Blogging Didn’t Save My Business. Neither Did Content Marketing.

by Marcus Sheridan

The guiding light of your business' digital marketing success is not based in simple words, but rather "philosophies" that are built to last.

The guiding light of your business’ digital marketing success is not based in simple words, but rather “philosophies” that are built to last.

Blogging didn’t save my swimming pool company.

Neither did Content Marketing.

Or Inbound Marketing.

Or Social Media Marketing.

Titles vs. Philosophies

Nope, despite the phrases that are so often used (myself included) when describing the River Pools success story, I must be frank in admitting I’ve gotten to the point where I cringe a little when people ask me, “Marcus, tell us about how blogging saved your swimming pool company.”

But I get it. Titles and words are important. Such is the case when describing the actions we took while attempting to resurrect a swimming pool company that was weeks if not days away from closing its doors forever.

The thing is though, “blogging” in and of itself isn’t a philosophy. Neither is content marketing—at least not how most people understand it.

You see, the thing that saved River Pools came down to our philosophical shift as a business.

For 8 years, from the time we first opened our doors, we saw ourselves as “pool builders.”

That was it, pure and simple.

Then, as we were forced to look deep within and embrace the possibilities that came with content marketing, a massive shift occurred in two essential ways:

1. We saw ourselves as teachers (In this case, we taught people about fiberglass swimming pools.)

2. We saw ourselves as problem solvers (If someone had any question about pools whatsoever, we’d be the source.)

It is for this reason when people approach me today and ask me to define the phrase “content marketing,” my answer is as follows:

“Your company’s ability to be the best teachers and problems solvers in the world at what you do…digitally speaking.”

If you’ve ever read a definition of this phrase before, you’d likely agree my take on the subject is a different one, but in my humble opinion this is the definition that will truly help businesses small and large not only get results with their content marketing efforts today, but also have a strategy that can guide them for years to come—no matter how many social media and content marketing platforms come and go.

In an article published here a few weeks ago, you may recall my announcement of River Pools Manufacturing. With our first pool shape being offered to the public, it became necessary to educate consumers about the new model. For this reason, my partner (at River Pools) Jason Hughes created this page on the new design, aka “The Greco.”

Great content marketing is about thinking just like a consumer and knowing their fears, questions and concerns--and then being willing to address each with thoughtfulness and clarity.

Great content marketing is about thinking just like a consumer and knowing their fears, questions and concerns–and then being willing to address each with thoughtfulness and clarity.

In the fiberglass pool space, most pool shapes on other manufacturer websites get one or two sentences describing each. Frankly, this lack of consumer education has always bothered Jason and myself, which is exactly why he spent hours designing a page that addresses just about any question a potential pool buyer could have about this model.  By using text, visuals, and videos, Jason is able to give consumers an incredible feeling of clarity and understanding when it came to this design. The helpfulness, as you might imagine, is already paying big dividends. Despite our extremely meager model selection of only one pool shape (for now), the Greco is already becoming a huge seller, much of which can be attributed to the aforementioned web page that is all about addressing every possible question a consumer might have.

I hope you understand why I’m using this simple example my friends.

From now until the end of the internet (and well beyond that), the businesses that see themselves as teachers and problem solvers, and then take the time to tell the world what they know, are going to earn the most trust and ultimately the most business.

This reality will not change.

Nor will the fact that most businesses will never make the simple connection between sales and teaching/helping, which is why those that do will have all the advantage in the years and decades that lie ahead.

Food for Thought

As you go about business this week and consider ways to find further success with your digital marketing efforts, I’d ask you to consider these words with respect to your business:

  • Are you a teacher?
  • Do people see you as a go-to source for solving their problems?
  • And are you obsessed with being helpful every step of the way?

