Content Marketing For Business That Actually Works with Marcus Sheridan

In this episode we speak with Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion. We chat about how real business can use content marketing to drive leads and sales. This episode is about generating results with your content not just creating content that looks pretty.

Marcus Sheridan leads The Sales Lion, a sales and marketing blog that focuses on inbound and content marketing. His marketing strategies have made the website of his swimming pool business the most visited swimming pool site in the world!


  • From pools to the top of the content marketing pride – Marcus’ back story.
  • Why content rules – Exactly why you should be employing content marketing in your business.
  • Epic Content – The myth, the reality, the method.


Intro: Welcome to the brave, new world of cost-effective communications, tips, trips, and tricks, how-to’s, why-to’s, and what not to do’s, and using the power of web-based content marketing to easily promote whatever you’d like. Welcome to the Multimedia Marketing Show with Jake Hower.

Jake: Welcome back to the show, listeners. I’m your host, Jake Hower. This is episode 23 of the Multimedia Marketing Show. This is a very exciting episode for me. I believe that, as small business owners who are looking to become content and inbound marketers, this is an episode you cannot miss. Okay, today’s show guest is Marcus Sheridan from the Sales Lion. He’s got a really interesting story, Marcus. He started a pool company over in the U.S., River Pools. He was able to turn his company around using content marketing. Today, we’re going to be looking at a hallway of practical advice that you can use to go out and start using content marketing to drive sales for your own business.

I think it’s an episode you cannot miss. Please stick around. Let’s get straight into it with Marcus, right now.

Segue: We’ll be right back with more of the Multimedia Marketing Show, but first, this suggestion. Make sure that you don’t miss a single episode by subscribing to us via iTunes. Don’t forget to like Jake on Facebook. Follow him on Twitter, and sign up for email notifications at Then, you’ll be the first to know when new episodes are available. Now, let’s get back to the Multimedia Marketing Show with Jake Hower.

Jake: Welcome back, listener. Thank you very much for joining us. As discussed at the top of the episode, we have Marcus Sheridan from the Sales Lion on the call today. Marcus, how are you?

Marcus: Jake, I’m feeling good. It’s a late night here in Virginia. This is right about the time when I get rocking and rolling, and feeling my good second wind of the day. It’s a pleasure to be with you, and certainly your audience, man.

Jake: Yeah, fantastic. You’re someone that I personally have followed along for quite some time now. Your content marketing approach is fantastic. The fact that you have also got your own company who has followed this approach, I think, is going to be really valuable for a lot of our listeners for today.

Marcus: Yeah, I guess it’s my definitive advantage because I come from the world of the business owner, and I think … which kind of leads us into a subject, which is I think a lot of marketing consultants, marketing companies, don’t do well in terms of sales because they sound like a marketing consultant in a marketing company. They don’t speak the language of the business owner. I hope that as I continue down this path that I’ll always sound more like the business owner guy instead of the marketing guy, if that makes sense.

Jake: It makes total sense. One thing that I really love, or I really follow, is those that don’t follow the mantra, do as I say not as I do, so you’re actually in the trenches, and doing it yourself. I think that’s a really good quality to have.

Marcus: Well, a lot of the stuff that I’ve done, Jake, I had to test myself before … just the craziest stuff like talking about the competition openly, and just stuff that you don’t see companies doing. I had to test those things out, and I had to measure them. Then, I had to bid … because I had theories in my head, but the theories, I knew, were just that. I think we’ve got enough theory around here to make us all vomit, especially when it comes to social media and content marketing. There’s definitely not a need for any more theory. I want to be the guy that has, hey, this stuff you can actually apply to your business. You can apply to it right away.

It doesn’t take … it’s not rocket science whatsoever, but it’s a common sense approach. It’s also that person that is willing to be that renegade in their industry.

Jake: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. In today’s call for our listener, what I’d like to do is it’s a … first off all; I want to give them a little bit of context as to exactly who you are, and what you do. Then, we’ll delve in a little bit to the meaty side of the things. We’ll give our listener, on the call, some really actionable tips that they can take away, that they can model from people who are doing it successfully as you and your clients are doing, and then implementing the right businesses. How does that sound?

