If you're looking for understanding, you won't find it here.
Sheridan credits blogging for saving his business during the economic collapse of 2008, spending many late nights at his kitchen table writing blog posts that answered common customer questions he had heard over the years.
His company, River Pools and Spas, was in trouble. As you could imagine, an economic downturn like the one faced in '08 caused many would-be buyers to put a cap on recreational spending.
Things didn't look good. He had no work, and even worse, no money to spend on advertising in order to build awareness.
So he blogged. A lot.
And more importantly, people starting reading them. As a result, work found him.
Fast forward to just a few years later, and River Pools and Spas is the number one pool company in the United States specializing in fiberglass pools. It's the stuff of legend.
"I actually was not much of a writer at all," says Sheridan.
Funny. That didn't seem to stop him.
I recently caught up with Marcus to talk content, and more specifically, how others can achieve his kind of success.
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The story of River Pools and Spas story is one of the most powerful endorsements of blogging and inbound marketing in general. Did you have a lot of experience writing prior to blogging to save your business?
I actually was not much of a writer at all, and would certainly say that I wasn't a natural by any stretch of the imagination.
If you look at the first articles I wrote on River Pools, there are many imperfections. Everything from voice to tone to appearance – it's all cringe worthy to be honest.
But at the same time, those initial articles bring me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I knew I was imperfect, but I pushed through anyway, not allowing the fears of imperfection or mistakes to cloud my ultimate goal – teach the world (in this case about fiberglass swimming pools) and save my business in the process.
In your foreword in Jay Baer's "Youtility", you talked about sitting at your kitchen table late at night to write blog posts. Could you describe that scene?
In many ways, it was a desperate time. It's tough to work 65+ hours a week and then get home around 11 PM many nights and have to write a blog post.
Keep in mind too that I was also learning inbound marketing in general – from HubSpot tools to things like meta descriptions, it was all new to me.
Eventually though, after a few months I could see just a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. The stress turned to excitement as I realized that not only were we on to something big, but we were also having fun doing it. It was like digital farming – I had to plant the seed, water it, and then watch the magic of growth.
What advice would you give to other business owners who don't view themselves as writers?
I think it's important to realize that we're all communicators, even if we're not necessarily writers. This basically means it's critical that we look for ways to get our message across.
For some, this means writing.
For others, this means video.
And for others, it means finding someone who can interview you, draw out the information, and then put it in text or video form.
Frankly, "I'm not a good writer" no longer holds any weight when it comes to success online, as there are plenty of folks out there who can't write yet are crushing it because they're thinking outside the box and getting the work done regardless of their perceived imperfections.
You've talked a lot about transparency and its importance in approaching content marketing. Why are so many businesses afraid of this?
Many companies think they are like the Big Mac and have a secret sauce. Well, they don't. Everyone knows it's 1000 Island Dressing, so you may as well share it with the rest of the world. Furthermore, businesses are afraid their competition will steal their secrets.
This is such a foolish mentality.
Ultimately, this is what you have to decide as a business: Do I care more about earning the trust of potential customers or hiding things (that don't exist) from my competition?
Once you can answer that question, everything will change.
In 2014, is it still possible for small and medium sized businesses to see a similar transformation from blogging?
Great teaching and communication have been essential for success since the beginning of time and it's going to be essential until the end of time.
When we ask the question, "will blogging still work in the future?", we should actually be asking the question, "will being helpful and being a great teacher be relevant for businesses in the future?"
The answer to that question is obvious, which is exactly why the conversation, at least in its current state, needs to change.
When people visit your website, they expect to be fed. And if you don't feed them, they leave. That's the way it works, and that's the choice businesses will always have to work.
Many bloggers struggle with continuously finding angles to blog consistently. In your experience, what works in ensuring you'll always have enough material to never let the well run dry?
If someone follows the golden rule of blogging and content marketing, "They Ask, You Answer" – answer every question you've ever been asked by a prospect or customer – you should never run out of content.
And if you do run out, it means that you've stopped listening.
At River Pools, we've answered hundreds and hundreds of questions, and there are still many left unanswered.
People talk about thought leadership, but that's not really the point of blogging, is it? Sounds kind of self-serving. Could you describe, in your opinion, what makes an a blog successful, and furthermore, a blogger?
Thought leadership is a relative term. I have no problem with it, and in fact appreciate any company that wants to lead in their industry.
Heck, there are way too many followers out there as it is, not nearly enough businesses willing to take a stand and question the status quo on occasion.
But here is the thing about thought leadership – it doesn't happen by trying to sound smart. That will just make you look stupid.
It happens as you attempt to become a prolific teacher in your space and be more helpful than anyone else. Do that, and you'll become a thought leader without ever even trying.
Innovations in how we buy and behave have changed how we do business, as evidenced with inbound marketing. What changes do you foresee that businesses can stay ahead of?
This I am sure of: Consumers will only grow in impatience as they research and buy. They want to find what they're looking for and they want to find it NOW.
Understanding this affects everything from web design to content to social media strategy.
We live in a world of "I want it now."
This will not change, so you may as well embrace it and use it to your advantage.
Any favorite blogs and/or bloggers you read that you'd like to expose the audience to?
Here's one many haven't heard of that I think is very good: Ian Altman at www.growmyrevenue.com (sales and business development.)
For more information and content from Marcus and his agency, The Sales Lion, visit their website to learn more.
This article is part of the "Content Marketing & Blogging" Hub in The IMPACT Anthology. Other articles include:
What is Content Marketing?
Blogging for Business? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Content Marketing Mission Statements: How to Find Your Editorial Focus
The Best Content Marketing Strategies Your Company is Still Ignoring
30 Days of New Content Ideas for Your Business Blog [Infographic]
27 Blog Topic Ideas That Take 30 Minutes to Finish