If you can truly answer “yes” to each of these, my guess is you have a very, very bright future ahead…

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Baer May 12, 2014 at 9:13 am

Yes! Thanks so much for writing this Marcus. Blogging and content marketing are a means to an end. In a vacuum, they have no net present value (as the millions of ghost town blogs out there prove). It’s the same thing with social media. You can’t eat “engagement”. All of this stuff is about driving actual behaviors that make a difference to your business – whatever that business happens to be.

You and I agree that the key is to find a way to be useful, and then deploy that philosophy VIA blogging or content or tweets or sky writing or whatever.

People too easily forget that the goal isn’t to be good at content; the goal is to be good at business because of content.


Ryan Hanley May 12, 2014 at 9:55 am

My favorite form of content marketing is most certainly sky writing… Want to talk about ROI?

Seriously, this seemingly simple realignment in philosophy, from distributor of information to educator, is the difference between success and failure because it transcends any one action online or off.

I’ve always struggled with a title with what I do, for this reason… It’s not the Content Marketing business or the Social Media Marketing, it’s the Grow Your Business business.

Thanks for Marcus.



Don Stanley May 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

I’m with you Ryan and Jay. And Marcus you know I love your philosophy of becoming a great teacher.

IMHO too many we, as business owners, sales people and marketers ,are too close to our businesses. We take it for granted our prospects and customers know what we know and we forget about LISTENING and HELPING. We talk AT people and suffer from the curse of knowledge. We want to tell them about why our product or service is superior and why the needed. In reality, we need to be listening to people and addressing how we can help them solve their problems. After all, we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason … we should listen at least twice as much as we talk ;-)

As someone who regularly consumes content from all 3 of you, I can certainly see how some others think it’s simply blogging and content marketing that have helped grow your businesses. What they need to see is it’s not about the blog, it’s about the “why” behind the blog/content.

It’s clear you deliver content to teach and improve the lives of your readers and customers. Your content is consistently accessible and helpful to your core audiences. This is what makes you guys great teachers and what makes your content fun to consume.

I know I’m preaching to the choir but this topic gets me fired up.


Marcus Sheridan May 13, 2014 at 10:17 am

And we love it when the Rhino gets fired up Stanley! :-)


Marcus Sheridan May 13, 2014 at 10:21 am

It’s funny you’ve struggled with that as well Ryan. It’s no fun putting yourself in a labeled box because you feel like the world won’t “get” what you really do and are trying to say.

Right there w you brother :)



Marcus Sheridan May 13, 2014 at 10:24 am

It’s funny Jay, but as I was writing this I literally thought about Youtility more than once, as I know you and I really could not be more aligned in our feelings about this.

Appreciate you my friend,



Adrian Clegg May 12, 2014 at 9:22 am

Dont worry, …I get it.


Marcus Sheridan May 13, 2014 at 10:23 am
Jeremy Abel May 12, 2014 at 9:32 am

Hey Marcus,

Great post clarifying a misconception about success in business, and not just success on the web. The web is simply a platform through which techniques (such as blogging) are implemented to carry out a higher-order (i.e. strategy and philosophy).

This could spiral into another topic for discussion, but I think far too many in our industry are too quick to say colleges are not providing enough “real world marketing” in their marketing curriculum. Truth is, platforms/techniques come and go, while the fundamentals (principles of marketing) are less susceptible to change, which is why many universities focus on building a strong foundation for students before they enter the real world. Many of Ogilvy’s lessons on copywriting for print still hold true in today’s digital era; the same can be said for Cialdini’s principles of social influence.

Again, great post Marcus- there’s a lot to be said for your position on this topic.



Marcus Sheridan May 13, 2014 at 10:23 am

Jeremy, interesting take on colleges and universities and how they’re going about this bud. Personally, I’ve been hard on colleges myself but it may be because I haven’t paid as much attention to their “core” teachings vs those platforms that come and go. Great food for thought my man.



Tony H May 12, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Great post, this is such a wonderful way to think about your business. People forget that a business success is not built on one single aspect but many choices and tactics. Thanks for sharing!


