Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild Podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life, in-the-wild stories about business and marketing. 

Julia: Everybody, I am excited to introduce you to another good friend of mine, Erin. I’ll let her do the formal introductions, but we’re gonna be talking about one of my favorite books of all time, so I won’t spoil that quite yet. But Erin, tell us a little bit about you, where you’re located and what you do for work.

Erin: Julia, thanks so much for having me on the show. I’m Erin Fults. Julia and I know each other through the StoryBrand Guide community, which is really fun. But I am a marketing strategist. I’m Director of Marketing at Heights Strategic Marketing based in Dallas, but we’re a remote team. I’m not in Dallas, I’m just outside of Jackson, Mississippi. I help clients develop clear messaging, and then how to take that messaging and apply it into all of their marketing in a way that is meaningful and connects with their ideal clients and gets great results, and all of the strategic work that goes alongside that. Like beyond marketing, how to create content, tactically what they need to be doing to reach the goals that they’re going after to grow their businesses.

Julia: I love all of that, and I love Heights, and I love everything that you guys are doing over there. So I’m really excited for this! So we’re gonna be talking about the book, They Ask You Answer. It’s one of my favorite books. I’ve mentioned this like a billion times on this podcast. So if you’ve been around, you have heard me talk about this book. Erin, you are certified in They Ask You Answer. That’s why I asked you to be on this podcast. How did you first discover it?

Erin: So like you, I read the book. I’m trying to think how long ago it was. It’s been several years ago. Somebody mentioned it as a good book in our marketing circles to read, and so went and read it, and it really resonated with me. The whole premise of They Ask You Answer is how to become the most trusted voice in your space by answering your customer’s questions. Their actual questions, not just the ones you wish that they would ask about your business, and how to do it in a way that’s super transparent and unbiased. And so when you do that, you build trust. And so all of that to say, I read the book and it really resonated with me. You know how you read things sometimes when you’re like, oh, this is complete common sense on the one hand, but on the other hand it’s like, oh, but it’s putting it in a really fantastic framework with handles you can kind of wrap your arms around, and it gives you a process to think through for the actual execution of what does it actually look like to follow through in answering your customer’s questions in a way that is actually helpful and builds trust, and as a result, grows your business.

Julia: For sure! I also love that about the book. I love any book that I have to pause and go grab a notebook and write thoughts down, because the whole time I was reading They Ask You Answer, I kept on thinking of questions that I could answer for my clients. And so it felt so practical that I felt like I walked away with a hundred content ideas. Because I don’t know about you, but that’s sometimes what I and my clients struggle with, is like, well, what do I talk about? What do people care about? And so suddenly, this gave me a framework of like, well, they care about the answers to their questions. So let’s just answer them. 

And so the book kind of goes through this methodology, but he created this because he was creating content for a pool sales company, right?

Erin: Yeah. So Marcus Sheridan is the author of the book. The origin story of the They Ask You Answer framework was because his company was actually in crisis. It was right after the stock market crash in ‘08, and how do people in the United States finance a swimming pool? They take out a home equity loan, right? And so all of the sudden, market crashes, and they have customers that are pulling out orders overnight. That made a significant impact on their business. And so it all starts with Marcus, the author, this is happening in his business. He’s going online trying to figure out, okay, what in the world are we gonna do to save this business and keep us from crashing and looking at options for marketing? And anybody who does a search online for how to market my business, you are quickly met with an avalanche of terms that you may or may not understand, and you’re not totally sure what to do with. But what he saw ultimately was there are two types of people on the internet. There are people searching for answers to questions, and there are people who are answering questions. 

And if you kind of go at core, particularly in the context of business, okay, I can be in one camp or the other, and he just basically decided I’m gonna be the one educating and answering questions and just set out to be the foremost educator on all things fiberglass pools, which is the business he was in. And so it literally started with him at his kitchen table, writing these articles that one, it helps people find their company online through organic search, but then because it was actually helpful content. And I think Julia, this is where we are met with a massive amount of noise online, and it can feel overwhelming when it comes to content creation. Because we’ve all heard content is king, we need to be creating content, all of that. But if we’re just adding to the noise, really, is it being helpful for our prospects, our customers, and ultimately our business? And I would argue no. 

