Day three of the 2018 NAMM Show kicked off with a NAMM University Breakfast Session hosted by Marcus Sheridan, online marketing guru and author of “They Ask, You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer.”

Sheridan offered a wealth of actionable advice for music retailers looking to boost their online presence and attract more customers through their websites, drawing on his experience as the owner of a fiberglass pool installation business, River Pools and Spas, and his “They ask, you answer” philosophy to illustrate his points.

Sheridan began his presentation by explaining the importance of the “zero moment of truth,” or the first time a prospective customer contacts your company to do business. According to Sheridan, on average, 70% of buying decisions are made before the zero moment of truth — in other words, seven out of 10 customers have already made a decision about what they want to buy before they even come to your store or site.

For this reason, Sheridan emphasized the need to make sure your store is the first in line when a customer decides to buy. He explained how business owners can boost the popularity of their websites by taking a “They ask, you answer” approach to marketing their products and services to their customers. He stressed how, if you can’t answer a customer’s questions, the customer is all but guaranteed to turn to another retailer who can. And he implored all in attendance to avoid the pitfalls of “Ostrich Marketing,” or ignoring the needs of the customer and perpetuating the status quo.

To help attendees better address the questions of customers, Sheridan provided a list of the five most common things customers really care about: cost, problems with the product, comparisons, reviews, and whether or not a given product is the best fit for them.

As far as cost is concerned, Sheridan explained how customers become frustrated if they can’t find price listings on your website and will move on to another site that has them. And, for “It depends” pricing, he emphasized the need to explain to customers approximate costs and the reasoning behind them. To illustrate this point, Sheridan shared a story about how he took 45 minutes to write a post for his website explaining the costs associated with fiberglass pools, and how that post became the go-to resource for people researching the cost of fiberglass pools online simply because no one else had written one, leading to $4.5 million in sales.

Sheridan then discussed how being honest about potential problems that may arise with the products you sell, while counterintuitive, can build customer trust and position your company as an objective expert for customers doing online research. He explained how the popularity of the search term “problems with fiberglass pools” convinced him to write a post on the topic for his website, which drew a wealth of visitors to the site and generated a ton of leads.

Sheridan then moved on to the popularity of “vs.” search terms, or direct comparisons between competing products and companies — think “Brand X vs. Brand Y.” He noted how the common approach of avoiding any mention of your competitors is self-defeating, because your customers are interested in knowing how one brand or company stacks up against another (and, despite your best efforts to pretend your competitors don’t exist, most educated customers already know all about them). According to Sheridan, if you offer honest, unbiased comparisons, that is another way to position your company as a trustworthy expert on the questions that matter to your customers.

To illustrate the traffic-boosting potential of reviews, Sheridan pointed to two interesting statistics: Over the past two years, mobile searches for product reviews have grown more than 35%, and videos with “review” in the title have amassed about 50,000 years worth of watch time.

Sheridan then pointed to the growing popularity of  “for me” search terms, which have grown by 130% over the past two years. He explained how using web tools or apps that help prospective customers select the best product for them from your inventory can provide a large boost in web traffic and sales. Similarly, Sheridan explained how “should I” searches have grown by 60% over the past two years, further illustrating the desire among customers for expert guidance in their buying decisions. He encouraged retailers to use all of these popular search terms when writing posts for their websites in order to maximize web traffic from these types of searches.

To wrap up his presentation, Sheridan then offered the following eight pieces of advice for online marketing and website design:

  1. It ain’t about you — Make sure your website puts the customer, not your company, front and center.
  2. Don’t show bias — Most people get turned off if your web content is too obviously biased in favor of your own brand or the products that you sell.
  3. Sliders are bad — The slider that appears near the top of many websites and cycles through featured posts at a set speed usually moves too fast for most users to process the information posted. According to Sheridan, “Sliders do not agree with our brain.”
  4. Site speed (especially on mobile) matters a lot — The average retail mobile site loads in 6.9 seconds. However, 40% of consumers will leave a web page if it doesn’t load in three seconds.
  5. Consistency with your brand matters — Making sure your online content is visually uniform and your branding, logos, colors, etc., are consistent across multiple pages lends veneer of professionalism to your site.
  6. Teach, communicate and sell the way they want it — Always cater your marketing and educational content to the customer.
  7. Know your customer and speak to them — If you interact with your customers, they’ll tell you what matters to them, and all you have to do is provide it.
  8. By the year 2019, 80% of the content consumed online will be video-based — If you haven’t already, make video a priority or you’ll get left behind.
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