Guest post by Amanda Subler, Public Relations & Media Manager for Content Marketing Institute (CMI)
Last year I traveled the U.S and Europe producing a documentary about content marketing for my company Content Marketing Institute. We visited Moline, Illinois the home of John Deere. We traveled to Washington D.C., to visit Marriott’s Global Headquarters. We went to Salt Lake City to visit Blendtec, the home of one of the largest blender manufacturers in the world. (Ever heard of Will it Blend? YouTube videos?) We even flew all the way to Denmark, to see how one of the country’s largest banks is transforming financial television.
But one of my favorite trips was to Warsaw, Virginia, where a little fiberglass pool seller used content marketing to not only save their business, but gain international fame and even go from selling to manufacturing their own pools.
Marcus Sheridan and his partners at River Pools and Spas were in big trouble when the recession hit in 2008. Suddenly, (no big surprise) no one wanted to buy pools anymore. For three straight months, they were overdrawn on their bank account. As Marcus says, he didn’t know what they were going to do. “Every consultant I talked to told me to close our business.” That’s when Marcus discovered “content marketing.”
The first thing he did was write down every single question he and his partners had ever gotten from a prospect or customer. Then they committed to answering every single question in blog format consistently on their website. He even answered the one question every single pool sales person is afraid to answer until they are sitting face-to-face in your living room: How much does a fiberglass pool actually cost? That single blog post has received well over 2 million views. By consistently answering every single sales question, River Pools went from being fourth in their market to the number one seller of fiberglass pools in the country. They get calls from people all over the world wanting to buy pools from them. It helped them build such a powerful brand, they have just moved from selling fiberglass pools to now actually manufacturing their own pools.
How did they do it? Marcus and his partners recognized early that with the advent of the internet, the traditional sales model was no longer viable. You can no longer afford to withhold information from your prospective customers until you can actually pitch them face-to-face. People looking to make any sort of purchase, especially such a large investment as a pool, are doing research online before they ever consider contacting a company about the purchase. When people start their search for a new pool, River Pools is the number one resource that pops up. Marcus and his team provide ten times more information than any other pool seller. Prospects are sold before they even make that initial phone call to River Pools. Content has become such a powerful sales tool, that last year, River Pools sold about 90 pools and 90 percent of those were sold before they even went on the sales call. Why? Marcus’ team is not afraid to give clients all the information they are looking for, including an actual sales proposal (which is unheard of in the pool industry), before ever stepping foot in a prospect’s house.
Was it hard for a couple of pool guys to learn a completely new skill set, essentially learning to be writers? Heck yeah. As River Pools co-owner Jason Hughes says, it was really hard at first, but he found the more he did it, the better he got at it. His advice for others is to just start small, just post something-get it out there. There’s no way it can hurt you. He says “if it applies to a pool company, it can apply to anybody. If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
So what are you waiting for? Do you have a list of questions from your prospective clients or current customers that you can answer? If you’re too afraid to answer those questions, you need to ask yourself why? Are prospects getting these answers from someone else? Are they getting it from your competitors? You could be missing the opportunity of a lifetime for your business.
I’ll leave you with this final thought from Marcus on the power of content marketing, “The moment we stopped saying we’re pool sellers and said we’re the best teachers in the world about fiberglass pools, and we happen to install them ourselves, was the most prosperous day of our lives.”
You can see more of Marcus’ story in the documentary, The Story of Content, at timecode 23:27.
You can learn more about the documentary and download a screening guide at TheStoryOfContent.com
Amanda Subler is the Public Relations & Media Manager for Content Marketing Institute (CMI), overseeing all PR and media relations for the company. She also produced CMI’s new documentary on the rise of content marketing, The Story of Content. She’s a former award-winning journalist, spending 11 years in local TV newsrooms as a producer and executive producer.