“Influencers Who Inspire” Interview with Marcus Sheridan

WHYphotoOur latest “Influencers Who Inspire” interview is with Marcus Sheridan, President of The Sales Lion – one of the premier inbound and content marketing companies in the world, training businesses large and small how to leverage content to build their digital brand and increase sales drastically. He is also Partner of River Pools and Spas, which is currently the most trafficked swimming pool company on the web and one of the largest fiberglass pool installers in the country. Marcus gives insight on inbound marketing and how it transformed his pool company into a leader in the industry.

If you were not in the field you are in, what career path do you think you would have chosen?

No question, I’d be coaching college football somewhere. I’ve always loved teaching, coaching, and competition, and if I thought football coaching would have allowed me enough time at home with the family, I likely would have gone that route.

But instead, I turned into a “pool guy” for about 10 years – and over the last two, have transformed again into a “marketing guy.”

The nice thing is, though, that I’m teaching and coaching businesses with this profession, and there’s some competition as well.

Can you explain inbound marketing to our audience?

I think this answer is often too wordy and it confuses people. My simple answer would be this:

The process of great digital teaching and communication to attract audiences (potential customers) to YOU versus throwing yourself at them.

How did you start your Pool and Spa business and how did inbound marketing help grow your company?

We started in 2001 out of the back of a pickup truck. We grew steadily until 2008, and then, almost what seemed like overnight, the banks crashed, real-estate values plummeted, and no one wanted to buy pools. Nor could many even afford them.

We had no money for traditional advertising so we had to choose a different route to take, which is when we learned about the power of inbound marketing and embraced the “teacher’s mentality” by answering every question we’d ever received from a customer on our company website and blog. Within about 6 months, the site’s traffic exploded, as did leads and ultimately, sales.

Inbound marketing literally saved our business and today we’re the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience as a missionary in Chile? How did that experience help shape you as an individual?

Easily, that was the best experience of my life. It taught me how to teach groups of people in a way so that they could understand unfamiliar principles. Chile was also the place I learned to speak and present to large audiences. Before that time, I was deathly afraid of public speaking. But being forced to do it helped me realize it’s actually one of the great talents God has given me, and I work hard to use it for good.

What do you envision as being the biggest development in marketing in 2013?

This may not sound terribly romantic, but I think the concept of proper content marketing will go mainstream for many businesses in this coming year. Instead of continuing to ignore it, they are now going to be dealing with the inevitable, just as they swallowed the “I have to have a website pill” about 5 years ago.

What is next for you in 2013?

Personally, my biggest quest right now is to come up with many amazing stories of successful inbound and content marketing from businesses in all walks of life. Currently, I’m targeting specific industries and can’t wait to show the world how the principles of great digital teaching and communication are applicable to any industry, regardless of what they do, sell, or think they are.

I’ll also be speaking all over the place because, well, that’s what I’m supposed to do.

Facebook Just Made Your “Friends” More Likeable with Graph Search

By now you’ve heard the news that Facebook has announced Graph Search, eloquently explained here by Steven Levy at Wired. While the tech world buzzes about Google’s reaction, the everyday user of Facebook is trying to make sense of it all – and probably worried that marketers are going to stalk them even more now – and privacy activists are sure to help them shake in their boots.

But let’s slow down for a minute. Isn’t garnering information from your friends and fans a good thing? Don’t you want to better understand your network, and be able to both gain and share information in a more targeted way? For example, I don’t want to bombard all of my “friends” with my current diet habits as I’m doing a 21-day Paleo challenge. But I would love to know which friends have also done it in the past, what their experience was, and any advice they have to share. Sure, I can post that question on my timeline, but it’s momentary – maybe some friends will see it, but many will not as it gets buried within the rest of their scrolling “news.” I also don’t want to ask the question and tag people because it’s just obnoxious how the question is then plastered on their Wall (or in their notifications, pending approval), and I’m not totally sure which of my 1300 or so friends it would be appropriate to ask. It’s just not a very gracious way to ask your network questions. In fact, here’s what it looks like right now in Facebook:

But from what I understand, with Graph Search, I can easily do just what the name implied – search my network (social graph)  and find those in it who might be interested in this particular topic, based on their updates, information and posts. I could query “friends of mine who have tried Paleo,” and Facebook would immediately provide me with data that I could then use to ask an appropriate question – or share information – to friends who might actually care. That means I annoy less and connect better on topical information. Or, perhaps you’re interviewing for a new job and you want to know if any of your friends have worked at the company you’re considering. Not many of us know the career history of all of our “friends,” and we’re not about to go searching through everyone’s bio – on Facebook or on Linkedin, for that matter. If Facebook could deliver an instantaneous list of “friends who have worked at EMC,” for example, you could easily ask them what it was like, if they recommend it, etc. (Granted, Linkedin allows you to search by people/companies.)

But what about privacy?

This is, understandably, always the first question that comes to mind when Facebook makes a new announcement. We’ve been conditioned not to trust them, and often we have reason. But again, from what I understand, Graph Search simply allows you to make better use of information already available to you. They’re not unveiling information you’re not already sharing – they’re just indexing it in a way that allows your friends and fans to easily search it at any time.

Personally I’ve been wanting Facebook to make it easier to search details on my network. Yes, I have lists and privacy settings, and as long as Facebook is honoring those, I’m happy to be able to go back into someone’s “archives” in a more organized and instant way to find relevancy to what I want to ask or share. Nothing’s changed from the old adage, “If you wouldn’t put it on a billboard, don’t put it on a social network.” (No matter what the privacy settings. )

And anyway – didn’t we all already know that the Internet is forever?

Here are a few of the more choice quotes from Levy’s article – they may help you quick study the news:

  • Nobody has feared this day more than Google, which suddenly faces a competitor able to index tons of data that Google’s own search engine can’t access.
  • Facebook is helping them [users] tap its vast, monolithic database to make better use of their “social graph,” the term Zuckerberg uses to describe the network of one’s relationships with friends, acquaintances, favorite celebrities, and preferred brands.
  • “People use search engines to answer questions,” Zuckerberg says. “But we can answer a set of questions that no one else can really answer. All those other services are indexing primarily public information, and stuff in Facebook isn’t out there in the world — it’s stuff that people share. There’s no real way to cut through the contents of what people are sharing, to fulfill big human needs about discovery, to find people you wouldn’t otherwise be connected with. And we thought we should do something about that. We’re the only service in the world that can do that.”
  • Thanks to Graph Search, people will almost certainly use Facebook in entirely new ways: to seek out dates, recruit for job openings, find buddies to go out with on short notice, and look for new restaurants and other businesses. Most strikingly, it expands Facebook’s core mission — not just obsessively connecting users with people they already know, but becoming a vehicle of discovery.
  • Graph Search will be improved based on how people actually use it. So Facebook plans a slow introduction, limiting the initial rollout to a small number of users. Zuckerberg’s expectation is that by the time it becomes available to millions it will be considerably improved.

And, as GigaOm tells us, “It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook.”

As a marketer, I can’t help but be excited about this news – discovering, sharing and positioning information is what we do for a living. But I’m also interested from a personal standpoint because I think it will make me a better Facebook “friend” in many ways. What do you think? Are you excited or nervous about this rollout?


I just learned from Robert Scoble that you can sign up to try it: “To get the Graph Search on Facebook you have to sign up at http://facebook.com/graphsearch and it will roll out over next few months.”

I did, and here’s a look at the sample search it ran for me – looks good, although I’d love to be able to query something more specific.


PerkettPR’s ‘Naughty & Nice List’ for PR and media in 2012

Before 2013 gets too far ahead of us, we wanted to share our look back at 2012 – a year in review of the PR triumphs and tragedies that made headlines: The good, the bad, the ugly. Here are a few of our top picks, along with the applicable business lessons we’ve learned from them.