Marcus: Hey, man. I’m ready to go. You know me.

Jake: All right. Let’s get kicked into a little bit about your backstory, Marcus. Maybe if you’d take our listener through the stages that have brought you to where you are today.

Marcus: Well, yeah. I mean I’ll try to give you the really quick version. Basically, started a swimming pool company in Virginia, here in the U.S. in 2001. We install fiberglass swimming pools. That’s what we do, in-ground swimming pools. Things were going okay until about 2008 when the economy crashed. We were in huge trouble. We thought we were going to go out of business, just like a lot of swimming pool companies went out of business. We had to do a lot of pools to stay alive. The problem was we didn’t have any money to do advertising. We were flat broke. We were on the cliff.

That’s when I discovered inbound marketing, content marketing, and really just said, hey, why don’t we, instead of doing things the ways they’ve always been done, why don’t we become the best teachers in the world at what it is that we do, which is fiberglass swimming pools? Essentially, we just took every question we’d ever been asked by a prospect in a customer. We started making those questions titles of blog posts, and we answered every single one of them. We didn’t hold back. Our mantra, our golden rule, became they ask, we answer. If we had ever received a question, we felt it was our moral obligation to answer it.

It went so well that, within the next couple years, the site really, really blew up. That saved our company. Today, to make a long story really short, Jake, it’s the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world. The story about River Pools has been featured in multiple books. It’s been featured, now, in the New York Times, on the cover of the Business section. Of course, it went so well with this whole content marketing effort with River Pools. I learned so much. I experimented so much, that I started talking about it on another website, which is my brand today, which is the Sales Lion.

That site did very, very well today. Well, it’s going very well. It’s grown. Today, I have two companies. I’m a silent partner with River Pools. I just go around the world and I speak about content marketing, about sales and business in life. I also do some … a good bit of consulting. I have retainer clients. I’ve got a lot of HubSpot clients, and things like that. That’s what I’m doing, man.

Jake: Yeah. No, that’s really good. Now, one thing that I sort of noticed. With a lot of content marketers, or those preaching content marketing at the moment, talk about the fact that you need absolutely epic content to bring in traffic and to serve it’s purpose. What I noticed from looking at river pools is some of the stuff that you teach is that it’s not necessarily the case that you need absolutely epic content. As you say, you’ve got all of this content, which is answering questions for prospects. What does this all mean?

Marcus: That’s the problem, Jake. It’s … we’ve got a really skewed, jacked up message, that has perpetrated really the digital world. That is this misnomer that is epic, or awesome, or whatever you want to call it, whatever the soup du jour is when it comes to the type of content we need to produce. The problem is this, man. I can write something. It could touch … or better stated, a thousand people could look at it and say, “This is just boring. I have … I mean who cares?” I could … out of that thousand, there might be one other person that reads it and says, “My goodness. This is exactly what I was looking for.” That person gives me a call, and becomes a client, and it’s a million-dollar sale, right?

Was that an epic piece of content? I don’t know, but it got a stinking customer, right? We skew things … social media has screw a lot of stuff up. I mean it’s good, but also screws stuff up. People judge how epic something is if it’s got a certain number of shares, and likes, and tweets, and yickety-yackety. The reality is this. The only numbers that matter, at the end of the day, are that this thing that we just did, did it help somebody progress towards becoming a customer or client for my particular company? That, to me, defines epic content. If I have a … if somebody asks me a very simple question … simple, man, and I’m able answer in a way that they say, “Okay, now I totally understand it. This is great.” To me, that is the ultimate definition of epic.

I don’t care if it was a 300-word post. I don’t care if it was a 3,000-word post. You can have just as much movement with shorter stuff, assuming it meets the need of the listener of the question, or of the consumer. That’s ultimately the only thing I really care about.

