“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.

Persuasive Picks for week of 11/5/12

MarketingProfs‘ Molly Glover Gallatin illustrates how to tie the kind of rich, actionable customer intelligence you can glean from social media into five overarching marketing decisions in Five Marketing Decisions Social Media Should Be Shaping.

The term “content marketing” includes two intimidating words that can be difficult to hear lately, due to the increased amount of content being shared on social networks by just about everyone. Viral Traffic Specialist and Content Creator Amanda Ryan posts 5 Content Marketing Tips That Will Give Your Business a Competitive Edge on Business2Community.

Just because online marketing is a digital medium does not mean it has to be cold and impersonal; rather, as marketing continues its rapid shift online, businesses must learn to personalize their digital assets in order to stay competitive. Strategic Marketing Consultant and SocialMediaToday contributor Chris Horton provides 3 Simple Ways to Connect with Your Target Audience.

An emerging social media trend is creating fresh ways for companies to engage with customers. With the rise of the visual, social web, clever brand ambassadors and marketers are breathing new life into contest marketing. Evan Vogel explains that the visual web is giving digital contests a major shot in the arm in How visuals are reviving digital contest on iMediaConnection.

Persuasive Picks for week of 10/22/12

In every industry there’s a bellwether that points to future trends. Do you know what it is for digital marketers? And more importantly, are you paying attention? Digital marketing industry insider Shelly Palmer speaks to iMediaConnection about the the changing technology landscape in How to predict the future of digital marketing.

Brand pages aren’t necessarily a new feature on LinkedIn, but recently the professional networking site revamped their brand pages in an effort to better connect the business to the customer and job hunters, with several new features reminiscent of what Facebook and Twitter are currently offering. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation explains Why It’s Time for Your Business to Get a LinkedIn Brand Page on SocialMediaToday.

With the rise of social media, word-of-mouth marketing is becoming a more tangible form of consumer influence. And, brands are out there in strong force tapping the digital space for “influencers” of all kinds. It sounds intimidating, but Nick Cifuentes, Global Social Media Director for Ancestry.com, offers some insightful guidance to Understanding Digital Influence and How to Engage – via ClickZ.

One of the reasons many businesses do not create and publish online content to serve their communities is the assumption it has already been done. Business2Community contributor Jeff Korhan writes that this assumption ignores the fact that most problems are chronic and original perspectives are the only way to slowly break them down to develop sustainable solutions, and provides 3 Ways Content Marketing Makes Every Business Better.

Persuasive Picks for week of 10/15/12

The key to being a good consultant of any kind is to ask the right questions, writes Michael Teitelbaum in a recent post at Marketing Trenches, and provides a list of 5 Questions Marketers Need to Ask Prospective Clients to get to the heart of a prospect’s challenges and aspirations – via MarketingProfs.

Visual networks are now changing the rules of engagement and agencies and brands need to find the best ways to measure and understand their customers cultures. Laurent Francois of SocialMediaToday explains How Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr are Blasting Social Media Monitoring tools because there’s a fantastic bias supposing that people express themselves only through words, sentences and syntax.

LinkedIn has rapidly become the number one B2B social networking tool with over 175 million users from around the globe. So why would someone in your target audience choose to do business with you in LinkedIn? Online Marketing veteran and ClickZ contributor Jasmine Sandler says it’s not as easy as one-two-three, but provides some helpful tips on Creating Solid Business Relationships Through LinkedIn.

First impressions matter! Blog readers generally pay attention to the title and the first two paragraphs of any given post, and then decide whether to read the rest. Lydia Di Francesco gives content marketing tips to bring more attention to your posts in 6 Easy Ways To Write Headlines That Get More Clicks on Business2Community.

Perkett’s “Persuasive Women” Series Continues with Ann Handley

PerkettPR is very excited to enter 2012 with a great new interview in our “Persuasive Women” series. This new interview is with someone we truly admire, Ann Handley. Ann is a 12-year veteran of creating and managing digital content.

Ann is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, which provides marketing know-how for business people through a full range of online media, and the co-author of the best-selling Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts,Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (Wiley, 2011) (www.contentrulesbook.com).

Previously, she co-founded ClickZ.com and was a journalist for the Boston Globe as well as a writer and editor for a host of other publications, including those magazines in the back pockets of airline seats.

Currently, she writes for MarketingProfs as well as its blog, the MarketingProfs Daily Fix , a blog in the top 20 of the Advertising Age Power150. She can also be found at the Huffington Post , American Express OPEN Forum, and her personal blog, Annarchy.  She also writes a monthly column for Entrepreneur magazine. On Twitter, she has more than 100,000 followers @marketingprofs.

What motivates you to get out of bed every day?

Actually, Instagram motivates me BEFORE I get out of bed. I typically check the photo-sharing social network while I’m still lying prostrate — I love the network’s visual storytelling capabilities, which only reminds me how awesome content is, which only reminds me how awesome relationships with content creators are, which only reminds me how amazing the rest of my job is, which only reminds me that I need coffee….

What keeps you up at night?

Pretty much anything. I don’t sleep well.

But here goes….

What keeps me up at night professionally: My sincere regret that more companies don’t see the full, robust, incredible, awesome potential of content! That more companies don’t see their content and online publishing efforts as the cornerstone of their marketing, but instead bolt it onto existing efforts in a freakish, unattractive way.