And so what I love about this framework is that it gives you a way to, yes, create content, because we do need to create content to be seen and found online, but to do it in such a way that we’re not just adding to the noise of the internet, but we’re actually being helpful. I mean, honestly, boil it down, it’s golden rule stuff. It’s like do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That really is what it boils down to at bare bones. And it’s like, oh, well, if we take that principle and apply it to the content we’re creating, if we apply it to how we’re doing business, it touches every aspect of what we’re doing, in both our marketing, in our sales, in our customer relations, and how we deliver our products and services. And this just gives a good framework for how to do that.

Julia: What I love about that is I love the idea of it’s following the golden rule. Lately, I have been seeing ads by other marketers that are like, content marketing doesn’t work, it’s a waste of time. You’re investing too much time in this, stop doing it. And I don’t like that because for one, that’s how I make my money. So honestly, I’m like, let’s not kill it or else my business is dead. But I think it’s too much of a simplistic view, because content marketing that adds to the noise is not gonna be effective, but content marketing that adds value is going to be. And I think people are wasting too much time on noise rather than things that people actually care about and want to read. But I think this begs the question, and I’m sure you get this question frequently, what do we talk about? And is it possible to give away too much?

Erin: That’s a great question.

Julia: Those are two different questions. You guys realize. 

Erin: Yeah. But even backing up if I can, to what you were saying about the argument or the ads you’re seeing where people are saying, should we even be creating content? One of the interesting things about the They Ask You Answer framework, which at core gives five categories of questions that move the buying decision. And so we can write articles, create content that fall in those five categories as core. It’s not the only thing, but it’s the starting place. One of the things that people often miss about this framework is that not only can you use the content to be found in marketing, so to the argument of content marketing doesn’t work. Well, sure, the more content that’s on the internet, the harder it is going to be to rank for specific search terms and things like that. There’s no arguing for that just because it is the nature of more content. 

However, the thing that gets missed is using content that you’ve created to educate your buyers in the sales process. That’s actually where it’s super powerful, and that people miss often. And so if you’re only thinking about content’s use case to be for new leads to find me, that is a limiting view. But if you’re using content for a more holistic view of where can I use it in all these different parts of my customer journey, so that it’s a fantastic experience, now content has become more powerful, and it’s a multi-use case beyond just something for marketing. And so if you take that view, and then ask the question that you just asked around, can I give away too much? My answer is no. You just can’t give away too much. 

It’s funny, one of the categories that They Ask You Answer talks about is the category of cost and price. When we’re trying to make a buying decision, we wanna know how much something costs, right? It’s also the category that gets the most pushback around like, I don’t know if I can talk about how much my product or service costs on my website. Well, our customers and prospects know we know how much our thing costs, and our competitors know about how much our thing costs. And so it’s like the secret non-secret that there’s very little reason you can come up with to not address cost and price for instance on your website. And so when you think about can I give away too much, the more you give away, the more trust you build. 

Julia: Totally! 

Erin: And at core, we’re in the business of building trust. Every customer that we have has to feel trust toward our business to be willing to give us their hard-earned cash. And so if we just run it through the filter of, will talking about this thing, whatever the thing is in the piece of content, build trust? If the answer is yes, then write about or publish the thing about the thing. 

Julia: That is a really good example, and it’s actually one that I came up with after reading the book, because I think price is always like a sensitive one, but the more you can anchor your price, the better off you’ll be in the long run. So for everybody, Stratos does social media, we actually charge more than most people charge for social media. And while we don’t necessarily publish like, hey, this package is this much and why, I actually decided to write an article after reading They Ask You Answer of why you should pay more for social media and what ranges to expect from both us and from our competitors, and what kind of work you might get for our range versus their range. Not to make them look bad, but just very informative like, hey, you should do what you need to for your budget, but this is what you’re gonna get and this is what you should expect. 

