Guest post by Marcus Sheridan. Marcus passionately speaks and writes about business and marketing on his blog, The Sales Lion. Make sure to download his popular, 230-page FREE eBook-"Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy"
Ahh yes, one of the most over-used words, yet under-utilized actions, in our society today.
- News stations, despite their incessant claims, aren't close to being transparent.
- The folks in Washington DC, on both sides of the aisle, couldn't be any less transparent.
- And as for businesses small and large, this void of true transparency is the M.O. of the majority.
Everyone has an angle. Everyone is biased.
The Opportunity is There
But the reality is this folks-This dearth of transparency in modern society is also giving folks like you and me a tremendous opportunity to stand up, stand out, and brand ourselves into something exceptional.
And with powerful tools like social media and blogging, there has never been a better platform for what I call "Transparent Marketing".
Jay brought up a similar subject as the one I'm going to describe here in his recent article: 6 Stages to Exposing Yourself with Content Marketing. Upon reading that post, I could only laugh at the end when he asked what stage each of us were in with our marketing, because my answer was blatantly obvious-The Full Monty, or as Momma used to say-'Naked as a Jaybird' (full pun intended Mr. Baer )
Transparency in Content Marketing
You may be asking yourself what 'Transparent Marketing' actually is, and so that's exactly what I want to talk about in this article. Specifically, I'm going to focus on blogging and the subjects you can address in your company's content marketing efforts to not only completely stand out from the crowd, but also generate more leads and sales than you've ever done before.
I used to be a 'pool guy'. In fact, I still own a company in Virginia where we install inground fiberglass swimming pools. The reason why I so passionately write and speak about inbound and content marketing today is because in 2008, when the economy crashed, my company was literally on the brink of closing its doors. We had a massive infrastructure to support yet with the housing-market collapse, the number of potential customers to sustain that overhead was very slim.
It was during this time of incredible stress and frustration that I was forced to change everything I'd ever done to market my business. By March of 2009, we had jumped head-first into the new world of blogging, and our strategy for success was very plain and simple:
Address every question we'd ever heard from our customers.
Like I said, not too complex, right? But the truth is, most companies in today's world don't want to answer consumer questions well. They don't want to be great teachers. They shirk away from telling the truth (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and instead lean on pretty ad copy to garner sales and 'close deals'.
Such a strategy is not long for this world my friends, and we can thank social media and blogging for it.
To help you see exactly what I'm talking about, here are 4 articles that we've written on our swimming pool blog that are everything 'transparent marketing' is all about. Also, with each article I've listed how many times the page has been read, as well as the inbound links coming into that post. When I said there was power in transparent marketing, hopefully you'll see exactly what I meant by that here:
1. How Much Does a Fiberglass Pool Cost?
Why is it transparent?
Most companies refuse to talk about and address the subject of pricing on their company website. Considering 'cost' and 'price' questions are always one of the first queries of a prospect, why would anyone refuse to address it? And remember, addressing a question doesn't mean you have to answer it specifically, but you should at least be willing to give your prospects a feel as to what they can expect when it comes to cost and price. If you do this, not only will it earn you respect from potential customers, but it also may do very well in terms of SEO. (Google the phrases 'fiberglass pool cost' or 'fiberglass pool price' to see the results of this post.)
Final Results: 124,000 page views and 1,529 inbound links
2. Top 5 Fiberglass Pool Problems and Solutions
Why would a company that sells fiberglass pools talk about the problems that some consumers have with fiberglass pools? Ahh yes, good question. But the answer is very simple: Fiberglass pools are not for everyone. They have limited sizes and shapes. But they also have other benefits to consider. When a customer reads this article, they immediately get a factual take on a subject that is often times of great concern to a potential customer. And not only that, but their trust in the author for being so transparent goes through the roof. (Google the phrase 'Fiberglass Pool Problems' to see the search results of this post.)
Final Results: 46,000 page views and 428 inbound links
3. Small Fiberglass Pool Design Awards 2010
Have you ever considered complimenting your competitors before? How about positively mentioning them in a blog post? Well, that's exactly what this article does, a strategy that is very against the grain when it comes to marketing. (Google 'small fiberglass pools' and 'small pool designs' to see a few SEO results with this post.)
Final Results: 18,400 page views and 196 inbound links
4. How to Winterize a Fiberglass Pool (Video)
Each year, our company winterizes hundreds of inground swimming pools. Notwithstanding, we show a video on our website teaching pool owners how to complete this task themselves. And instead of losing business because of this video, customers watch it and realize they'd much rather have us out to winterize their pool than doing it themselves, something most of our competitors would never consider based on this need to 'hide' their services and thus great teaching. (Google 'How to winterize a fiberglass pool' to see the search results to this post)
Final Results: 1,700 page views and 8 inbound links
As you can see, all of these posts (plus many, many others I've elected not to mention) have done quite well in terms of reads, links, and keyword rankings. But this was all made possible because as a company, we were willing to show our cards and be very transparent in terms of the content and subjects we addressed.
So that's my challenge to you my friends. Are you willing to address every question you've ever heard from your customer base? Are you ready to tackle subjects that no one else in your industry will consider? If your answer is 'yes' to these questions, and then you consistently produce such content, I can assure you that your web visitors will increase, your brand will explode, and your company sales will be affected dramatically.
OK, lots of conversation opportunity here folks. Why do you think so many companies are afraid to be transparent when it comes to their marketing efforts? Also, do you adhere to my rule of 'if they ask it, you address it', or do you think there are consumer questions that should be left unanswered? Finally, can you think of a time you or your company was very 'transparent' with content and it paid big dividends?