How do you do that?
And yes is a true story, the number goes up all the time, and of course, there is a little bit more to it.
How do you make this kind of money? By answering other people’s questions on his website.
Someone asked me what is ‘they ask you answer’ thing I mention a lot here on this website.
It is essential, and it is one of the best things you can do for marketing your business too.
The whole “They Ask, You Answer” thing is straightforward, you are doing some form of it already, and ANYONE can do it.
TLDR — when people ask questions about your product or service, answer them.
Of course, the best place to do that is on your website – blog about it! – so everyone can see the answer.
70% to 80% of the buyer journey, by that I mean the path we walk between thinking ‘I want this, to here is my money’ happens online.
Words Sell Things
Whether we are buying a pair of headphones, a house or a nose job, we will read about it online.
We’ll read the words the company has written and what other people have written.
This is how words sell things.
How I found “They Ask, You Answer”.
In 2011 I was walking to ‘coworking’ at my friend’s tech company in Buenos Aires where we were staying with my family.
It was Monday, so I was listening to this week’s episode of Mitch Joel’s podcast.
Marcus was sharing how a thing called HubSpot enabled him to bring River Pools back from the jaws of bankruptcy.
The real win came when Marcus started to answer every question he could find about fibreglass swimming pools on his River Pools blog.
It was like listening to the Gary Vaynerchuk of the fibreglass swimming pools industry.
The River Pools story that Marcus was describing was the story I’d been looking for to get my message across.
Who uses the internet anyway?
In 2011 I was running a networking group and a load of events in London.
I was also teaching people to blog and use this new thing called twitter.
But in those blogging workshops, I had a tough time getting buy-in from people.
I was working with accountants, chartered surveyors and IT support companies, tough crowd.
They could not see how to get business on this strange internet thing.
Let alone taking time out of their valuable day to write blogs and send email newsletters.
The iPhone was not even five years old, and people did not understand who would look at the internet on their phone, let alone buy stuff on it.
What do you write about?
As fun as a fibreglass swimming pool is in your garden it is a boring topic to market, what do you say about it?
You don’t say anything about it.
You listen and answer questions.
Why do we answer peoples questions on our website?
As I was writing this post, I emailed Marcus to check the latest stat on the earnings from his 2009 article:
It is the most visited article on the River Pools website.
Because when we research to buy something, we don’t type in ‘winner of the best small business award 2019.’
We type in things like: ‘How much does a fibreglass pool cost?’
Marcus started to track this article using Hubspot in 2009, and it has brought in $10 million worth of sales.
There are more sales that this article helped make, but I’m happy with the $10 million to make my point.
A word on awards
In my industry, I’ve seen too many websites proclaiming how they are “winner of the best coworking space”.
Or “NAME OF TOWN best small business” this fails for me on two accounts.
First, customers are looking for a guide, not a hero or an ego.
An award is all about you, not your customer, as Don Miller lays out in his StoryBrand book.
You can do the StoryBrand framework and build a sales funnel for your coworking space in the online course on Business Made Simple University.
As a freelancer I’m looking for a place to do my work on my business, I don’t care how many awards you’ve won.
Leading with a “winner of” does not close the deal with me, how you can help me does.
Second, everyone is award-winning, and we are immune to it.
We were talking about awards in our coworking space this week.
People commented about the shallow “award-winning” tag line.
It has become shallow and meaningless because everyone is award-winning.
Someone like Malala winning the Nobel Peace Prize has rock-solid substance.
You, gaining an award because you hammer 100 of your mates to vote for you is dumb.
So many awards come from the conferences you are attending.
The conference you have already brought a ticket to attend.
And now need to buy a ticket for an award dinner, even a table for your team, see where this is going?
That is a business model.
And it is not your business model.
Weigh up the time and effort of getting 100 people to vote for you in an award where you have to buy tickets for the event.
Getting 100 people who use your coworking space to leave an honest review for you on Google.
How one man made $4.5 million from one blog
I interviewed Marcus after I heard him on Mitch Joel’s podcast, it was later in 2012, and he’d made $4.5 million from: ‘How much does a fibreglass pool cost?’
I was doing blogging for business workshops at conferences for myself and clients.
There was polite interest in blogging until I showed up with Marcus and the River Pools story.
I changed the name of my main talk from “Blogging for business” to “How one man made $4.5 million from one blog”.
Overnight I had a lot more people coming to my room at conferences.
River Pools is a “brick and mortar” business with stuff like sheds, JCB’s diggers, lorries and people in hard hats.
Also, River Pool’s had pulled its self from the clutches of bankruptcy by blogging.
These storylines spoke to people outside my self-congratulating digital bubble.
How to start They Ask You Answer today
In the ‘They Ask You Answer‘ book, Marcus shares how he sat around his kitchen table with his partners writing down every question people ask them.
They looked for questions in their emails, what people asked in the showroom and what people asked them on sales visits.