Also professionally: When I have a big speech coming up — like I do now next month in Kansas City  — I’m fretting about that in the middle of the night. In a healthy way, probably (the nerves motivate me to do my best). But it’s fretting, nonetheless. (Oh and by the way, you should come.)

What keeps me up at night personally: I admit I’m a worrier. I worry about my college-aged kid, who lives in an iffy neighborhood near his school. I worry about my daughter, just because I’m a mother. I worry about global warming and the polar bears. I occasionally regret having the second burrito at dinner. How much room do we have….?

I’m kidding.

Sort of.

What’s one sentence or phrase you find yourself using all the time?

“Solve or share, don’t shill.” It’s the mantra I repeat ALL. THE. TIME. to companies looking for a bottom-line guide to their content strategy. And I like it because it sums up — in five simple, alliterative words — what should guide the content you produce. Another way of saying that, is: “Put the needs and wants and perspective of your customers first.” But that’s not nearly as memorable.

Secondly, I find myself quoting Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” liberally these days, just because I’ve had the song stuck in my head for weeks now. (This is what happens when you carpool teens around.) But that can get awkward in certain circles. So I don’t think I’ll mention that here.

How has your life changed from five years ago to today? Where do you hope to be five years from now?

I’m five years older. So there’s that. Also, as Content moved center stage with marketers, I found I actually had something to say! So I wrote a book, “Content Rules” with C.C. Chapman. That has been a rewarding, rich experience in so many ways: It has opened up new and interesting doors, and in it I found a great friend (and “wubby” [work hubby]) in C.C.

More generally, I also like the perspective I have now, which I didn’t have a few years ago. Despite what I said above about worrying — I don’t take things as seriously as I once did. I have more fun in my life and work, and I’m grateful for my awesome kids, my wonderful man, my rewarding social relationships, and my work at MarketingProfs for creating the path to that.

Where do I hope to be? Sheesh. I always have trouble with prognostications. But if I’m as happy as I am now… I’m good. If content is front and center for Marketing, then I’m really good. If everyone here reading this is still caring about what I have to say in five years — if I feel more connected to people and not less, so — well, that would be something, wouldn’t it? (I told you I’m terrible at crystal-ball gazing.)

When was the last time someone inspired you?

I’m inspired every day by the people around me creating and curating content via Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and the like. I’m inspired by my colleagues at MarketingProfs to do more things, to push harder, to be more. I’m inspired by people who take chances, who try new things, who leap into the unknown — like friends who start companies and make changes and do other things than I can’t list here.

But generally, I’m inspired by honesty: People who do things that they are driven to do, that rings true for them, that they are compelled into. Relationships that are real. Companies that create stuff which is truly a mirror of the soul of who they are, or who they want to be. I love that. And I find it incredibly rewarding and inspirational. I want to steep in it. I want to fill some social hot tub with it and sit in it for a good, long time.

When was the last time you got pissed off?

(LOL — this is only time I’ve ever been asked this question — and I love it!)

I got really ticked a few hours ago at my (teenage) kids, who appear allergic to any sense of order in the family room. Seriously? That laundry basket of clothes has needed folding for a week. The bowl of grape stems on the entertainment center?!

Am I your housemaid? THAT. PISSES. ME. OFF.

I probably should come up with something more broadly appealing or more profound — certain candidates surging in the polls do not thrill me — but you asked “last time,” so parents out there: Can you relate?!?!?

What was the last thing that made you laugh so hard you cried?

Tina Fey’s Bossypants. If you haven’t read it, I can’t imagine why not. You will pee your pants. (If you’ve had kids. If you haven’t, you’ll just laugh.)

How does your personal brand influence your job? Or are they one and the same?

I can’t say I fully understand what the term “personal brand” means. Possibly I’m not sophisticated enough. Here’s how I see it: I am who I am online, and sometimes I represent the brand I work for (MarketingProfs). I don’t change who I am because of that, although I probably modify my behavior a bit (as in: I don’t swear, or I don’t get too personal). So I guess the short answer is that they are pretty closely aligned.

How do you manage your role at MarketingProfs, your personal brand and the rest of your life so smoothly? What’s your secret?

I don’t think there is a secret, really. I love my job. I love the rest of my life, too. I guess my secret is that I don’t fake it. But is that a secret? I can’t imagine so — it just is.

I think — as in most things in life — relationships are key to everything. I do well on social networks because I truly value the relationships I build there. I treasure my personal relationships. I value my friends. This isn’t groundbreaking, I’m sure. But it makes my life worth living.

Can you share your favorite work tools for collaboration, productivity, or organization?

MarketingProfs is a virtual organization. So Skype is a connectivity and productivity and collaboration tool. As is Basecamp. As is Dropbox.

I also like our Team ‘Profs private Facebook group, along with a handful of other private groups I belong to that allow me to check my sanity and deepen relationships. See above.

What’s next for you in 2012?

The paperback edition of Content Rules comes out in the spring. MarketingProfs continues to grow and morph. I’m celebrating my one-year anniversary as a columnist for Entrepreneur magazine (http://www.entrepreneur.com/author/1726). Otherwise? I think I said I was terrible at looking ahead….