In 2008 the pool company Sheridan operated with two partners was facing closure as the global recession took hold and put businesses of all sizes under financial pressure.
Having heard of the basics of content marketing, social media and inbound marketing, Sheridan, desperate to save River Pools and Spas, turned to the internet.
“As I read this stuff in my simple pool guy mind, I thought, if I just obsess over my customers’ questions, and I’m willing to address them, I just might save my business,” he told Forbes in a recent interview.
‘They Ask, You Answer’ as a blogging strategy
At the heart of his strategy was a willingness to be open and honest in answering any question a customer had that was related to his business.
He figured that if one customer had a question on a particular topic, many potential pool owners would have similar questions but they just didn’t ask.
So Sheridan went about answering questions on the company’s blog. In addition, he anticipated the types of questions potential customers may have and published blogs to satisfy these queries.
The philosophy of “They Ask, You Answer” was born and the rest is . . . history.
Among other amazing achievements, Sheridan founded the company The Sales Lion from his success and he went on to help business owners across a range of industries create helpful, informative content that addressed the concerns of their prospective customers.
Blogging is a powerful lead generating tool
The core of Sheridan’s approach hasn’t changed much over the years.
If anything, it has brought about the rise of what renowned marketer Mark Shaefer calls Content Shock. Too much content on the interwebs? No such thing, he argues. However, this does need qualification.
In years gone by there was a move to publish more and more content as a way to boost visibility on search engines.
The thinking was that the more you posted blogs, the more opportunities your website had to be ranked on Google’s organic listings.
But this tactic was taken to the extreme which resulted in low quality content being pushed through - like a sausage machine, if you know what I mean.
Content: focus on quality
It is not just about creating content for content’s sake. Rand Fishkin of Moz has been quoted as saying that “better content is outweighing more content”.
Google has caught on to the practice too, and recent algorithm updates place greater value on quality, not only quantity.
I had the privilege of attending a collaborative seminar recently in which business coach Shirley Pearson spoke about leads being the lifeblood of any business.
Converting these leads into paying customers is a discussion for another blog post, but the focus here is really on getting prospects to contact you about your goods and services - getting them into the top of the so-called “sales funnel”.
There are many ways to achieve this, using both traditional (think banners, flyers, print classifieds) and digital marketing (think social media, pay per click advertising).
Keep it consistent and fill up the funnel
And as I sat listening to Shirley, my mind kept going back to how a solid blogging strategy is so important for reaching your target audience, for many good reasons. I kept thinking of Marcus Sheridan’s success.
According to Hubspot, businesses that use blogs as part of their content marketing strategy get 67% more leads than businesses that don’t. 67%! That’s a big number.
Blogging remains one of the most cost-effective ways of acquiring leads. A consistent, informative blog post achieves far more than meets the eye.
I’ve used the example of Sheridan, and there’s another great example closer to home. A client of ours, Bruce Laister of BC Accounting Services, is one of the most dedicated business bloggers I know.
Being a numbers guy, Bruce has calculated it is worth investing his time to produce a regular blog. Why? Because it works by generating leads.
He has tried Facebook as a lead generator but he didn’t have success so stopped it. No use flogging a dead horse.
By sharing information in an open and honest way Bruce has built a business personality for his brand.
Through his blogs, he also addresses his client’s issues and concerns they have around the accounting function in their own businesses.
“I enjoy writing because it sharpens my knowledge,” he says. “It’s also a way of getting my name out there as an expert in my field and at the same time helping people without having to charge them.”
The “likeability” he has built with his audience has translated into leads and has had a positive spin-off for his brand.
Almost a decade later, the economic growth prospects remain bleak and the squeeze is still on for millions of small business owners.
But just as Sheridan did all those years ago and young entrepreneurs like Laister are doing today, honest, consistent blogging can help future-proof your business.
If you’re not sure where to begin . . .
By Gregory Rule