Jake: Yeah. I really love that. I guess, part of the problem is the fact that you get on the content marketing merry-go-round, and you’re listening to people who are trying to sell marketing consulting, or something along those particular lines. Potentially, their business goal is to convert customers, so consulting customers. This type of epic content, and teaching this type of stuff to people, is their goal, and that’s how they convert. For a regular business, or for the vast majority of businesses, it doesn’t need to be that complicated.

Marcus: Well, I mean it’s just … I can literally … this one subject, I can talk about it all day long. Okay, it’s kind of like we all have to start somewhere. Okay? If we hold this bar so high, nobody is willing to take the first jump. It’s impossible. As intimidating as it is, I mean this whole digital thing, and we’ve got to learn to be better teachers, and better communicators, and we’ve got to actually do more than just slap them with deals and sales, and all this stuff. That requires a lot more thinking. Businesses could just throw stuff in the wind and hope that it’s stuck somewhere in the past when it came to the marketing. If you had enough money, you could generate leads in sales.

That’s just how it works. It’s different. This whole process is intimidating. It’s different for a lot of people. I get that. I’m not naive enough to think. This is intimidating. That’s why consultants have to be very, very careful about the bar that they set. Like I said, they’ve got to remember that just because we, or I, or you don’t think something is epic or awesome, it doesn’t mean it’s not moving the needle. That’s what really should matter. When I’m … if I’m ever talking to a client, we never use as a metric of success, social media numbers for the most part. I mean it’s just not something that’s relevant to us.

I might use it in certain industries, but very, very few. I’m working in a ton of industries right now. Very few, do we use any of the major social numbers as a serious metric of success. Even on the Sales Lion, which is very social in the sense that a lot of people share it, they like it, they tweet it, all that junk. That, to me, again isn’t a major metric of success in terms of generating leads and generating more clients, right? I use other metrics that are more important that, for me.

Jake: Yeah. Right. Okay. Cool. Well then, let’s break it down a little bit. For a typical business, or a client that engages you, what’s the first step? Where do you start with them?

Marcus: Well, this is a great question, Jake, because I think this is where a lot of us screw up. Whenever you’re in a sales … in a consulting situation certainly … and this applies to any business. It doesn’t have to be a consulting business. It doesn’t have to be, be at a B. It could be at a C. It’s all the same thing. Let me give you two different examples of the exact same principle. If you Google, “assignment selling,” this is what I’m getting ready to describe. Assignment selling. I’ve written a lot about it. If some guy named Jake calls me up, or emails me, excuse me, and says, “Hey, Marcus. My company is thinking about content marketing. Can you help us out?”

The first thing I’m going to do is say, “Sure, Jake. I’d love to help you out. Have you read my e-book yet? If you haven’t read my e-book yet, before we have our first call, or conversation, or Skype, or telephone, or whatever it is, you need to read that e-book.” Now, you see, Jake. A lot of people wouldn’t do that. I do that because I want to make sure that person is qualified. The same thing with swimming pools, if somebody calls our swimming pool company, River Pools, and says, “Hey, could you all send out a salesperson to my house?” We say, “Yes, of course. Before we do that, we have an e-book that you need to read. It’s going to teach you about the different types of pools, the different accessories that you could expect to consider with this process. It’s going to tell you everything that you need to know, so that when we come out to your house, it’s going to be the best appointment possible for you, and for us. Will you do that before the appointment?”

The person says yes 90% of the time. If they say no, that means they’re clearly a price-shopper, and we don’t want them. I have people, all the time, that are just … they contact me on the Sales Lion. They’re ready to do something, in their mind, tomorrow. If I … it’s like this, Jake. If somebody doesn’t take the time to read an e-book about content marketing, in my philosophy, my doctrine, if you will, on content marketing … if they’re not going to spend that time, they’re going to stink at content marketing. They aren’t going to spend time writing blog posts, figuring out landing pages, correcting their site, learning about this stuff.

