Online Marketing is More Affordable than Ever

A lot of us try to succeed in online and content marketing. Yet not all of us do.

Meet Marcus Sheridan. He succeeded.

I interviewed Marcus and asked him to share his advice and expertise with us. Over a period of 4 years he managed to increase his online marketing efficiency 15 times over for his company, River Pools & Spas.

‘Before content marketing, in 2007 when the economy was still roaring, we spent about $250k a year to achieve 4 million in sales. Today, to achieve just under 5 million in sales, our advertising/marketing budget is about 20k annually.’

I met Marcus at Content Marketing World 2012. I felt his story was very inspiring. A person with literally no technical and content-creation skills appeared from nowhere and, with passion and hard work, created the most popular website in the pools and spa niche. Online marketing for small businesses can be tough. But not for Marcus. He started using inbound and content marketing techniques that ended up being very successful. In fact, they were 15 times cheaper than traditional outbound marketing techniques in generating leads.

Organic traffic coming to his website increased 9 fold in the course of 3 years. And note: the swimming pools business is subject to seasonality.

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River Pools & Spas ranks #1 for the most perspective transactional search queries in the pools and spa niche.

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This is very important because when people Google using the word ‘buy’, they are much closer to the actual purchase decision than those Googling informational queries. Ranking in the top for transactional queries should be a priority for any business.

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Now let’s get down to the meat. How is this all possible?

Helen: What exactly did you do to achieve these results?

Marcus: Our approach was very simple: We took every question we'd ever been asked by a customer or prospect and turned that question into the title of a blog post. Our golden rule became: ‘They Ask, We Answer’ – and that's exactly what we did. And because we did this, the search engines rewarded us and so did those surfing the web, looking for a trusted advisor on fiberglass swimming pools.An example of this was when we wrote the article ‘How much does a fiberglass pool cost?’ Because no company had at the time ever addressed that question online, the article immediately shot to #1 on Google SERPs for many cost-related keywords. Since then it has actually generated over $1.2 million in sales – all from one article.

So, what Marcus was doing was creating content his potential readers would love to read. Content that addressed their concerns and questions they had in their minds. Content that actually solved their problems.

Helen: Is there something you regret not having done at a certain point in time?

Marcus: When it comes to content marketing? Not really. I've experimented, failed, been victorious – and everything in between. My main goal these days is to push the envelope and allow the content marketing within my companies to grow and become bolder than ever.

Marcus emphasizes continuous learning, the courage to embrace failure and to move on and strive for more. Taking a position in your marketing and sticking to it is important.

Helen: What is the most important tip you can give those just starting out with their blogs?

Marcus: Don't overanalyse. Don't make it complicated. And certainly don't expect it to be perfect.

That's advice I love. You can spend days if not years trying to make everything perfect. Yet sometimes you just have to let it go. Quick feedback from real customers is definitely a more objective success criteria for content than anyone's personal opinion.

Helen: Things change over time. What should be done differently in content marketing in 2013?

Marcus: I think the key for many organizations is what I call ‘insourcing’ –  using our existing employees, especially those in sales, to be an active part of the content-production process. Be it blogging, producing video, or just coming up with ideas for a new post – everyone should play a part.I've had companies come to me where just one person was blogging. After implementing a ‘culture’ of teachers and content producers with the staff, more than 40 people are now participating in the blog.

I agree with Marcus here – it’s better to involve as many people as possible within an organization in the content creation process. Involving sales people who are interacting with customers on a daily basis is great for generating ideas, as they are the ones who best understand customers’ needs.

Still, I think that a combination of insourcing and outsourcing can be a good strategic fit for a company. On the one hand you establish thought leadership and shape the culture of learning within a company. Yet outsourcing certain content creation tasks – such as press release writing or infographics creation – allows you to scale your content creation faster. Scaling faster means faster ROI and results.

What do you think? Is it more effective to create content only with staff employees or at least partially outsource content creation? Do you agree with the advice given by Marcus? What is critical to succeed in content marketing?