They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan: Book review

The premise of They Ask, You Answer is very simple: your marketing materials should revolve around answering your customers’ questions.

They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan

Despite being a simple concept, it’s amazing how few companies actually do this. Businesses are often so focused on the competition or their own goals that they forget to serve their clients and customers.

Your first reaction when you hear this might be, “Not my business!” (That’s how I felt when I started reading the book.) But author Marcus Sheridan shows succinct examples of how most businesses fall into this trap through examples from his own business and other businesses he’s worked with as a consultant.

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Consumer psychology

It’s all about understanding consumer psychology, about putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. How do you act when you’re making a purchase? Do you choose the company that tells you they’re the best? Or do you choose the company that answers your questions and gains your trust?

Sheridan’s main tool is content marketing, like blogging and writing informative website content. He wants you to openly and honestly answer all of your customers’ questions, even when that means doing uncomfortable things like posting your pricing or comparing yourself to a competitor. If they have a question, you answer it, even if answering goes against industry norms, Sheridan says.

Posting pricing

One of the first tasks he asks you to consider is posting your pricing. Depending on your industry, there’s a high chance your pricing isn’t currently posted on your website.

But why not? Is it because you’re worried your competitors will price check you? Then you’re thinking about you and your competitors, not your customer. Besides, your competitors probably already know your pricing and/or your pricing is probably fairly standard to your industry.

Is it because you think you’re too expensive? Posting your pricing can actually help in these cases because it can help qualify your leads. The people who do go on to talk to you will already know how much it will cost.

When posting about pricing, Sheridan says it’s fine to list a range, and you should explain the factors that dictate the cost, what the buyer can expect to see in the industry, and where you fall as a company.

Qualifying leads

The other benefit to customer-focused content marketing is that it helps you create more qualified leads. Potential clients and customers will read the content you create, and yes, some of the answers may turn off some of the leads. But the ones who remain will be loyal.

People want to be informed. Providing them with the information they need to make a decision is valuable. The source of that information is seen as a trustworthy expert. You want your business to be that source. Not to mention that blogging is one of the best ways to improve your search engine ranking. It adds relevant keywords and phrases to your websites, and gives Google useful content to serve up to its users.

They Ask, You Answer content marketing topics

Sheridan has several chapters on brainstorming content for your website and blog that are well worth reading in detail, but a few topics he suggests you can delve into include:

  • Every question any client or prospective client has ever asked
  • Clients’ fears, issues, concerns, and worries
  • Comparisons
  • Best in class
  • Reviews

Using his brainstorming techniques, I’ve come up with more than 100 topics I’d like to cover on the Vireo Productions blog – and counting. Sheridan first tested the They Ask, You Answer strategy with his own business in the early days of online content marketing and saw almost unbelievable gains. You likely won’t see anything close to his results these days as the search engine market is quite saturated, but there is still a lot of value in what he proposes. This book made me rethink my content strategy for both of my companies, and for the companies I serve. If you want to see your business succeed, you need to read this book!