it for writing for the love of all that’s pure and holy, think about it and say, does this really feel human? Does this represent me? And one of the things that we like to teach our clients, because we believe very much in AI and we teach them how to use AI is, we have this framework that we call the personal framework and a personal framework. each letter is an acronym that stands for, essentially a guideline. First one, the P, actually stands for personal. And what it means by this though is like, one of the reasons why something feels like AI wrote it is because it doesn’t feel like it’s coming from a person. And so you want to get first person or first company with your writing style. So an example of that, I might say, one of the questions that our customers ask us all the time here at River Pools is, okay, Marcus, be honest. What’s the difference between a concrete and a fiberglass pool. You see what I did there? I mentioned River Pools. I mentioned my name. We’re speaking first person on both ends. We, as in we are a company, we, as in like Marcus and see, that’s what I mean by first person. That’s the vibe. That’s the style.  Like you’re talking to somebody at the coffee shop, and if you’re not coming across with that style, it’s not going to have a soul. And you want to have a soul. So that’s a big one. Another one. if you look at the personal framework, the S stands for storytelling. And I think one of the lost arts of a lot of, marketers and copywriters is the art of telling great stories and, customer stories and customer experiences. You really need to get company experiences and stories, employee experiences and stories. You got to get. good at telling story. It’s going to be an essential part of your ability to humanize your brand as you go forward. And as we go forward, brands are going to feel less and less human. And, that’s just going to be a natural by product of AI. Trust me on this one, folks, it’s just going to happen. And so you are going to have to. identify these different ways to counteract that and part of it’s going to be your, your voice, your tone, your style, your storytelling, like all these things are, it’s going to, it’s going to make you the way you interact, the way you engage with your audience. That’s what’s going to separate you from, everybody else, but you gotta have a soul.

[00:17:43] Rochelle Reiter: In terms of looking ahead and trends, what do you see shaping the future of marketing?

[00:17:49] Marcus Sheridan: Yeah, well, not to be a dead horse. Obviously, I think, A. I. Is going to continue to affect us. I think one of the one of the biggest problems that we’re gonna have as marketers in the future is we’re gonna look at something online and we’re gonna say, Is that real? Is that video real or is it like fake, right? And is that photo, is that real or is that AI generated, right? in fact, there’s already conversations about how to, you know, how to, how to like have a certification as to whether or not something’s homegrown or not, I mean, maybe eventually it’s, we’re going to get to the case where we don’t care what’s real. And we don’t care if it’s AI generated, I think that this is going to be, one of the major factors. I think we’ve got to be very aware of less, you can’t be as dependent on SEO. If you are, you’re just going to be in trouble folks. So what does that mean? It means you got to build your brand. I mean, brand’s going to become more important than it’s ever been. ever been. I think brand was actually overrated in some ways. And what I mean by that is you could just do a really effective paid campaign, let’s say through AdWords, and you could generate the number of clicks and you could have the right copy and you know, bang. You’re good to go. And you’re just printing money because you’re making sales. Well, if you look at the future, not only is SEO going to, go down, but I think paid is very much going to go down in its efficacy. Why? Well, because we can just get direct answers faster. That’s it. We can get direct answers faster. And so, somebody might say, Well, I think ChatGPT is going to integrate some type of, ads component to their system. Well, maybe, but they’ve already spoiled us so much that we’re all just going to pay the extra and not have to worry about ads and so if that’s the case, we’re getting answers directly. We’re never going to a website. I still think people are going to go to your website. I still think they’re going to vet you, to confirm that I want to go with you. But I mean, so much of that vetting process, is, it’s going to be eliminated, because of AI. So you got to build your brand. You got to get noticed. You can’t be doing it like everybody else. I mean, it’s going to be like the era of originals, If you can think like an original, if you can do original things that. Others in your space just aren’t doing if you can break the rules, push the envelope, especially on that personal stuff that I was talking about a minute ago. I think you’re going to be good to go. I think you’re going to rock and roll. But if you’re busy waiting around and seeing what the competitors are doing and waiting for them to make the next move, right? You’re in trouble. You know, just remember that there’s always in every industry. these, rule breakers and the rule breakers see the existing rules of the game and they say, I don’t want to play that. I’m going to do something different. I’m gonna do it different than it’s ever been done and the rule breaker eventually becomes the rule maker because everybody says, oh my goodness, I like that. I want to do that. And then oftentimes the rule breaker who became the rule maker gets lazy and complacent because they became the leader. And because they get lazy and complacent, somebody else comes in and breaks their rules. And now the rule breaker who became the rule maker becomes the rule follower. And. It’s the endless cycle, right? It’s the circle of life, right? And that’s like the story of Ford Motor Company . They’ve done that like five iterations of rule breaker, maker, follower. They keep doing that in their history. And that’s the history of, most companies, because of the fat and happy syndrome that we can all suffer from if we’re not very, very careful.

[00:21:17] Rochelle Reiter: So what, for our listeners, one piece of advice that you would give a brand to succeed in today’s world, what would it be?

[00:21:24] Marcus Sheridan: I would say. it’s more important to know what you’re not than to know who you are. Because the moment you’re willing to say what you’re not as a brand is the moment you become dramatically more attractive to those who you are a good fit for. I love it. I love it.

[00:21:42] Rochelle Reiter: Very insightful. Marcus, thank you so much for joining us today on The 19. Hope to be in contact with you more and, Thanks for being here.

[00:21:53] Marcus Sheridan: My pleasure.

[00:21:57] Rochelle Reiter: Thank you for listening to The 19 with Marcus Sheridan. To learn more about his powerful keynotes and inbound marketing insights, visit To learn more about Orange Label’s strategy, data analytics, media, social, content, and design services, visit orangelabelmarketing. com. A special thank you goes out to our contributors Creative Services Director, Kelsey Phillips. Copy and Content Strategist Ashley Andreen and Design and Sound Director Micah Panzich. Be sure to subscribe to The 19 Marketing Podcast by Orange Label on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast and Spotify, and leave us a review!

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