Social Media Strategy

The Power of Transparent Marketing to Rock Your Business in 2012 and Beyond

marcus sheridan the sales lion 150x150 The Power of Transparent Marketing to Rock Your Business in 2012 and Beyond 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”

‘Transparency’

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.

Alas…

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 icon wink The Power of Transparent Marketing to Rock Your Business in 2012 and Beyond )

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?

Baer1cost 300x149 The Power of Transparent Marketing to Rock Your Business in 2012 and Beyond 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

Baer2problems 300x183 The Power of Transparent Marketing to Rock Your Business in 2012 and Beyond Why is it transparent?

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

Why is it transparent?Baer3awards 300x172 The Power of Transparent Marketing to Rock Your Business in 2012 and Beyond

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)

Baer4closing 300x191 The Power of Transparent Marketing to Rock Your Business in 2012 and Beyond Why is it Transparent?

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.

Your Turn

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?

  • nrobins1

    Great stuff. I think it all comes down to the shift in the buying process. Companies should expect prospects to have 80% of the info they need before they make a purchase (or even talk to a human being), so why not be the source of the information? In addition, transparency in content also weeds out the tire kickers and unqualified prospects. Lastly, if people don’t trust you, then damnit they won’t do biz with you!

    • http://www.TheSalesLion.com/ Marcus_Sheridan

      @nrobins1 YES! Weeding out prospects is a big part of great content marketing that most folks forget. It’s a BIG deal and can save sales staffs thousands of man hours and stress. I truly feel content is the greatest sales tool in the world… Thanks for the comment!

      Marcus

  • http://www.sparringmind.com/ Gregory Ciotti

    Awesome post Marcus, loved your first hand example, I’ve been hoping to see you post about it in depth recently since I’m a fairly new reader of your site.

    As for your ending question, in the coming years I believe that the market and customers will increasingly demand that companies become more transparent – and punish those who fail to do so.

    What remains to be seen is whether or not people will do so with their wallets or not.

    Either way, great post and good luck in 2012.

    • http://www.TheSalesLion.com/ Marcus_Sheridan

      @Gregory Ciotti .”..and punish those who fail to do so.”

      Well said my man. Blunt, powerful, and true.

      That’s exactly how it’s going to work.

      Appreciate your words Gregory!

      Marcus

  • PhyllisNichols

    Transparency requires a high degree of confidence,

    It also requires the ability to listen, both to consumers who are asking and to employees and those who are on the “front lines” daily,

    Great example of why it’s worth the effort to do both.

    • http://www.TheSalesLion.com/ Marcus_Sheridan

      @PhyllisNichols Great points Phyllis. It does require confidence, no doubt….but it’s worth it, that’s for sure. :) Thanks so much for the comment!

      Marcus

  • wasimalrayes

    Its more to do with confidence. I believe if your product and service’s is good, you can be as transparent as you like because you have nothing to worry about.

    • http://www.TheSalesLion.com/ Marcus_Sheridan

      @wasimalrayes Honestly, I don’t think confidence is the overriding factor here. I’ve worked with many businesses with their content marketing, some of which were very ‘confident’ in themselves and their products. But as soon as we really dug into this concept of transparent marketing, they caved. I’ve literally seen this again and again and again, and it’s unfortunate.

      Appreciate the comment!

      Marcus

  • kristinseed

    @spinweb I agree. Great read. I think most companies won’t answer questions is because they don’t know the answer and that’s embarrassing.

  • kadeeirene

    I think people fear the negative side of it. I am more apt to buy a book or a service that has a few negative reviews than 100% positive reviews. When people see the negative they can actually are able make judgement calls for themselves a lot easier. I think marketers don’t give that benefit of doubt to the consumers. Also, maybe marketers are just too worried about losing control. They feel they need to control the conversation, control their image rather than guide conversations and supplement their image. They don’t trust consumers to do the talking. Marketers are people, consumers are people – once marketers understand that I think it’ll be easier to be transparent.

    • http://www.TheSalesLion.com/ Marcus_Sheridan

      @kadeeirene “Marketers are people, consumers are people – once marketers understand that I think it’ll be easier to be transparent.”….AMEN to that!! That’s why so much of what I said above is simple common sense. If we’re but willing to listen to the consumer, they’ll tell us everything we truly need to be talking about.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Marcus

  • http://www.60SecondMarketer.com/ jamieturner1313

    Hi, Marcus –

    You make some great points here. Thanks for sharing.

    The first rule of 21st century marketing is transparency. The situation with Paula Deen is a great example of a major brand not being entirely transparent about her situation. The results have been a disaster.

    Thanks again for the post. Lots of good stuff here.