And it’s been a great article because then for one, like you said, it establishes trust just simply from openness. And also, one of the things that we operate on at Stratos is we’re like, this is what we have, and this is how much it costs, but also don’t shoot yourself in the foot and use up all your budget if this isn’t the right choice for you. Like we don’t claim to be the right fit for everybody. And I think even that has established more trust also. And so I would encourage people, I don’t think you can give away too much either, because in the end, even if you gave away your methodology, people feel uncertain. Even if you gave them every step, that doesn’t mean that they’ll feel confident to do it, it doesn’t mean that they’ll have time to do it. And so I don’t think giving away your methodology necessarily puts you out of business.

Erin: Totally agree! And I love the example that you just gave about the article that you wrote, partially because it’s not just talking about what you guys offer at Stratos and anchoring your pricing. My guess is the listeners listening to this conversation, unless you’re just in a product business that is e-commerce or selling something with a very clear and fixed pricing, if you’re in any kind of service industry, there are just factors involved that impact the price. Putting a price list on your website does not make sense. But what you did, which is what’s brilliant, is not only did you give anchoring for your price, you helped educate the buyer on how to buy in your industry, and how to understand price and cost in your industry. 

I was on a proposal call a couple of days ago with a prospect and just having the conversation around you’re never comparing apples to apples. It’s very hard to buy and understand what you’re getting because at one agency or one consultant or whatever, you’re gonna get one thing and you look at what feels like a similar proposal and another, and it can be hard to compare. And so if we can just educate our buyers on how to understand how to buy in our industry, it gives them confidence, and it builds trust. Because we were the ones who were willing to talk about it, and we were the ones who are willing to help them through the buying decision.

Julia: And to push this article further, it has even resulted in people who are like, my business can’t afford Stratos, but you should check them out. They have created so much trust that we’ve had people say, “I want to hire you, my budget won’t allow for it, but I’m gonna stick around until it does.” And so I think that even that kind of treats humans like humans rather than like just sales prospects too. 

Erin: Totally! I love that!

Julia: So first of all, everybody, go read They Ask You Answer. It’s highly recommended, use a notebook. Keep a notepad right next to you so you can write down any ideas that you come to. When you walk people through how to implement They Ask You Answer, what are some recommendations you’d give them? I, for one, when I read the book, I had tons of ideas, but I was also very overwhelmed by all of those ideas. So what do you walk people through?

Erin: So there’s several phases to it, but if somebody is just trying to get started, and let’s assume that you have a lean team, companies that really fully implement all of They Ask You Answer, typically have a full-time content manager. That is their full-time job, is to create content. Now if you hear me say that and go, “Yeah, there’s no way in the world I’m hiring a full-time content manager”, you can still use the principles and the framework. It’s just gonna look a little bit different and the quantity of content that you produce will be less. But it still works. So my recommendation is that you get together with you and whoever is involved in the sales process at your company, it might be just you, it might be a team, and you map out your customer journey. Map out where customers, like when they reach out to you for the first time, what are the questions that they’re asking, after you’ve been in conversation with them, assuming you have a sales call or some sort of sales process, whatever that process looks like, map out the steps of that, all the way until they become a customer, what does that look like? And then what happens immediately after they become a customer? 

And at each step along that customer journey, write down and make a list of the questions your prospects and customers are asking you at that particular step of the journey, and begin writing content that answers those questions. You can back up and go before that, and you can look at before they reach out to you, what are the kinds of questions prospects are asking as they’re trying to figure out and understand their options in your industry, they’re clear on what problem they’re trying to solve, and you could be a potential solution, and they’re trying to compare options. That’s a whole other set of content that you can absolutely write and falls in that They Ask You Answer methodology. But if you start with the questions that are being asked during the sales process, you can use that content immediately. 

Because if you have a sales conversation tomorrow and you now have an article that addresses your process, or it addresses cost and price, or it addresses who you’re a good fit for and who you’re not a good fit for, those are all things that you can send to a prospect prior to getting on a sales call. Or after a sales call, they ask a question and you say, “Yeah, we actually get that question all the time and we’ve written an article about it. Here’s a link for you to go read that. And then if you have further questions, let us know.” That’s where I would start, is start with mapping your customer journey, map the questions that get asked, map the questions that get asked specifically in the sales process from first point of contact till signing or becoming a customer, whatever that looks like for your business, and begin writing content that fits within that specific part of the customer journey.

