Successful Small Business Marketing Begins with Teaching – How Well Are You Educating Your Clients?

ideas stike like lighteningYou know those A-HA! moments…

When Zeus lets fly a lightning bolt from Mount Olympus on high, striking your grey matter with full force, powering up your brain’s idea light bulb.

Well, that’s exactly the kind of revelatory experience Marcus Sheridan, owner of River Pools & Spas and founder of the fantastic internet marketing consultancy The Sale Lion,  had when his business sat teetering on brink of financial ruin. And Marcus’s game-changing idea-spark, what famed new school marketing impresario Seth Godin might refer to as an Idea Virus: Teaching Sells. Better educating his potential customer base not only saved his business from certain ruin, but generated higher profits than he ever imagined possible, and even lead to the launch of new marketing consultancy business based on the Teaching Sells concept.

It’s a really fantastic story, filled to the brim with important small business marketing lessons, so take a load off, pull up your screen and dig in…

The Resurrection of River Pools & Spas

It was 2009, and Marcus Sheridan’s company, River Pools & Spas, was hanging on by a thread. Rocked to its very foundation by the housing bubble’s burst, which in turn flushed most of the home improvement market down the toilet with it, the business was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Riding the wave of the seemingly unending housing boom, Marcus spent liberally on typical marketing efforts, i.e. advertising – local TV and radio spots, and a titanic ton of pay per click Google ads. The housing market collapse, however, brought an end to big profits, effectively assassinated River Pools & Spas’ advertising budget – with two bullets right through the dollar signs. But with zero advertising, how could the business survive? How would they generate leads, reach new clients, or raise awareness in the community they served?

With the business teetering on the brink of total financial collapse, Marcus decided to make one hurl one last long bomb Hail Mary pass to save River Pools & Spas.

Of course Marcus was familiar with blogging, and he had some notion of how inbound marketing works, so he did some research, examining his company’s website analytics, as well as those of several competitors, and he made an interesting discovery: no one offered pricing information for fiberglass pool installation. It dawned on him that in fact many key questions repeatedly asked by nearly every prospective client were not addressed anywhere online.

In the past Marcus had considered creating an FAQ page for River Pools & Spas’ site, but now he thought: why not create blog posts for each of his top 10 most frequently asked questions – beginning with an explanation of pricing for fiberglass pool installation.

Within 48 hours, that single blog post brought River Pools & Spas to the top of Google’s search results for fiberglass pool installations ultimately yielded more than $1M in profits.

After the initial rankings jump, a 10,000 watt light bulb burst to life inside Marcus’s brain and the idea-spark took hold – The Inbound Marketing Method Really Works!

With those first 10 FAQ questions as a launching pad, Marcus eventually grew River Pools & Spas’ website from 50 pages to 800+ (and counting), generating higher than ever profits (despite the down economy and atrocious housing market), redefining the company’s sales process, and ultimately motivating Marcus to launch a new business: The Sales Lion – an inbound marketing consultancy.

Teaching Sells – Customer Service and the Sales Cycle Redefined

Prior to their Inbound Marketing success, River Pools & Spas’ sales cycle was typically quite lengthy:

Step One – A prospective client called the office with a series of questions

Step Two – A sales rep meets the prospective client at their home, with another interminable round of questions

Step Three – As many as three additional follow up calls, with, you guessed it…more questions

Step Four – If, after all of that, the potential client was still in the mix, the deal would (hopefully) be closed

Now, thanks to the blog, clients call the office already fully educated on the subject – with all of their questions, often even pricing, already answered – and ready make a deal.

By taking those top 10 FAQ questions and running with them, literally snowballing into hundreds of blog entries, Marcus was educating his clientele all about the ins and outs of pools and spas. And by educating his clientele, Marcus was not only better serving their needs, saving his time and theirs, but also earning larger than profit ever before.

Proving once again…Teaching Sells.

Blogging For Dollars

As Marcus’s success illustrates, if effectively positioned to address the needs of your target customers, blogging, social media engagement, and whitepapers – the inbound marketing method – eliminates the need for costly traditional advertising.

Potential clients discovered River Pools & Spas “organically” through their natural process of investigation – not just their website with another boring, generic sales pitch – but literally hundreds of blog entries, jam-packed with 10 tons of invaluable pool and spa information.

And not only does this “organic” discover inform prospective clients, it inspires their confidence and promotes their trust, magnetically pulling them that much close to buying. Instead of the typical sales cycle – introductory call, in person meeting, and multiple follow up calls – clients make one call: let’s make a deal!

Business Blogging Can Work For You (Too!)

What’s that you say?

This strategy sounds super-great and all, but it won’t work for my business.

Because…it’s just not the way things are done in my industry.

Or…I can’t imagine how this model could be applied to my business.

Every business with the potential to achieve lasting success is unique unto itself. Your potential clients have questions, concerns, needs, desires, and you have the answers they seek – whether either of you realize it or not.

The path may not be as forward as in the case of River Pools & Spas – you may need to think outside the box  to connect with your clientele, but make no mistake, they’re out there…waiting for you.

By way of a quick example: an ideal eBike (electric assisted bike) customer may never have heard of, or even considered buying a eBike. But their desire to preserve the environment, cut down on their commute, save money on gas and avoid overcrowded public transportation, could–if you’re effectively positioning your product, and harnessing the power of inbound marketing to educate potential customers about the alternatives to consternation issues outlined above – lead them right to your front door with cash in hand, ready to make a deal.

For Additional Info…

Listen to Michael Stelzner’s interview with Marcus Sheridan from the Social Media Examiner’s podcast (the sources of my inspiration for this post!), visit The Sale Lion, and let Marcus tell you his story in his own words, or visit River Pools and Spas’ blog and see where the magic all began – and when you’re done, let us know what you think.

How About You?

Have you ever thought of launching a blog to promote your business? What’s holding you back?

Have you had success blogging for your business, and if so, to what extent?

Talkback, we would love to hear all about it!

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