They knew all the answers to these questions so wrote down the answers and put them on the website.
How hard can that be?
The ‘How much does a fibreglass pool cost‘ is the first article most people land on when they start their journey with River Pools.
At the time of this article, over $10 Million of River Pools revenue has come from this one post.
Why doesn’t anyone talk about blogging?
I found out the hard way from Marcus in person in Edinburgh in 2018.
Back in 2017 and 2018, Chris Marr and Marcus from Impact agency ran an exceptional communication workshop.
At one point, I was being coached live on stage by Marcus as I went through my GRAND talk I’d prepared.
My GRAND talk was something that sounded like ‘why you need to blog about your coworking space’, I never got to the end.
Don’t feel bad for me, I got five minutes in, and everything changed forever.
I’ve always believed deeply in writing, words and podcasting.
Creating content has been the making of me, and I’ve learnt so much from reading other peoples work.
The problem is every time I brought up blogging with a coworking space I wanted to work with or was working with all the air left the room.
People would ask me how to get more people to buy their desks or improve their retention rate, and I’d lead with blogging.
That cold November day in Edinburgh as I fumbled through my talk, the answer came to me.
Marcus was pushing me on what action I wanted people to take as a result of my talk.
I was falling apart more and more as I mumbled (even whined) something about blogging.
Then he asked, ‘how many people do you think have hired me to teach them how to blog?’
I blurted out something like, it must be millions, you did the whole trick with the ‘How much is a fibreglass pool’ post.
You are the original HubSpot poster boy, and you have an entire book about it!
Everything is about blogging, isn’t it? FFS tell me it is!
No Bernie. No one has ever asked about blogging.
They all want to know about the ‘story’.
It was like the scene in Amélie when the floor opens up to swallow her; it was devastating for me.
Anyway, I shot off to Coworking Europe in Amsterdam the week after.
Instead of blogs, I asked everyone about the story and in the flick of a switch life took off.
People loved the idea of their coworking space and story, and they stuck around for a more in-depth chat.
I felt like the boy who is the awkward nerd at high school and then works out how to talk to girls.
I shot into our Make Your Mark Online slack channel and asked people about which books about ‘story’ are best.
In seconds my mate Kenda recommended a list and the one I started with was StoryBrand by Donald Miller.
Around a year later, I was sitting in front of Donald Miller in Nashville, Tennessee, becoming a StoryBrand Certified Guide.
Why does the story work?
I always knew that no one gives a rats arse about ‘your story’ they are trying to solve their problem, not hear your autobiography.
So when people come to your website to see if you can solve their problem and get your history, it might seem impressive, but it is not useful.
You don’t want the history of Five Guys when you are hungry; you want a burger.
When we answer peoples questions, we help them, and as we answer more questions, we build trust.
These ‘question’ articles will always show up in search more than ‘winner of small business award 2013’.
Another way Words Sell Things
To get a little bit more technical, the more time people spend on your site, the more search engines recognise it as an excellent place to be.
So if you have five posts that answer five questions people have, they will be reading on your site longer.
The longer people hang around this will help favour your ranking in search engines over time.
If you had started a coworking space in 2013 and had set up your site correctly from the beginning instead of getting your niece or nephew to do it for £250 you be killing it now.
By adding ONE article every week to that site, you would be building your authority with search engines.
With each post either answering a question or giving details of an event, you’d have thousands and thousands of words that would contribute to your position in search engines.
If you’d used the words ‘coworking London’ in those posts (and not in a weird way), you’d be high in the organic search.
Organic search is the space under the paid search adverts on Google.
I know this to be true as @Work Hubs who I worked with did just this.
As the coworking industy exploded in London, their website retained its organic position in search engines.
Action Steps from this post
You could take any of these actions and start to win.
So few coworking spaces post articles to their site or send email newsletters the opportunity is wide open.
One of the best things I ever learnt from Chris Marr is this:
To stop writing to impress my marketing mates and start writing to help my customers.
Start to write articles on your website.
Listen to what people ask you all the time.
Post the question and the answer on your site as an article.
People often think this dumb, too simple or not worth it.
If people are asking you it every week, it is worth it.
Still, stuck? My fellow coworking marketing mate Cat Johnson has a great post here of 50 writing prompts.
Need somewhere to write?
If you are looking for somewhere to write or podcast and are in London, join our meet up here.
Book a workshop
One of my favourite workshops to run is where I get all your team around a table, and we work out what questions people ask.
What is going on in your space?
What do questions do your team answer every day?
We put together a calendar for the months ahead right then and there.
I promise you you’ll get further in a morning doing this than you would on your own in six months.
Book a call to see if this is what will help you.
Books and online course
In ‘Business Made Simple,’ you’ll learn how to build a sales funnel, lead magnet and one-liner for your coworking business.
Grab Marcus’s book They Ask You Answer here on amazon, the audio version is the best way!
Thanks for reading!