Julia: What I love about that, it kind of refers to what you said earlier where it’s not just about content marketing, it’s about helping you make money, is really what it’s doing, is it’s content that’s helping you make money or push the needle further. But then it’s also content that can live on your site and help with organic search traffic or SEO. We also love repurposing content, so also take that content and make social media posts about it. We have a process in Stratos, where we take a piece of long form content and then we break it down into social media posts, reels, emails. And so if you have that anchoring, like They Ask You Answer, you’re answering a question, make more content from it and let it live in other places too.

Erin: It makes your social exponentially easier. It makes your social content and all those things when you start with the anchor content, which is why I love y’all’s process at Stratos. It’s brilliant! That’s exactly what everybody should be doing. 

Julia: Right! And then that’s where I’m like, content marketing doesn’t have to add to the noise if it’s purposeful. And I think that’s why They Ask You Answer makes it purposeful, and then breaking it down further. I’m curious, how have you seen They Ask You Answer work well for either your clients or out in the world? I’d be curious.

Erin: I could point to all kinds of just case studies and companies that have really adopted They Ask You Answer fully. I mean, the highlight reel of it is if you really adopt it fully in house, it absolutely transforms not just your company in terms of sales and the growth, but it just transforms how you do business when you take the principles and apply it to everything. 

I had a colleague who actually runs a podcast production company, went and wrote, it was actually a cost and price article and put it out there. He had very little content otherwise out that he had published. And within a couple of weeks, he had a couple of leads come through just because he had answered those questions around cost and price. And so there is this fully adopting it and you’re creating to really see massive results quickly. The data shows that you publish three articles a week at an average of 1500 words. You do that consistently for 18 months and you have world domination.

Julia: That is so much work. Also amazing, but that would be so much work.

Erin: But that’s somebody who has a full-time content manager in-house. You cannot do that without someone fully dedicated to doing that. The results are still there for other businesses, it just is gonna take a little bit longer because you’re not producing at the same rate. And so, all the time I see companies that take content and use it in the sales process. And they send it to a prospect, and it shortens their sales cycle because they’ve answered questions that their prospect is wondering that maybe didn’t come up on a sales call that shortens that sales cycle so that they close sooner. So there’s a lot of application and use-case, and how it can positively impact your business.

Julia: I think even in my own life, I know that there have been times where as I’m researching different options for things, I will go with a thing that is more expensive just because it’s clear. And we talk about that in StoryBrand all the time. But I think that I’ll go with something that is more expensive if I know I’m gonna get what I want. And They Ask You Answer is a framework to add to that, like let’s inform people. So for one, then we’re getting better educated clients too. I just have a friend crush on Marcus Sheridan and this book because I just think it is so good, and it can really change up culture within a business, and then even with your client culture too.

Erin: Absolutely. No question!

Julia: Sweet! Erin, thank you for giving us a brief overview of the book, talking about how you’ve seen it implemented. If people are like, I need to learn more, where can they find you?

Erin: Absolutely! So if you wanna connect with me directly, LinkedIn’s the best place. Just go search Erin Fults, and you’ll find me there. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/erinfults) Also, if you want to go to https://www.taya.com/, so it’s short for They Ask You Answer, it’ll take you to a landing page over on our Heights website where there is a free downloadable for questions you can ask, that process that I described of mapping your customer journey. It gives you a whole set of questions you can download and ask to help you come up with those content ideas. There’s a course there that I put together that you could access, as well as if you wanna chat about what it would look like to implement They Ask You Answer in your business. We can do that too.

Julia: Everybody, I don’t think I’ve even told Dominique this. Dominique leads Heights, but when I think of Heights, I think of strategy, when I think of our business, I think of creative. And if there’s anything that I ever am like, you need strategy, I send people to Heights. So if you are like, I don’t know what to do next, go to Heights, you guys. Talk to Erin, talk to Dominique, talk to the team over there. They will serve you really well. 

Erin, thank you! I really appreciate your time.

Erin: Thank you. This is so fun!

Julia: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have. If you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and wanna give us a rating or a review, I promise, we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us. 

Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. 

Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week, and I hope you will be too.