If somebody doesn’t have the patience to learn, I don’t have the patience to teach them. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I let that person go a long time ago. I realize, in business, that every business interaction we have is like a dance. You think back to your good, old middle school, high school dances. If you have a dance, you want it to be a good dance. You don’t want a bad dance. You have a choice. You can choose. Right? You can say, yes. You can say, no. We forgot that along the road of business. The business owner, and the company, that says yes to everybody, that says yes to every dance … let me tell you. That person is under stress, and they have a lot of headaches because they have a lot of bad clients.

I don’t work with bad clients anymore, because I’m with people that share my philosophy and are willing to pay the price of success. That is cool. In content marketing, it is requisite that the person you engage with is willing to pay the price.

Jake: Yes. Yeah. Definitely. Yeah. Absolutely. All right. Cool. Cool. Okay. Essentially, you’ve then qualified that person that you’re working with. For them to do the same, what’s the next step? Where do you take the client? How much of your engagement with them is focused on strategy, versus implementation?

Marcus: Well, you see once somebody has read that e-book, keep in mind that e-book is 250 pages, Jake. Right? It’s deep, bro. By now, they’ve got a college degree in content marketing. Plus, they’re so in love with what I just told them. Now, they’ve stuck with me that long. There’s a good chance that they’re not going to be price shopping. We know it’s probably going to be a very positive engagement. This is going to be very, very healthy. Right? Now, I’ll give them … if we have a conversation, I’m basically just going to find out what their major problems, what the major pain points are.

Whatever those major problems and pain points are, we’re going to discuss how we’re going to overcome that, but very, very lightly. I just want to hear what their problems are in their words. Usually, most of my clients, because of the assignment selling process, Jake, I have one conversation before a retainer client usually starts. One conversation. Most of my retainers for the companies I work with are somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000 a month. Like I said, it’s usually one conversation. It’s not multiple, because if they aren’t ready, I’m not going to be their missionary. I can’t convert them to loving the gospel that is content marketing. It won’t happen.

They either read the e-book, and they figure it out themselves, that they love content marketing, and they love the way I think, or they filter out of the funnel. Now, they know they’re not a good fit. You see, I see a lot of agencies and consultants that spend literally, call after call, just trying to get the sale. Come on. That isn’t good. If you’re doing that, you’re doing something really, really wrong with your sales process.

Jake: Yeah, and I guess that probably comes down to fact that they’re not getting enough qualified leads, right?

Marcus: Yeah, no. I mean … obviously qualified leads are a big deal, but it’s more important that they filter the leads well after it comes into the system. Leads are a big deal, yes. I think for a marketing agency, actually, I think the best way to get leads is to go out and speak to business. I don’t think it’s necessarily online for a lot of people, because there’s so much saturation in this realm of social media, and content marketing, and inbound marketing experts that it’s hard to stand out. I mean you know this, right? It’s very, very difficult. On an offline level, you’ve got to really, really excel. Once you excel offline, it’s much easier to excel online, because you’ve got clients. Once you get clients, you can start to tell stories. Once you tell the good stories, the stories generate more leads, and it just snowballs from there.

Jake: Yeah, sure. Sure. Sure. All right. You spoke about earlier about answering questions. What sort of process do you teach your clients in terms how you should go about answering questions? Where do I start, as a business owner? I own a travel agency here in Melbourne as one of the things I do. How do I find out what questions I need to answer?

Marcus: Well, I mean I think if you listen well to your clients, you never run out of great content. The businesses I find that really struggle to produce new content, they’re just crappy listeners. They really, really are. I mean I know that if I go on a sales appointment, or if I talk to a prospect on the phone, I’m going to get so many questions at that point. Most of those questions, I probably haven’t answered. I need to answer them. I need to answer them on my blog somewhere, right? I just haven’t done it yet. It’s an endless flow of content ideas for the listener.

The person that’s more interested in what they’re going to say next, they don’t ever hear the next … they don’t hear blog opportunities and ideas. When I engage with a client, the first thing that they have to do, is they have to get their staff together, and they have to brainstorm every question that they get, every single day from prospects, clients, and existing customers. They do that in a way that does not include pronouns. They have to list the whole thing out, the whole question out, and they have to list it in a way that if the person was online and had that problem. What would they type in?

