A book in bullet points. They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan.
Updated: Apr 20
This book, put into action is a game changer for content marketing.
It was recommended a couple of years ago by Ellis Bardsley, an Action Coach, when I was in a marketing planning meeting with a mutual client of ours. We (me and the client) read the book and we referred to its principles very loosely over the next 18 months. When I came to a bit of a brick wall with content I knew revisiting this book with them would inspire them to put pen to paper, or give me the ammunition to create really engaging and fruitful content for their digital marketing.
So, I attacked this book with my highlighter that first Coronavirus 'stay at home' weekend and bullet pointed the book for them, and for anyone that wants a taste of its content.
I have used the They ask, You answer principle for another client www.castleminibus.co.uk with great effect, they are now 'Champions of Minibus Safety', crushing Google rankings and leading their industry with minibus safety and compliance education.
If you get any value from the bullet points, imagine if you read the whole book! Enjoy.
Foreword – by Krista Kotrla
It is possible for an average person...to inspire a major culture change throughout an organisation
Buyers increasingly difficult to reach
Collect information worth posting and sharing, how hard can that be?
We were posting more brand-centric than customer-centric
We now see ourselves as teachers and understood if we just listened well and were willing to answer things would turn around
A clear plan for writing a better future
Empowering buyers became embedded in our culture
Grow an organisation that you can be proud of and buyers trust
The line between sales and marketing has been completely blurred
70 percent of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to the company
Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, this need to feel special runs deep in the world of business
Every business has a single tie that binds them all together when it comes to consumers and buyers and that’s trust
Bring it back to basics, bring it back to trust, that’s the business we’re all in
Inbound marketing…the process of attracting (instead of chasing) customers
Content marketing… teaching and problem-solving so as to earn buyer trust
Just answer people’s questions
They ask, you answer
What is my customer thinking? What are they searching for, asking feeling and fearing?
Take a moment to brainstorm every single reason (fear, worry, question, concern) as to why someone would NOT buy from your company
How many of these fears have been addressed well on your company website…addressed in your sales process?
Knowing their objections, and then be willing to do something about it
The Big 5…ultimately rendering the greatest amount of traffic, conversions, leads and sales:
1. Pricing and cost
3. Versus and comparisons
5. Best in Class
1. Pricing and Cost
When you’re researching a company and their products and services, the moment you feel like anyone is hiding something from you, all trust is lost
If you want to give the potential customer a feel for how pricing works within your company, you could very likely do it.
What matters is that you’re willing to teach your prospective customers what would drive the cost up or down and help them get a feel for the market place
I’m not suggesting you put a price list on your site...be willing to specifically address the main pricing questions you get
Start using this content throughout your sales process
They’re going to get their answers from someone, so wouldn’t you prefer it to be you?
What does the competition say is a negative about the thing we sell?
What do consumers and buyers see as the negatives of our products and services?
How can we address these honestly and transparently on our website and within our sales process, so as to turn it into an advantage?
3. Versus and Comparisons
As consumers we are fascinated by comparisons
Hundreds of thousands of comparisons are searched online everyday
Write down every question you’ve received from a prospect or customer asking you to compare two or more things (products, brands, methods, companies)
Address these questions honestly and transparently throughout your digital marketing
Disarmament - the least understood element of great communication and copy – online and offline.
As buyers and consumers, we don’t want to be told what to do or what to buy. Rather we want to think we’ve educated ourselves enough to arrive at an informed decision. The best sales teams and companies in the digital age understand and embrace this reality.
4.& 5. Reviews and best in class
Are there any best of class types of content you could produce in your industry?
Highlight others and build your referral network
See yourself as more than just a subject matter expert within your industry, but someone who sees outside of your small circle and therefore has opinion, expertise and knowledge of those subjects that matter most to the consumer
Honesty and transparency are self-evident, and when done with the right intentions, have a profound influence on the business, brand and bottom line.
