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Marcus Sheridan: They Ask, You Answer is a business philosophy, not a marketing strategy

Marcus Sheridan: They Ask, You Answer is a business philosophy, not a marketing strategy Blog Feature

John Becker

Revenue and Features Editor, Co-host of Content Lab, 15+ Years of Writing and Teaching Experience

April 9th, 2021 min read

Now hear this: A marketing strategy — any marketing strategy — will not change the direction of your business. Yes, marketing can bring in traffic and leads to your business, but success is much more than an uptick in page views.

The thing is, business owners already know this. It’s why sales sometimes rolls its eyes at new marketing initiatives, and it’s why an organization might resist adopting They Ask, You Answer. After all, it’s just another marketing strategy, right? It will fizzle like the rest after the short-lived traffic bump flattens out?

Not so fast. They Ask, You Answer is not a marketing initiative. It’s a business philosophy that is most effective when it’s approached as a way of unifying sales, marketing, and leadership strategy.

Marcus Sheridan, noted speaker and author of They Ask, You Answer and The Visual Sale cautions against this sort of team siloing that leads to isolation and frustration.

In a professional world in which sales and marketing are increasingly intertwined in the buying experience, the way forward is a blended business philosophy that puts the customer at the center. 

They Ask, You Answer has been adopted by thousands of businesses around the world, and the book that spawned the movement has been widely translated and celebrated. At its core are two fundamental principles that transcend marketing and sales:

With these central tenets in our minds as we approach our marketing and sales tasks, we can see how a business-wide philosophy is more effective than an isolated marketing initiative or sales training session.

Here, Marcus explains how They Ask, You Answer is about more than just marketing.

70% of the buying decision is made before a customer reaches out to your company

A statistic Marcus is particularly fond of is this one: By the time a buyer reaches out to your company — when they walk into a showroom, schedule a demo, or make a call to a salesperson — they’ve already made 70% of their buying decision.

Similar statistics have been published in numerous places, including SiriusDecisions

What this means, according to Forrester, is that “every marketing organization must view its inbound efforts as absolutely critical to success at all stages of the buyer’s journey.”

For businesses employing They Ask, You Answer, this means creating content for organic search as well as bottom-of-the-funnel content that speaks directly to buyer questions. (As Marcus says, if a customer has a question, you should openly address it on your website.)

In this way, your content strategy unites all parts of the customer journey — from when they first become aware of your business to after they sign on the dotted line. 

Thus, They Ask, You Answer is not just a marketing plan. Instead, it’s a content-based approach to educating your buyers. This means that content will affect all aspects of the buyer’s journey, including when the sales team uses it to address buyer questions directly. 

Involving sales in the creation and distribution of content is crucial. Says Marcus, “A lot of marketers are just waiting on Google or social to do the work of distribution for content. If your sales team is integrating content and sales process, they can be some of your best distributors.”

When the sales team is actively employing content in the sales process, they’re naturally going to be more invested in the content creation process (and in marketing in general) than in a typical marketing campaign. 

They Ask, You Answer: A business philosophy

This means that They Ask, You Answer should be a company-wide approach to business. Marcus advocates that it can even extend beyond just marketing and sales: “We've had companies that have done They Ask, You Answer just for their HR department because it works extremely well for potential hires.”

For an organization to be fully successful with They Ask, You Answer, they must see it for the business-wide philosophy it truly is. To see it only as a marketing initiative is to misunderstand the potential it has. 

“They Ask, You Answer is really cross-organizational,” Marcus says. “So when people see it as a marketing initiative, I'm like, man, you're really missing the mark on what this is!”

They Ask, You Answer and other business growth strategies

They Ask, You Answer does not stand at odds with other popular business growth strategies. In fact, it complements them. At IMPACT, we follow They Ask, You Answer — just the same way we teach our clients to. We also employ Scaling Up, for which we have a coach, as well as Story Brand

Marcus sums it up this way: “Scaling Up gives you an overarching model to grow your business and get your ducks in a row. It gives you the narrative. They Ask, You Answer is a complementary philosophy that lets you take action in your sales and marketing.”

If you’ve found a business growth strategy that works for your team, adding They Ask, You Answer doesn’t mean tossing out the old plan. Rather, you’re adding a highly specific set of tactics on top of what already works well for your organization.

“Scaling Up, EOS, They Ask, You Answer: these are all proven models,” Marcus adds. “That’s the thing. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We have these models that are proven to work.”

Simply put, there isn’t a better-proven content strategy out there

Perhaps you're skeptical about They Ask, You Answer. Maybe you question its viability, its application in your industry, or its staying power. 

In answer to those objectives, Marcus offers the following challenge: “Show me a better, proven content strategy than They Ask, You Answer.” The fact is, you won’t be able to find one that has already worked for so many businesses. You won’t be able to find one that truly brings sales and marketing together. You won’t be able to find one that unites your business around one common purpose.

They Ask, You Answer has been around for more than a decade because it works. It offers a path forward for your company that, if done right, will bring unity and clarity to the way your organization approaches customers.

This is way more than a marketing initiative. This is a vision for how your company does business. 

“Thanks for educating us instead of selling us”

In a recent sales call, a prospect said to an IMPACT sales rep, at the end of a 30 minutes conversation, “Thanks for educating us instead of selling us.” His comment perfectly sums up the way IMPACT approaches our own sales process — one that is entirely based on They Ask, You Answer.

Education sits at the center of our content strategy and at the center of our sales process. We don’t want to sell to customers who don’t want what we offer. We don’t want to force a sale with a bad-fit prospect just to have that client end up as an unhappy customer. 

They Ask, You Answer is, quite simply, an organized effort to educate your customer. “Buyers aren’t dumb,” Marcus says. “They might start out uninformed, but they know when they’re being pitched a bunch of biased B.S.” 

Buyers are adept at looking for signals that induce trust — and looking for signals induce doubt. When you openly try to educate your customers and when you candidly address the questions they want answered, you are sending trust-building signals to your buyers. 

Remember, trust is the currency of all business. If you’re building trust, you’re building your business. They Ask, You Answer gives you a framework for building that trust, from a prospect's first visit to your site to after they make a purchase. 

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