Nobody goes online and says, what does it cost? They say, how much does a fiberglass pool cost? Which, fiberglass pools in Australia are, far and away, the most popular type of pool in Australia, which I think is very cool by the way. They’re way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to fiberglass pools. Let’s say somebody doesn’t necessarily go online and say, how much does a consultant cost? They might say, how much does a content marketing consultant cost? Right? That is the way people go online and say things. That is the way that they ask them, and that’s the way that we need to brainstorm them. Once we brainstorm them, we turn those into titles of blog posts.

Every company I have that does this, when they really say, “Okay. Every single question?” I’m like, “Yes, every single question.” We come up with at least 50-100 in the 30-60-minute brainstorm. Fifty to one hundred questions is easy. If you look at it like that, if it’s a hundred questions and you write two blog posts a week, that’s a first year’s worth of content. You’ve already pretty much planned it out. That’s beautiful. The hardest part of a great culture of content marketing for a company is two-fold. Actually, it might be three-fold. The first one is coming up with what you’re going to write about, the titles. That’s easy if you do the Q and A approach.

I’ve had businesses that struggled, as soon as they do that I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. This is so easy. This is so simple.” I’m like, “Yeah, there’s nothing special about it.” That’s number one. Number two, immediately, you need to sign a name and a date, to that title of that particular blog post. Number three, the third hardest part to do this, is the first paragraph. If you teach people how to word the first paragraph on their blog post, it’s going to be very easy for them. Once we start writing, it’s not so hard to finish it. It’s usually, people get hung up on starting. You … I teach all my clients how to do first paragraphs, and it becomes very, very easy. It doesn’t matter what the question is, the style is always the same.

Let’s say the question is, what’s … we’ll just do a simple one because we’re … what is the average cost of a content marketing consultant? The first paragraph is always you repeat the question. You empathize with the question. Then, you say you’re going to answer the question. That is how you do a first paragraph on a great business blog. You say something like people come to me all the time. They say, “Okay, Marcus. Realistically, what can I expect to spend on a content marketing consultant? That’s a really good question. It’s a question that many business owners have. That’s exactly what I’m going to attempt to answer today in the following paragraphs.” Boom.

That’s my first paragraph. I’ve repeated the question. I sound conversation. I’ve expressed empathy, but I’ve also shown expertise because I say, “People come to me.” It’s already understood that I’m an expert in that particular field, same with swimming pools, same with widgets. It doesn’t matter what it is. Those are the big three. If you can do that, Jake, with your employees, or with your clients if you’re a marketing consultant, you could do really, really great things.

Jake: Yeah. Cool, cool. Looking at that, are you writing just for the reader, or with this, is this naturally just going to catch the search engine traffic as well, as a result?

Marcus: That’s exactly right. I never teach people how to do SEO, other than great titles and clean first paragraphs. If you do great page titles, or blog titles … and by the way, I think the biggest mistake that businesses make still, to this day, 2013, with content marketing and blog titles, is they screw up the titles because they try to be catchy, witty, and funny. That’s totally dumb. You should not ever try to be catchy, witty, and funny on your blog titles unless you have thousands of subscribers in your database, and you’re trying to get your open rates much higher. Ultimately, for most businesses, SEO is still a major component, especially when it comes to these longer questions, these long-tailed keyword phrases.

If somebody … all my clients blow their traffic up. I don’t sit there and yack all day long how I’m a huge SEO consultant, although I pretty much can do … I can pretty much outperform most SEO companies. I can take them to the woodshed all day long for the most part, because they don’t do content marketing the right way. I mean, really, I call this search content marketing, because if you do content marketing the right way, and you take it from a Q and A approach like we’ve been talking about, and you really target those nice long-tailed keyword questions, then you have that nice rhythm of clean opening paragraphs, you don’t have to sit there and worry about keyword density, or anything after that.

You just say the answer, like you’re talking to somebody at the coffee shop. If you do that, you’re going to be really, really successful from and SEO standpoint. Every one of my clients, we don’t have conversations about SEO. We just don’t. They all crush it when it comes to organic search results, because they’re ranking left and right for these long-tailed keyword questions that we target.

