ORLANDO, Fla. — It was a completely radical idea.
When Marcus Sheridan’s business tanked along with the economy, his fiberglass pool company was on the brink of bankruptcy. So he decided to start to answer customers’ questions on his website.
“Marcus, if you just obsess over the questions you get every single day from your customers and are willing to address them, and are willing to talk about them, through video, texts, on your website — if they ask, you answer. You know if you don’t, somebody else will. That’s how you’ll earn that magical thing called trust,” Sheridan said.
But most businesses in the boating industry adhere to ostrich marketing, Sheridan said. And when 70 percent of the buying decision is made before a customer meets a dealer, it’s crucial for the industry to provide information customers want to find on iPads and smartphones, he said.
Sheridan put up on his website a small post explaining the pricing of fiberglass pools, which traditionally had been unavailable unless you were talking with a salesperson.
“One of the first questions potential pool owners want to know when they call our company is how much does a fiberglass pool cost? Although this is a very difficult question to answer, I will do my best here to explain some general pricing guidelines,” he said at the website.
That drove so much traffic to his site that he made more than 200 appointments that resulted in $4.5 million in sales.
“We know as the buyer that they know they, as the business, have the answer to my question,” Sheridan said. “Because they have the answer and are not giving it to us, we feel like they’re hiding something from us.”
“We started a ‘You ask, we answer’ page, and today we’re the most-trafficked swimming pool website in the world. It happened because we said, ‘We’re going to be the Wikipedia of pools.’ It went so well, I started getting sales leads from all over the country.”
“We don’t talk about it until we’re face to face, and because of that, websites like The Hull Truth run this,” Sheridan said. “Third-party companies are controlling the information that they get when they research anything about price.”
A first-time boat-buyer study by Grow Boating showed that the industry has lost nearly 1 million first-time buyers during the past 10 years.
Overall, 66 percent of lapsed shoppers said they did not have a helpful experience at the dealership, and 64 percent said they didn’t believe that they knew enough about boats to buy one.
Attack digital consumption, Sheridan said.
“Consumer ignorance is no longer a viable sales-and-marketing strategy,” Sheridan said. “It’s gone. Even the uninformed will eventually become the informed.