Lessons from They Ask, You Answer

High Level Thoughts

If you are in need of a straight-forward guide on how to create effective content marketing that generates sales, consider reading They Ask, You Answer. Based on the successful turnaround of Marcus Sheridan’s struggling business and success of his clients, the book explains how to take an effective customer centric approach to content marketing that includes high-level case studies and practical advice to garner trust from prospective customers.

Find the answer to “How can I sell to people who already know what they want?” by answering your customer’s ultimate question “Who do I trust enough to buy from?”


  • As access to information increases, customers increasingly self-educate themselves about the products they want to buy.
  • Customers become more confident in what they want and less open to being persuaded.
  • As a result, it becomes more valuable to find qualified customers through marketing than to persuade and sell customers with traditional sales approach.
  • This brings us to a simple conclusion: as customer confidence grows, typically the value of marketing rises and the value of sales falls.
    • “70 percent of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to the company.
    • “The majority of the buying decision being made before talking to the company means marketing is more important than sales because finding interested customers makes more impact than persuading through sales.”
    • “Capturing qualified leads is more important than persuading, thus identifying the language used to indicate intent is valuable for developing content”
    • “It was almost as if every consumer was becoming his own salesperson and subject matter expert.
  • The foundation of content marketing is building trust with your target audience
    • Content marketing works when it builds trust with your target customers

How to create effective content:

  • Brainstorm customer objections
    • Brainstorm every question you’ve ever been asked by a prospect or customer.
    • Brainstorm every single reason (fear, worry, question, concern) as to why someone would not buy from your company.
      • What would hold back customers from buying?
      • What would keep them from clicking “buy,” swiping their credit card, or writing that big check?
  • Create content that answers the most frequent objections
    • “Most of these articles were published to our website as blog articles, with the question itself becoming the title of the post.

The types of content that produce results:

  • Five types of content subjects (or types of questions) seem to create results more than anything else, ultimately generating the greatest amount of traffic, conversions, leads, and sales.
  • The five most valuable content subjects:
    • Pricing and Costs
    • Problems
    • Versus and Comparisons
    • Reviews
    • Best in Class

Why businesses should be transparent with customers:

  • When customers research a company and their products and services, the moment they feel like anyone is hiding something from them, all trust is lost.
    • “as consumers, where there are seeds of doubt, inaction and the inability to make a buying decision almost always occur.
    • “as consumers and buyers, we at least like to have a sense of how much things cost before we spend hours upon hours dedicated to learning about that product, service, company, and so on.
    • “it doesn’t necessarily matter what you specifically say in terms of the numbers. What matters is that you’re willing to teach your prospective customers what would drive the cost up or down and help them get a feel for the marketplace.
    • “Why is their product or service cheaper?” Almost always, the response has to do with overseas manufacturers, low quality, customer experience, and so on. Once again, my retort is always the same: “Have you bothered to explain these factors well on your company website?”
    • “address the most important questions—regardless of whether you’re a service, product, value driven, and so on.
    • “When people buy, they worry more about what might go wrong than what will go right.
    • “If the marketplace believes (rightfully or not) that a product, service, brand, or other factor has problems—they’re very likely going to find out.
    • “As a business, you have a choice: You can allow the consumer to discover your elephant(s) themselves and in turn lose trust in you. Or, the minute they walk in the front door (or the virtual front door), you can say, “Here’s our elephant. Do you have a problem with it?”

How to earn customer trust:

  • In order to make progress and earn trust, especially when the buyer senses the business is biased, disarming customer fears is a must.
  • How to disarm your customers
  • simply admit (not address) your weaknesses
    • State your weaknesses

      • “Stating first that our company sells only fiberglass pools.”
      • Concede potential weaknesses in your solution
      • “State that concrete pools might, at times, be the better option.
    • Admit and acknowledge personal incentives

      • “Admit immediately that fiberglass isn’t necessarily the best choice for everyone.”
    • Acknowledge the existence of potentially better alternatives

    • Explain how you compare yourselves to competitors

      • Epalin methodologies used for comparison
      • Explain how the article (or video) takes an honest look at the pros and cons of each, and allow the reader to decide the best choice for them.
      • “look for examples of what is good about the other choice or option when explaining things to your prospects and customers. If you’re willing to give them both sides of the coin, they will look at you as the trustworthy voice.
      • “consumers and buyers we love to compare. We love knowing whom everyone else loves, hates, and how they all stack up against each other.

How to create content that earns referrals:

Acknowledging your competitor’s proficiency shows humility to customers that builds trust with them.

  • Show humility and build trust by:
    • Praising not only leaders and experts within your industry but also your competition.
    • Writing reviews of the best products within your industry even if they aren’t made or sold by your company
      • “Contemplate ways to make reviews work for your company. Are there any “best of class” types of content you could produce in your industry?
      • “consider all of the companies within your industry or a similar industry that could possibly be referral sources for your business.
      • “Find ways, assuming they’re respectable organizations with good track records, to highlight who they are, what they sell, and why they’re respected in the marketplace.
      • “Honesty and transparency are self-evident, and when done with the right intentions, have a profound influence on the business, brand, and bottom line.

How to know if a company will embrace transparent content marketing:

Three fundamental factors dictate whether or not businesses are willing to take a listen and teach approach to content marketing versus a more traditional, closed-minded company-centric model—to growing their businesses.

Three Factors that Influence a Company’s Approach to Content Marketing”

  • business competitors

  • bad customer fits

  • actual customers

    • Business competitors

      • “competition is the most influential group affecting what most businesses will and will not address online today.
      • “The same group that has the greatest impact on a business’s willingness to discuss what their prospects and customers want to know is the very group they’re selling against, and the one that is already taking some of their business.
      • “the happiest businesses in the world have a deep understanding of what they are not.
    • Bad Customer Fits

      • Don’t prioritize “bad fit” customers
        • “the second most influential group that dictates what we do and don’t talk about is made up of the bad fits. We allow those people, who will never become our customers, to dictate our ability to listen, communicate, teach, and help.
    • Actual Customers

      • “The only group that we should allow to dictate what we as businesses do and do not communicate to our customers (both online and off) is also the least influential group: the actual customer.
      • Create content that highlights and addresses the needs of your customers; not praises yourselves
        • “when it comes to great marketing and communication, the moment a business or brand tries to sound smart is generally the moment they start to look stupid.
        • “when you don’t try to sound smart, and instead look to have communion with your listener, that’s when the magic happens.