Jake: Yeah. Absolutely. All right. Well, something common that’s going to happen, I think, when you’re dealing with small businesses … I mean a lot of … probably a listener out there is potentially going to encounter this, is small businesses are very vain people. I can see. They’re going to say, “Well, I don’t want to just answer these questions. I need to make really awesome content, so that it looks great and it stands out.” What do you say to those people, Marcus?

Marcus: Well, once again, they … the concept of awesome is skewed here. Awesome means the question was answered. That’s awesome. You know what? I find that it’s more marketing consultants, and social content media, content marketing thought leaders, if you will, than it is small businesses themselves. Small businesses themselves, if they just get stuff done half the time, they’re feeling pretty good about it. I just want them to get the feel of producing that content, and saying, “Wow. This is really fun. It’s not so bad. I can be a teacher. I’m not this awful writer like I thought I was. You know what? If I do mess up with the writing, it’s not that big of a deal.”

I am the guy that says, “Perfection is the bane of every great triumph, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s life in general, because you can’t start perfect. You’ll never be perfect. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about writing. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about video, all these things.” I hate these hacks, Jake, that say, “If your video is not of utmost quality, it’s going to hurt your business. It’s going to make you look bad. Blah. Blah. Blah.” It’s like 99% of the people in your industry, don’t do video. I’m talking about yours; mine. I mean in most industries, people still aren’t doing video. If you have a video, even if it’s not a great video, you’ve got more than most of these people. Put that thing out there.

Most of my first videos suck. I mean they’re just awful. I look at them, and I’m like, holy cow. The lighting is bad. The audio is terrible. Those are triumphs, brother. I mean I actually got out there, and I pushed it. I made it happen. It’s like, I was learning a ton in the process. I feel good when I see those things. I laugh, yeah, because they’re so bad, but I feel great about it because I know that was a victory for me. Like I said, if you really look online, Jake, the A+ students, they stink at blogging. They stink at content marketing, because they’re the perfectionists of the web. Everything has to be just right.

The ones that were the C+ students, the ones that are just ready to be little renegades and outside the box, and not afraid, and they’re not just sitting there nitpicking everything that they do, and they’re okay with pretty good, that guy or that gal, they’re killing it online, Jake, if they’re motivated. They’re killing it. I say it again, and again every single day. C+ students own the Internet, while A+ students work for them.

Jake: Yeah, it’s so true, so very true. Certainly, I encountered that. I produce videos for the travel agency on a weekly basis. Yeah, the first video was absolutely terrible compared to what it is now, but it doesn’t matter. I’m my own worst, or my own harshest critic. My clients loved it because they got to see me on camera and interact with me. They’re like, “Oh, this is fantastic. Thanks very much for this.” If I was perfect and tried to achieve perfection, I would have lost six months of interaction with my clients trying to get the videos right.

Marcus: That’s exactly right. They couldn’t have seen how damn cool you were in the process. I mean this whole thing, man, this whole thing we’ve got to start at kindergarten. You can’t skip grades when it comes to content marketing. You just aren’t going to do it. School of hard knocks, you’re going to take your knocks, and that’s okay. You’ve got to embrace those knocks.

Jake: Yeah, absolutely. All right, well let’s look at … or what I see is probably the second part of the equation. Now, we’re using the content marketing to drive traffic through our site. The second half, I guess, is handling leads. You speak a lot about HubSpot, and about marketing automation. What role did that play in the rise of River Pools?

Marcus: Yeah, well I mean HupSpot was a great all-in-one tool for me. It allowed me to do things I had never done before. The first thing it did, it really helped me from an SEO standpoint. Look at where I was with all these articles and all these key words that I started targeting, from the long-tail perspective as I answered these questions, right? I was able to keep track of it so very well, much better than I ever had before with some other keyword tools. That was number one. Number two, and really more importantly, what I like so much about HubSpot and some other types of marketing automation, is that you can track your lead behavior on your site.

