Driven: How Did I Get Here Ep.12 – Swimming Upstream to Uncover New Opportunities

Marcus Sheridan, president at The Sales Lion and partner at River Pools and Spas joins host Justin Gray in this episode of Driven: How Did I Get Here?”.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a football coach. Then when I got to college, I wanted to be a gym teacher. I realized if I was going to support my family, that salary probably wouldn’t cut it. So I ended up majoring in Spanish and minoring in physical education. After college, I went home where I grew up and where two of my buddies had opened a pool company. To make a long story short, I became a third partner in the company and it became River Pools. No one ever says they want to be a pool guy, but that’s exactly what I ended up becoming.

What’s the background of River Pools?
We started the company in 2001. Things were going okay until the market collapsed in 2008. There was a period in early 2009 where we were all overdrawn on our accounts. We had 16 employees that were just sitting around. We met with business consultants who told us to file for bankruptcy. And so, in an effort to generate more traffic and sales, we knew we needed to throw a Hail Mary. I started to learn about inbound marketing from HubSpot –– looking into digital marketing, blogging and so on. I realized, if you’re willing to hear the questions people are asking out there and you’re willing to address them on your site through text and video, you just might be successful.

We decided to become the Wikipedia of the pool space and we became the go-to experts of fiberglass swimming pools. Our adage became, “They ask, you answer.” It saved our business. Today we get 600,000 visitors a month to our website –– it’s the most trafficked pool website in the world. We became the largest builder of fiberglass pools in the U.S., and now we’re manufacturing pools as well and developing deals.

How long did it take to start seeing results for your business?
At first people started to comment, “You have a really good website.” Within three to six months I could definitively see the uptick in traffic and leads. After the first couple years, I could identify definitive ties between content consumed and sales closing rates. I could see that when people would read 30 pages or more from our site, we could close 80% of the time. If it was less than 30 pages, we’d be closing 25% of the time. I came to understand it was about trust. The companies who are obsessed with gaining trust in their customers, they are the ones who are changing the game. Fundamentally we are trying to just answer what customers ask. I know there are distractions out there, but people are not too busy to take the time to read, especially when it comes to deciding how to spend their money.

Do you find there are certain types of content that build trust?
Yes, I call them the “big five” because there are five pieces of content that move economies. It doesn’t matter whether it’s B2B or B2C, these are the five to consider:

  1. Cost based questions. Essentially answering the questions like how much does it cost, average price ranges, salaries.
  2. Problem questions. People want to know what they don’t know about a product. Will this product blowup in their face?
  3. Comparison questions. This is highlighting honestly the pros and cons of products. Basically the this versus that questions.
  4. Reviews. People want to know about reviews of products and services.
  5. Best questions. People like to search to find out the “best” of whatever they’re searching for. No one searches, “What is the worst Mexican restaurant in NYC.” No matter what the search is about, they want to know what the best is. This, by the way, doesn’t mean they’re looking to buy what the best is. It just means they want to know what it is.

If you had to hire someone to replace yourself, what traits would you look for?
The number one trait I would look for in anyone today is the ability to communicate.

What is your favorite interview question to identify that trait?
First you find out what interests them. Then I ask, “Tell me about that.” It’s a really powerful phrase. There’s a group of people who don’t respond clearly, because they’re not good teachers and they understand all these things that you do not. It’s the curse of knowledge. Then there are other people that will literally walk you through things. And by the time they’re done explaining this interest they have, you feel like you can see it or you’re a part of it. It’s the same type of person who, when they tell you about their vacation, it’s like you were there too. That’s the type of person I’m looking for. That’s the one skill that I have, whatever I am in terms of success, that is far and away the most important skill I have.

To connect with Marcus Sheridan, check out The Mad Marketing podcast and The Hubcast podcast for Hubspotters. Visit his website Email him at

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