    – Jamie

  • http://thecontentcocktail.com/ C_Pappas

    I cannot wait to work for a company that is willing to be transparent. That’s all I have to say on that :) You know how I feel about this Marcus. It’s just unfortunate how few brands are willing to jump in and do it.

  • http://deliberateink.com/ ShakirahDawud

    My first time reading about transparent marketing as an actual concept, and specifically on pricing. As a sole proprietor, I’m constantly re-arranging my deck of cards, so to speak. But I can’t slap a price on something and expect it to go unquestioned by anyone I encounter. Having the confidence to back up that price and then overdeliver is crucial.

    It’s also interesting how you mentioned complimenting competitors. My main marketing thrust is via social media, so that’s where I meet colleagues who could be considered competitors… who eventually come over to show off their chops in my industry at my blog. It happens everywhere, really, and I never truly thought of it this way until now, but wouldn’t that be a form of a professional compliment to a competitor?

    And blogging about the concepts and strategy behind a certain industry’s decision–I know when I read a post by @adamtoporek about customer value, I knew I’d much rather it be him than me doing these sorts of calculations to prep a customer service strategy. I tend to hope that’s what’s going through a potential client’s head while reading my blog, too.

    I’m thinking about how else to apply that kind of transparency on my (currently small) scale.

  • http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog Jill Tooley

    I agree; trust directly correlates with transparency! I’m always impressed with companies/brands that share positives and negatives with customers. It demonstrates that they’re honest, and that’s the kind of place worth doing business with.

    I think some companies are afraid to be transparent because they feel like they’re spilling all of their secrets to the public. They’re focused on a perfect impression of their brand (“We’re the BEST!) and probably feel as if transparency would compromise that.

    Lots to consider in this post – thank you! :)

  • teriel

    Businesses are afraid to be transparent because of how out of touch they may be with their market. If their market is unhappy with them and they are transparent, the thought that probably runs their heads is that they’ll lose a lot of business. So they worry more about the loss of income, than understanding that relationships based on trust are what ensure that a business will actually continue to get money from the market.

  • http://www.60SecondMarketer.com/ jamieturner1313

    By coincidence, I wrote a blog post last night about how Paula Deen blew it with the whole transparency thing. It echos what Marcus says here. If you think it would be of interest, you can see it here: http://bit.ly/yea9Co

    All that aside, transparency is THE critical element of a 21st century marketing program. Thanks for all your good points on that, Marcus.

    P.S. A quick shout out to my friend Christina Pappas, who left an earlier comment. Jay, you sure get a lot of good folks visiting your site. Congrats.

  • saving4someday

    Excellent article! Speaking as a marketer, many businesses see transparency as giving away the farm. Why would anyone buy our stuff or hire us if they can get it free or do it themselves? Because (1) they don’t want to do it themselves (see pool winterizing video) or (2) your product/service will help them make more money. It’s a sort sighted thought process.

    Speaking as a lawyer, too many in my profession try to control the corporate message. In highly regulated industries this is a huge issue. For smaller companies, maybe they don’t have in-house lawyers who have to approve all marketing messages but it’s still something in the back of their mind. For some entrepreneurs, they may have friends who are lawyers who give them the ‘well, maybe, it could be a problem’ kind of feedback that hamstrings their efforts to be transparent.

    People think transparency is about selling secrets. It’s not. Transparency is about honesty and integrity and believing your customers will support you because you support them.

  • http://www.fivedoesit.com FiveDoesIT

    Becoming transparent is now mandatory as we begin evolving into a globaI job force.

    Sort of like Fiverr which lot of money selling gigs globally but I noticed they began to have a lot of competition and I received slower sales because of that. Sort of how adwords competition blew us all out of game.

    So, I decided to bring out Five Does IT, a micro jobs site that many Sellers will make money a little faster than with Fiverr since we are new with much less competition.

    hint: I’m looking to see lot’s of growth shortly which means lots of sales for our sellers and lots of value for our Buyers. You are welcome to stop by and take a look. Sign up is free.

    Karl Jackson

  • marketeering1

    Great post. I recently posted a blog about a trend of being raw and honest in marketing at risk of being risque.

    http://marketeeringgroup.com/Blog/Entries/2012/1/19_You_dont_have_to_be_boring_to_be_professional.html

  • TheSocialOffice

    @jenniferpeek Interesting post about content marketing. The examples are well done. Thank you for sharing!

    • jenniferpeek

      @thesocialoffice Absolutely – I’m glad you enjoyed it. And thank you for the RT!

      • TheSocialOffice

        @jenniferpeek No worries!

  • jenniferpeek

    @MelissaOnline Thanks for the mention – have a great weekend!

  • socialcapitalma

    @gabymenta Thank you in RT and helping us spread news!

  • jenniferpeek

    @InceptResults Thanks for the RT!