You really start to see the way the consumer content … it’s like if somebody comes to River Pools, and they fill out a form. At that point in time, I can usually tell, okay what was the search phrase they typed in to find this site, or was it social? How was it? Right? How did they come into the site? What pages did they go to? How long were they on the site? How many pages did they go to? How many visits have they had? Before I make that initial phone call, Jake, I know a ton about this person. I know their hot buttons based on the pages that they looked at, right?

Same thing with the Sales Lion, right? If somebody contacts me, and wants content marketing help, before I call them, before I talk to them, other than make sure they read the e-book, I’m making sure that they’ve looked at the site. If they just came to the site and filled out a contact form, I’m thinking to myself … or it’s funny to me, all the time, Jake. People come to me, and they … you get all these requests, right, online. Half of them are kind of like spam. Half of them are cloaked, and so you can’t tell if the person is legit or not. People say, “Hey, Marcus. I love your site. I read it all the time. I’d love to do a guest post for you. What do you think about this?”

I go there, and I look at their analytics. They’ve never … you can tell they just found out about me the day before from a referral link, from another website. They just went straight to the contact page. They’ve never read a page of my site. They’re sitting there telling me they love my website, like, “Whatever, dude. Don’t lie to me.” I can tell because I’m using marketing automation. I can see what my leads have done on my site. That is a must to me. I think anybody that’s in sales should be using that. That’s just a small part of it. You’ve got lead nurturing. You’ve got campaigns. You’ve got calls to action buttons.

You’ve got all these things that you can do when it comes to a tool like HubSpot, or Marquetel, or Eloqua. Infusionsoft is another one. There are a lot of other smaller birds out there as well. I love these software tools, especially from a lead-tracking standpoint.

Jake: Yeah. Cool, cool. That alone, it makes sense. It pays for the admission to one of these particular software. With that in mind, is there a level that a business needs to be at before they start looking at some of these all-in-one marketing automation tools, do you think?

Marcus: Well, I think it’s not a bad idea, Jake, to be careful, because these things are just tools. They’re only as good as the person that’s swinging the hammer, if you will. People, all the time, say, “Hey, Marcus. Can you tell me how HubSpot will help my business?” I always say … and it kind of makes people aggravated, but I don’t care. I say, “Well, HubSpot can’t help your business at all because it’s just a tool sitting there. It can’t do anything for you, but if you are willing to really, really apply sound principles of inbound marketing, HubSpot could be great.” That’s what people have to understand.

If you know you’re going to spend the time, then it’s going to be worth it to you. It’s going to be worth it to you, just like me. I didn’t have a choice. I went into debt even further. I was dead broke, and I put HubSpot on a credit card. I knew that I was going to … I was all in, brother. I was all in. I see people thinking that HubSpot, or some other marketing solution, is a magic pill. That’s a load of bull. It’s not going to do anything for you if you’re not really, heavily engaged in producing content, being active from a social perspective, really pushing out there, pushing though, pushing your brand, pushing your content, pushing your social media platforms.

Whatever it is, just being there, and being available, and making things happen. Hustling, man. You’ve got to hustle.

Jake: Yeah. As you said, it applies to everything. It’s like the content marketer that fails is probably the content marketer not producing consistent content.

Marcus: Yeah. It’s like when I see people put bad reviews about HubSpot. I’m like, “This person was lazy.” I mean there’s … when I see somebody says, “Yeah. We tried HubSpot. It didn’t really work for us.” I’m like, “Whatever. You were lazy.” Same thing. If they tried Eloqua, and it didn’t work for them, you’re lazy. You tried the market, and it didn’t work for you, you’re lazy. That’s nine out of ten people. Now, one out of ten really has a legitimate, “It wasn’t good for us because of these features it didn’t have. We can get those features with another marketing automation tool.” Yeah. I can see that, but the ones that just think they’re going to get some magical, all of a sudden, tons of SEO and traffic, and social media is going to change their life, and they want to spend an hour a week, they’ve got another thing coming. It doesn’t work like that.