Ryan Biddulph May 13, 2014 at 7:51 am

Hi Marcus,

Grow business by solving problems. Love your point! Blogging is a tool, thru which you solve problems. Content is a tool too. Both work well in the hands of problem solvers, and poorly in the hands of folks who see tools as the end all be all, when the crafts person makes the tools work.


Marcus Sheridan May 13, 2014 at 10:15 am

Really loved your point there Ryan about working well in the hands of problems solvers vs not working so well in the hands of those that simply don’t get it…I’ll be using that one in the future for sure!

Thanks for dropping in bud, hope you’re well.



Kate McQuillan May 13, 2014 at 7:56 am

So true – since we started doing this with our business it’s totally changed the whole way that we look at what we do. I don’t really see us as Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers – but rather a problem solver…and we are working hard on teaching people through our blog.

Big thanks for Marcus for all his GREAT advice!!


Marcus Sheridan May 13, 2014 at 10:13 am

Thrilled with what you’re doing Kate, you rock!! :-)


Hunter Boyle May 13, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Money quote —
“…the businesses that see themselves as teachers and problem solvers, and then take the time to tell the world what they know, are going to earn the most trust and ultimately the most business.”

That’s the very definition of simple but not easy. Love this post and how you’re driving home the difference between methods and methodology. Congrats on the launch of the Greco, Marcus.

Cheers — Hunter


kamal dumka May 13, 2014 at 3:31 pm

“this is a post I liked it can u give some more knowlege about it and love the way u express yourself


Peter Freeman May 13, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Hi Marcus,

Excellent article. It describes how we see ourselves (no, not pool teachers…!) – we help businesses grow through connecting all their marketing dots to where it counts – sales. Tools and platforms are pointless without purpose.

Before SMMW14 we had already started rethinking our core message. Your keynote has been instrumental in helping us define our message better. As yet our online branding doesn’t reflect the changes. Watch this space :)



Kaloyan Banev May 13, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Blogging should be tolerated the same ways as any other business. It is absolutely necessary to have written plan, goals and marketing strategy. Most bloggers fail simply because inconsistance and lack of any planning.


Siva May 14, 2014 at 1:20 am
jason jue May 14, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Absolutely right. The MBA version of your post: you changed your value prop from selling a product commodity, fiberglass pools, to selling something differentiable, expertise. Good lesson for us all.


jason jue May 14, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Totally agree. In MBA speak, you changed your value prop from selling a commoditized product, fiberglass pools, to selling a differentiated services, expertise. A good lesson for us all.


Samantha Winchell May 16, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Love this! It’s always important to remember that we’re “teachers” and “problem solvers.” Relevancy is key, and the concept of content marketing does not always work with every single company. Thank you for pointing that out!


Marcus Sheridan May 21, 2014 at 7:36 am

So glad you liked the post Samantha. Thanks for stopping by and continued success!!!



Alex Pavlov May 20, 2014 at 3:18 am

Agree, marketing platform does make a difference to how successful your business is going to be, but the most important thing is not the way you choose to market your business. It is the person who is behind the business, their attitude and ides that make a business to succeed or fail.


Luísa Barwinski June 4, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Hi Marcus,

I’d like to thank you for writing this article. I’ve been telling to my students and clients here in Brazil about how important it is to be useful and teach something to our audiences.

Can I translate you article and publish with full credit to you (obviously) on my blog? It would be a great honor to get more people to know about our real role as marketers.

Thank you once again!


Marcus Sheridan June 9, 2014 at 11:53 am

Translate away Luisa, good luck!! :)


Angus Pryor June 18, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Hi Marcus,
thanks for your insights. I’ve dabbled in blogging a bit over the past year or so but think your teacher/problem solver philosophy is one I’m going to take up.

I’ve mainly just tried to entertain through my writings but I guess there’s no reason why you can’t do both.




Marcus Sheridan June 19, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Yeah, it can be a tough balance Angus. But ultimately, if it’s the goal to have a “business,” you’ve really got to treat it that way and let that goal guide you.

Good luck to you!



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