Content Marketing: Getting the Basics Right

A couple of weeks ago Dave and I went to the Content Marketing Academy in Edinburgh. Hosted by Chris Marr, this is the only content marketing workshop in Scotland and with all the hype, it was set to be an interesting two days. With speakers from all over the UK and a special workshop from Marcus Sheridan, it was more than interesting – it was a wealth of truly inspiring information. Here’s a rundown of the key moments and takeaways from Marcus’ workshop on the Thursday afternoon…

A Conversation about Fear – why someone wouldn’t buy from you

Marcus began by asking us the question: “why would somebody NOT buy from you?” The answer? That customer’s fear. You don’t want them to fear you – you want them to trust you!

But how do you go about getting that trust?

He gave the example of used car salesmen. “What springs to mind when you think of them?” he asked. “Sleazy” was the overall reaction, but it seemed like the used car salesman of old represented more. Marcus highlighted that the stereotyped car salesman epitomised notions of:

  Buyer’s remorse

  Feelings of being ripped off

  Being aggressively sold to

  Having to negotiate hard

This led us all in the audience to ask if we are, in any way (metaphorically speaking) a used car salesman, by causing any of the fear-ridden qualities above. Marcus’ next question helped us with this.

“How do you build trust?”

Continuing the used car theme, the next slide showed a screenshot of a pickup truck he bought from Carmax:

Marcus highlighted that Carmax was actively helping to remove any notions of sleazy car salesmen by:

  Removing commission for salespeople

  Offering money back guarantee

  Showing him the testing and check process that all cars have to go through

  Providing around 40 images showing the good, the bad and the ugly

Overall, Carmax were eliminating the customer’s fears. They were open as a company and they made it all about the customer by providing what they actually needed and wanted to find out. With the money-back guarantee, they had successfully eliminated buyer’s remorse and by clearly stating a ‘no-haggle price’ the customer could rest assured they won’t need to barter on the day. They know what they’re getting, how much they’re going to pay and what to do if they change their mind. There’s no jumping through hoops, the customer can take in all information at their own pace – and decide whether to buy at their own speed too.

The next task was for us all to write at least 12 reasons down as to why someone wouldn’t buy from you. This was easier than it should’ve been. Then he asked us – “which of those reasons you’ve just written down do you currently address on your website?”. It was a real eye-opener for everyone in that room.

Marcus’ background

Marcus gave another example of successful content marketing: his own business. He stated that after the 2008 economic crash, business plummeted for him. People just didn’t have the money to buy pools anymore. This all changed when he started to create helpful, fear-eliminating content which invoke trust in any potential customers.

Marcus stressed that any business could take on this strategy. From pools to software, content marketing is for anyone. To really drive this point home, he gave the example of the mulch seller. They thought they were different, that they were the exception to such a marketing style. Marcus turned around and asked them: “What does the customer know about mulch? NOTHING. What do you know about mulch? EVERYTHING!” Below is an email he got from the mulch company stating just how successful blogging has been:


The Big 5: How to produce content that people and search engines love

In this section of the workshop, Marcus gave us the backbones of ferociously strong and successful content which the customer is actually looking for.

1. Cost

When talking about cost, Marcus asked:  “what do you feel when you go to a website and their prices aren’t on it?” We answer that overall we feel frustrated and that we would look somewhere else. Yep. There was a distinctive penny dropping sound in the room then.

The next question was a toughy. “How many of you put your prices on your website?” Around half to ¾ of the room put their hands up. Not bad. For those who didn’t, Marcus dared to ask why. “Because it depends on X  or we’re different/special/unique because X”. Wrong answer my friend.

There’s no getting away from why your prices should be on your website as Marcus showed us the results of an article he’d written detailing how much fiberglass pools costs. He’d generated hundreds of leads and made, now, wait for it, $2.5 million off the back of it. Yup. Two. Point. Five. Mi-ll-ion dollars.

Not having prices on a website scares us as customers. ‘Stop scaring people away’ was the message!

2. Problems

You need to talk about the problems with what you sell. Be open and be honest about it – it builds trust. (Just don’t forget to offer the customers a solution for this!).

I am definitely one of those people who will Google something like ‘Problems with x’ before buying it. Even if it’s pointing out problems, you’ll probably end up on their website –  which is half the battle anyway.

3. Versus 

Similar to ‘Problems’ – writing ‘versus’ articles seems odd at first. After all, you’re comparing your product to someone else’s – who’s to say that person won’t go for the alternative?!

Well, you have to be sneaky. Kind of. We looked at the example of fiberglass pools vs concrete pools. To be successful with a versus article and so that person doesn’t lose trust and buy from your competitor they had to be written a certain way. In the opening paragraph you needed to do these three things:

  Offer expertise to the reader

  Empathise with the reader

  Disarm the reader

Check out this awesome 1st paragraph Marcus wrote (here’s one that we wrote in a recent article that Marcus would be proud of – see if you can spot the three things!)


If that’s not enough, Marcus went on to give the example of Alaska Sleep Clinic. Long story short? They went from 2k to 100k in visits on their website in TWELVE MONTHS. How d’ya like them apples?

As before, customers will Google “fibreglass vs concrete pools” and there’s a higher chance they’ll end up on your website. Looking at your things. Buying your products.

4. Reviews & 5. Best

As you go up the big 5, the conditions of great content marketing SEEM harder and harder to execute. With reviews and ‘best-of’ content you’ve actively got to write about your competitors on your blog whilst NOT including yourself in any lists or reviews you produce. In the article shown above, Marcus’ title ticks all of the customer’s boxes in terms of what they searched for. Keywords like ‘review’ and ‘ratings’ work alongside this in terms of great SEO.

The best thing? If someone was to search for his competitor using a phrase like ‘reviews pla mor pools richmond’ HIS article would appear well above the Pla Mor pools website! It seems so wrong, but it’s so right!

What do you need to make content marketing work for you?

  Buy-in from everyone in the company, especially management.

  Initial content marketing workshop and long-term training.

  Content manager.

  Required participation.

  The right tools to show ROI.

A brief note on homepage design – what makes a good homepage

I’ll cut straight to it – after looking at a few of my fellow audience member’s websites (including allthings!) it was clear that the average homepage isn’t going above and beyond in order to actually help a potential customer. The websites were all too busy talking about the company or trying to sell you something. SO, if you’re thinking about creating a website, think about the solution your product or service offers and state that very clearly without any distraction right in the middle of the home page. Minimise copy, answer their questions.

The bottom line? According to Marcus, if you do it right, content marketing will have the following effects:

  Your company Brand and voice will grow

  Sales cycles will go down

  Clients will get fewer quotes

  Stronger relationships with clients and customers

  Certain individuals and talents will shine

  You’ll make a difference

  The team will grow stronger

He basically then dropped the mic and everyone was like “I MUST FIX MY WEBSITE AND CREATE CONTENT THAT ANSWERS PEOPLE’S QUESTIONS!”