Jake: Yeah, cool. Now, let’s just switch gears a little bit. Let’s talk about, you just mentioned, that they are just passing on it. Do you get many people come to you and say, “Listen, Marcus. My business. I need customers right this second. What can I do?” Do you get people like that? If so, what’s your answer?

Marcus: Well, I mean a lot of … unfortunately, when it comes to content marketing, a lot of ones aren’t willing to try it until they’re experiencing pain of some sort, right? Success makes us lazy. The ones that are still being successful using old school marketing tactics, there’s a very good chance that they’re not embracing content marketing. Newer businesses, ones that don’t have as established brands, or ones that are … have suffered in business in some way, shape, or form, there’s a good chance that they need help, and they need leads immediately. The thing about content marketing is, in many ways, it is the literal law of the harvest.

You have to sow the field. You have to plant the seed. You have to water the crop. You have to nourish the crop. You have to protect the crop. You have to tend to the crop. Then, you can harvest the crop. You can’t throw a seed down today, and harvest the crop tomorrow. For the most part, that’s how content marketing works. Now, granted if you’re smart, and if you’ve got a great strategy, you can start generating leads right away. Now, I don’t tell people we’re going to get leads right away. I say, “There’s a chance we could get leads right away. There’s a chance we could make a sale in the first week, and there’s a chance we won’t make a sale in the first month. I don’t know. We’re going to see. My feeling is that we’re going to start to get results. I know that much.”

Usually, we get leads pretty fast. Often times, the reason why people don’t get leads faster though, is because they have a bad plan. They’re doing it the wrong way. It could be their cruddy titles for their blog post. They could be writing about the wrong things. They could be going about it the wrong way. Usually, that’s more the problem than anything else. They’re sitting there saying, “I’m working hard, but I’m not generating any leads.” Now, look at all their last 10 blog posts, and they’re all just slapping me with the last … the greatest new features and benefits of XYZ widget. I’m like, “Really? This is what you’re blogging about? No wonder nobody cares.”

Jake: Boring.

Marcus: Yeah.

Jake: All right. Well then, what about with River Pools? Like you said, you were already in debt, and you went into further debt to go and get HubSpot. Content marketing, obviously, as you say, it’s potentially not turning around straight away for you. What did you do? How did you hustle to turn the business around initially?

Marcus: Man, those days were so dark, I don’t even necessarily remember at this point, Jake. It was 2009. I started in March of 2009 with HubSpot, wrote my first blog article. I wrote a blog article almost every day. I was adding new pages to the site. I started fooling with video pretty quickly after that. I was working 65 hours a week. I’m trying to sell pools anywhere I could, and working out, doing anything I could. Then, late at night, I spent a couple hours every single night looking at my analytics, producing a new blog article, just playing around learning the tools.

That was my life. It’s what it was. I quit doing TV. I quit doing a lot of things. I started going to bed much later because I didn’t have a choice. I hustled hard. Somehow, we got through it. Honestly, Jake, I don’t know how we got through it, but I know our traffic blew up right away, and immediately started generating more sales.

Jake: Yeah, cool. That’s really great. All right, Marcus. We’ve covered so much in this episode. There’s so much to take away and implement, both myself, and certainly for our listener out there. Let’s wrap this up. What’s the best place for our listener, listening in right now, to go and find out more about you?

Marcus: Well, if you like podcasts, I have a podcast called, Mad Marketing with the Sales Lion, Marcus Sheridan. Of course, that’s fun. It’s just monologue. It’s just me riffing away. I do it every couple of weeks. You can find me there. You can find me at I’ve got a free e-book on there that you’ve heard a lot about in this podcast today. It’s great, though, inbound and content marketing made easy. If you’re really looking to embrace some unique principles of content marketing, I think you’re going to love that e-book. That’s the best places to find me, man.

Jake: Yeah, that’s awesome. Marcus, thanks very much for coming on the show. I’ve really, really enjoyed our chat. I certainly, on behalf of myself and our listener, I’d love to thank you very much.

Marcus: Jake, thank you, and to everybody out there listening, good luck to you in all of your efforts in business, and in life.