First, the ‘Nice’…

Election Goes Social. This year’s Presidential race was one for the record books. The polls were close, the predictions were numerous and the attack ads were relentless, but it sure got national conversation going. From Big Bird memes to non-stop Invisible Obama jokes, the 2012 Election was one of the most shared and commented-on events in social media history.

Our takeaway: Ignoring the opportunity to engage via social channels is no longer an option.


NYC Marathon Near-Misstep. After becoming a lightning rod for criticism in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and organizers of New York City Marathon cancelled the race amid growing concerns that holding the event would divert resources from cleanup efforts. As a result, thousands of would-be marathon runners converged on the area to put their endurance training to work by lending a hand.

Our takeaway: The most effective crisis control always includes empathy for all involved.


Hostess Hoarding. After filing for bankruptcy twice this decade, Hostess threatened to liquidate after announcing that it will lay off 18,500 workers, blaming a labor strike. As a result, consumers took to convenience stores to snap up the snack cakes, and a ten-count box of Twinkies was even seen listed on eBay for an opening bid of $200,000, with a buy-it-now price of $250,000.

Our takeaway: Beloved brands die hard (as does the nostalgia of childhood!).


Royal Treatment. After years of tragedy (Diana) and scandal (Fergie) plaguing the palace, the Queen sought outside PR assistance, but it wasn’t until 2012’s Diamond Jubilee, Royal Wedding and baby news that the Monarchy seems to have emerged from its former dark days. As the most popular royals in history, William and Kate’s impact is far-reaching and, as a result, support for the Monarchy is at a 20-year high.

Our takeaway: Don’t underestimate the power of the ‘right’ spokesperson.


And now for the ‘Naughty’…


Fast Food Backlash. Between McDonald’s supersized #McStories Twitter backlash, Burger King workers behaving badly, Taco Bell employees defiling menu items and the industry grappling with the stigma of pink slime, it’s been a rough year for the fast food industry.

Our takeaway: For better or for worse, remember that every employee is an extension of your brand – and a network branding blitz can do a lot to promote panic.


Rogue Tweets. In an epic #BrandFail, we saw several companies get burned in social media mishaps: Chrysler’s Twitter account dropped the F-Bomb, a Red Cross employee tweeted about getting “slizzered,” a Ketchum exec insulted a client’s hometown and KitchenAid mocked President Obama’s dead grandmother on Twitter, just to name a few.

Our takeaway: Heed the old “measure twice, cut once” woodworking maxim and always “check twice, tweet once” when manning multiple handles.


Retail Blunders. In an attempt to ride the coattails of the storm, several retailers tried to be savvy with their marketing efforts, but ended up getting soaked for capitalizing on bad news. For those “bored during the storm,” American Apparel advertised a “Hurricane Sandy sale” in the Northeast with the checkout code “Sandysale.” Gap had the decency to plead that residents “stay safe,” but then followed it up with an inappropriate, “We’ll be doing ‘lots of Gap.com shopping today; how about you?” And last but not least, Urban Outfitters glossed over the storm with an offensive pun about wind, offering free shipping with the checkout code “Allsoggy.”

Our takeaway: There’s a thin line between agile and opportunistic, edgy and offensive – tread lightly.


Apple & Instagram Outrage. This year we also saw rivalry and greed get the better of some companies. For example, in the next chapter of the Apple vs. Google saga, Apple ditched pre-loaded Google services, such as Maps and YouTube, from its iOS 6 update. This was only made worse by the release of their own (ineffective) Apple Maps platform. And most recently, the majority of us have been involved in the collective Internet outcry against Instagram’s change(s) in its terms of service, which is still in the process of getting settled.

Our takeaway: Consumers don’t take kindly to feeling taken advantage of, and thanks to the web and social media, they have found their voice – and it can be heard louder than ever before.


Any other PR peaks and pitfalls from 2012 that you’d like to add to this list? Tell us in the comments below!