We should be transparent and candid with our customers
Even so, we get a good deal of questions like the one in the title: Sure, They Ask, You Answer worked for someone else, but will it work for me?
I posed that question to the philosophy’s founder, Marcus Sheridan, who (no surprise) has heard this question plenty of times himself as well.
Here's the full recording of our 11-minute interview, with transcript below.
Focusing on principles, not practices
John: So Marcus, we get this question a lot. “Sure, They Ask, You Answer works in this industry, but how does that apply to me?” And I'm sure you get that question a lot as well.
Marcus: Well, I can tell you this, that now having 12 years of talking about teaching and implementing digital sales and marketing, the companies that sit there all day and feel like they're so different than everybody else are the ones having the least success online right now.
Something I've said before, and I believe it more than ever. The internet is run by C+ students and their employees all got A+’s. And I'm serious about that. Because they're willing to do things and test things without it being perfect for launch.
This is also why when you hear the person say, "I would really like to see some case studies in my industry where this worked," there's just so much flawed about that thinking.
First of all, if somebody was really doing They Ask, You Answer really well in your space, you would know it because there's a good chance they would be the one that's dominating you right now.
Don’t be limited by what your competition has done
Marcus: I can tell you right now for the industries that I have really seen certain companies take off with, there ain't no doubt is this going to work or not. Ain't no pool guy out there saying, "I don't know if this would work for swimming pools. Show me the case study."
They're like, "Yeah, I know, River Pool is killing with it." And other pool companies could do it too. They just have to apply it.
If you need to see all the ways somebody was successful with They Ask, You Answer, there's a very good chance you're already off track because you're still more focused on the competitor than you are with the only group that really matters, which is your buyers.
Because if you're focused on the buyer and you're saying, "What do they want? Have we answered that question yet? Have we shown it yet? Nope? Okay. We need to go do that. Do they want to buy it that way? Do we offer it that way? We don't. Oh, we need to do that."
That's what makes you win. And that's the essence of innovation.
You can't become an innovative company by being reactive to your competitors all the time. It doesn't work that way. What works is when you say, "Hmm. Yeah, buyers definitely would want that. I want that. Yeah, we want that. Let's go ahead and do that thing."
And then you do the thing. And then all of a sudden, everybody in the space says, "Well, that's very innovative."
But in all of the people, the companies, the brands that I've talked to, the ones that said, "I really want to see somebody else that's done this well, that took off and made magic in their space" are starting from the wrong point in the race.
Marcus: The person that reads They Ask, You Answer, that has the right mindset as a business person, they read it and they ain't looking for no case studies.
They're just looking to get started. Because it's so bloody obvious. "Oh my goodness. I haven't really been listening to my customers. I haven't been treating them like I would want to be treated. I haven't been answering to basic fears, worries, questions, issues, concerns. I haven't been selling to them the way they want to be sold to. I haven't been teaching to them, communicating to them the way that they would like to be communicated with."
So that's what they're saying. And they run and they don't look back. You're never going to build a sound business model based on what everybody else in your industry has done, because it means you're always, always second place, and that stinks.
The big tent of They Ask, You Answer
John: I love that. There's so much that I want to follow up with there, Marcus. One is, I find it amazing and encouraging that we are working with other swimming pool companies now.
Obviously the whole premise of They Ask, You Answer tells the story of your success at River Pools, driving all of this traffic from not only your geographic location, but around the country and around the world.
And now we [at IMPACT] are working with other pool companies who are also finding success at this with similar tactics in a very similar field.
Marcus: That's the thing. If you recognize the impact this has just on your website visitors in the trust level that goes up, and on your sales conversations, and how They Ask, You Answer itself and really, really becoming that great teacher in your space, shorten sales cycles while increasing closing rates.
Just strip away anything that has to do with search and Google and all that stuff and say these are your fundamental benefits.
It's going to make the people love you when they come to your site.
It's going to make them want to engage you.
It's going to help them feel like they know you.
They're going to say to their friends, "Everything I've ever learned about this thing I learned from these guys right here." It's going to increase your overall customer experience, customer referrals.
I mean, the list goes on and on.
So it's a very myopic viewpoint when somebody sees this purely as well, "It's just more SEO. It's just more search. Or maybe it's just more internet leads."
It goes way beyond that and they're missing the mark.
John: If we establish that They Ask, You Answer is about principles that are widely applicable if not universal, still, can you talk about how it could be applied in vastly different contexts?
So if you are a roofing company or if you sell dental billing software, what's different and what's the same?
Marcus: Well, this is why They Ask, You Answer was built on a set of principles. Right? So you go to the book. If you're reading it, you don't read about Facebook. You don't read about LinkedIn. Heck, you don't really read much about Google. And the reason for this is because those are platforms that come and go. They're finite.
Whereas what's infinite is a principle like trust.
And that's where you always have to start the conversation. And sometimes people resist that conversation. Like, yeah, but no, no, no. Would you say that your business is built on trust or at least would you say it should be built on trust? If they're the dental billing person or if they're the pool guy, they're both saying yes.
And then if you say,
"Do your buyers have a set of questions, worries, fears, issues, et cetera, before they buy?" Yes.
"Would they like to know those things?" Yes.
"Is it possible if they knew those things and they learned them from you, that your sales cycle would be shorter?" Yes.
"Does your sales team ever answer the same questions over and over again?" Yes.
"Is it important that you have a personal relationship with your buyer if you can, that they see your face and know your voice and have a sense of familiarity with you?" Yes.
"Is your business built on relationships?" Yes.
All principals that I just said. Not going to die. Not going anywhere. You take those with you to the next century, you're good, you're golden. Better than the cost of gold.
If there are no trusted voices in your industry, get going!
John: So if you're in an industry where They Ask, You Answer hasn't been applied before, or hasn't been tried before to you or not—
Marcus: Lucky you.
John: Right. You should have carte blanche to pioneer the conversation to become [that resource]. It's that much easier to become the most trusted voice in your space.
Marcus:That's what's crazy. That's why when somebody says, "Who else has done this in my industry," my answer is always the same. "Nobody, because if they had, you would know and you'd be freaking out right now because you'd be number two."
They should be the first ones that are not even... Talk about not looking back. I mean, they are just blitzing out the door, trying to get this done. That's how fast they should be moving.
What a tremendous opportunity to be the WebMD of your space. Guess what? You can't be the WebMD of WebMD's space because they're WebMD, they already exist.
But you could probably be the WebMD of your space. Rarely do industries have a WebMD of their space that is agreed upon.
John: So the flip side of that is what I brought up just before, which is if you're in an industry where this has been done before, like pools, where you're in the same industry in which it was pioneered and developed, does that change your approach?
Marcus: No. It doesn't change your approach at all because you just don't make your decisions based on what others have done.
That's the thing, John. It doesn't matter. That's why They Ask, You Answer is so replicable over and over again, because you start with the same fundamental truths. You start with the customer, you start with their questions, their fears, their wants. Boom, I'm good. I got a strategy now.
That's what I'm going after. How do I do it? I do it with text, video, audio, with my website, with my content. Boom, I'm good. Teach it to my sales team. Boom, I'm good.
John: And I think the more that we see it as a process that is a unifier of marketing and sales, that is a customer-centric process, that, as you were saying, sells to people how they want to buy, connects with people how they want to learn, as you said, those are universal principles.
Marcus: Yep. Very universal. And that's a good thing. Not going away. Don't matter the country, don't matter the culture, don't matter the industry. B2B, B2C, product/service, big/small, local/national, mom/pop, don't matter.