They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer by Marcus Sheridan is a must read for business owners, including those in the hospitality industry. Mashable rated this the #1 marketing book to read in 2017. It is the true story of how one man immediately improved his company.
Mr. Sheridan, a co-owner of River Pools and Spas, in the wake of the 2008 economy struggles, witnessed his business rapidly declining. Rather than see his company go bankrupt, he decided if he simply answered the questions that people were asking about pools on his website (writing articles and making videos), he could become an authority and go-to resource that people could trust. According to Marcus, the business we are all in is trust.
We must understand what our customer is searching for, asking, feeling, and fearing. We must not be afraid any and all questions. First, he brainstormed all of the questions he received about fiberglass swimming pools. Then he spent all his spare time answering these questions.
He emphasizes that business owners should take on more of the “teacher” mentality than the sales role. Sheridan advocates against sticking your head in the sand (like the myth that ostriches do) and hoping your problems go away. Rather, he argues that we should do everything we can to earn our customer’s trust.
He uses CarMax as an example of a company that admitted their industry (selling used cars) had no consumer trust, and gave examples of what they did to earn back people’s trust:
- One price is listed for vehicles (nothing more and nothing less)
- Sales team is given the same commission regardless of what vehicle is sold
- A five-day money back guarantee to those who purchase their used cars
- An intensive inspection process that all their cars go through
- A CarFax vehicle history report that details its history of repairs
- Listing the Kelley Blue Book Value with all their vehicles
This eliminated the four major fears that used car buyers have:
- Dealing with the salesperson
- Buyer’s remorse
- Buying a lemon
- Not getting ripped off
Brainstorm every single reason why someone would not buy from your company (or for the case of innkeepers, stay at their B&B). How many of these reasons have been addressed by your website? Sheridan said that most companies never take the time to properly address the biggest fears of their consumers. For example, bed and breakfast inns should educate their potential guests on how they are different from hotels.
Marcus advises that it does not matter what you or I think, but what the consumers think, how they behave, and what they expect. Are we willing to meet their expectations? Write out the specific messages you want to get across to your most ideal guests. Figure out what your guests are thinking, feeling, asking, and going through. Assume your potential guests already know about all of the alternative places to stay in your local area.
Sheridan very boldly made a list of the pluses and minuses of his competitors’ pools. Because he stayed objective, and based his information on facts, he was able to gain a lot of trust from others. Some of his competitors were surprised (and even thankful) that their brands were mentioned in his blog post. Of course, others were disappointed at his reviews, and a few even threatened to sue him, but because it was based on fact there was nothing they could do. By explaining the pros and cons of each type of swimming pool, he let the consumer decide what was best for their needs. The key is the willingness to objectively address his competition and become a trusted source in his industry.
Marcus urges business owners to have a steadfast commitment to helping consumers make the most well-informed purchasing decisions as possible. Sheridan asserts that the most successful companies have a very clear understanding of the fact that they are not a good fit for everyone. Focus only on the group that matters–the customers–and not the competition or guests that are not a good fit for what your inn offers. Be a resource to help them make the best decision for themselves. Distill the facts into simple-to-understand words that travelers find helpful.
Every time someone consumes a piece of your content (video, article, etc.), the trust factor continues to rise. In fact, with River Pools and Spas, they discovered that if someone read thirty or more of their website pages before their initial sales appointment, they would buy from them 80% of the time whereas if they didn’t read thirty or more pages, the average closing rate in terms of appointment-to-sale was only 20%.
The moment your prospect sees you as more of a teacher than versus a salesperson, the amount of respect dramatically increases. The goal of Google (and other search engines) is to give its customer (the searcher) the best, most specific answer to their question (or need, problem, query, etc.) in that very moment. Places of hospitality that regularly offer fresh content that answers questions, will get more visitors to their website which can lead to more visitors to their inn.
Did you know that one-third of all time spent online is watching video? Thus, videos and video blogs (vlogs) can be extremely beneficial. People care about having their questions and concerns answered. Sheridan recommends that for those just getting started on adding more content to their website, that they begin with the big five subjects:
- Cost (focus on showing your value with customized packages)
- Problems (address problems such as food allergies and handicap accessibility)
- Comparisons (don’t be afraid to make a list of the pros and cons of your local competitors if they are based on fact)
- Reviews (feature five-star guest reviews on your website and in social media)
- Best of (feature the best of your local community: restaurants, attractions, etc.)
I really enjoyed reading this book and I know it will inspire other business owners, especially owners of places of hospitality such as bed and breakfast inns and restaurants. If you would like a free phone consultation with Kristi Dement of Bed and Breakfast Blogging, I would be happy to speak with you about generating more traffic to your website with a focus on increasing the bottom line of your business.