Brainstorm the top competitors and companies in your space, and then take the time to write an article about the best companies in your field
By simply by obsessing over customer questions and being willing to answer them better than anyone else in their space we’ve climbed to the top of our industry
Instead of scaring the person you’re going to educate him, which brings relief and saves time for all parties involved…allow the prospective customer to discover on their own if they are a bad fit for you.
We allow those people who will never become our customers, to dictate our ability to listen, communicate, teach and help. It’s a tragedy.
When you don’t try to sound smart, and instead look to have communion with your listener, that’s when the magic happens.
Think like a teacher. Obsess not just over their questions but the way you answer them. It will make all the difference.
The sales team must immediately get involved in the process...the what, how and why of this important business strategy;
1. Producing content forces us to understand the buyers and the way they think
In sales, empathy is everything. When someone doesn’t have it, they generally aren’t very successful. And when they don’t have it with their content, it generally doesn’t work either.
2. Producing content is magical practice for sales messaging.
Clients improved overall sales communication after their sales team became involved in the process
3. Company content acts as a guide for all training, messaging and so on.
Current and future employees will have a database of training content that will help them learn to company doctrines and philosophies faster and more effectively
4. Assignment selling
Sales should be using the content produced by marketing in their entire sales process.
5. Sales teams can learn what customers really care about, before they even enter the sales funnel
Start to piece together the ‘story’ of the prospect long before the initial contact or phone conversation.
6. With content, the relationship of trust can be built with the sales person (and company) long before the first sales meeting.
This allows the sales pro to do what they do best.
7. Great content means more trust, more trust means shorter sales cycles, shorter sales cycles means happier sales teams.
Fact is, great teaching (content marketing) can be the ultimate time-giver to sales departments.
As businesses we greatly underestimate people’s willingness to consider information in their quest to become informed and comfortable with their buying decision
Let’s say that you found out that all you had to do was get a prospect to consume 30 pieces of your content and they would buy from you 80% of the time - what would you do?
Assignment selling: ways to actively help your customers and prospects read and view your content
Intentionally using information with the purpose of resolving major concerns and questions of the prospect so they are dramatically more prepared for a sales appointment.
They knew nothing about what I was trying to sell them
A buying guide. A guide that is going to answer the majority of their product/service /industry related questions
The moment your prospects see you more as a teacher than a sales person, the amount of respect given dramatically escalates.
We continue to educate them throughout the sales process
Seriously eliminates buying mistakes on their part, this way the consumer is happy and we’re happy.
The principle of making sure we are dealing with educated prospects and customers essentially does not change from business to business, regardless of what you sell.
If becoming educated with respect to your products and services is not a variable in the prospect’s buying decision, it almost always means that they are basing their decision on what they buy solely on price. Unless your business model is based on being the lowest-price guy every time, the prospect is very likely not a good fit for you.
When it comes to success in business, the difference between happiness and frustration comes down to knowing who is, and who is not, a good fit for your organisation.
The creative flexibility to simply produce great content, in all its forms, without limitation of a contract or deliverable, is a powerful, powerful thing.
If you want to be heard above the noise of your industry, you can’t just be average. You can’t be like everyone else in your space. You must do more and do it better.
The process of using existing employees and their knowledge about your services and products to produce educational content for the marketing department – leading to better, buyer-centric content, more informed sales teams, and dramatically increased brand awareness.
Well done for making it to the end of this bullet-pointed book. It wasn't the end of the book, my annotations stopped on page 155 of 217. In the last chapter I mention above. it makes the point that the best content comes from inside a company, not from outsourcing to third parties like myself. And I totally agree. The best content comes from within, I won't work with clients that aren't willing to spend time feeding me content; ideas, problems, solutions, case studies. If you've great writers within your organisation then you're all set, if you don't have great writers then consider using a 'ghost writer' or editor to take the basics and make a great piece (or couple of pieces of content). But, if you read the book he'll take you through all of that.
If you want to buy the book it's on Amazon, if you're local to me I'll happily lend you my copy, but it's covered in highlighter.
Best of luck with your inbound content strategy and if you need any help or guidance you know where I am.