The new reality of the digital buyer
In today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected world, the way people buy has fundamentally changed. The internet is their first stop, and an overwhelming 80% of a buyer’s decision is now made before they ever talk to a sales representative.
But the shocker? A recent study revealed that 44% of millennials prefer a sales process without a sales professional involved. That’s 2.2 times more than the previous generation.
This isn’t a mere preference—it’s a seismic shift. One that’s pulling the rug from under industries stuck in traditional sales and marketing paradigms. It’s redefining how businesses need to approach their customers, especially in sectors like the medical device industry, where trust and credibility are paramount.
For businesses, this is a double-edged sword. On one side, the digital space provides unprecedented access to potential customers. On the other, those customers are vetting companies to an exhaustive degree, often ruling out options without those companies ever knowing they were in the running.
So, what’s the potential impact on revenue? It’s significant. Companies are losing customers before they even know they were prospects. It’s the silent killer of modern sales, and if companies don’t adapt, they risk becoming obsolete in the eyes of the modern digital buyer.
If your digital content strategy isn’t tailored for this discerning digital buyer, this article is your wake-up call. It’s time to adapt, and Marcus Sheridan’s ‘They Ask, You Answer’ might just be the map your company needs to navigate this new landscape.
The origins of 'They Ask, You Answer': The Marcus Sheridan story
In 2008, the world was in the grip of a financial crisis. Businesses were closing their doors left and right, and Marcus Sheridan’s pool company, River Pools and Spas, was no exception. Orders were drying up, and the future looked bleak.
Rather than surrendering to despair, Marcus decided to take a radical approach: he would literally answer the questions that potential customers were asking on the internet, transparently and honestly. This wasn’t just about selling pools; it was about educating the consumer, whether they bought from River Pools or not.
He started writing blog posts that were candid about the costs associated with installing a pool, which was a revolutionary approach at that time. Instead of hiding the price until the last possible moment—a standard tactic in sales—Marcus put it front and centre.
And it wasn’t just prices. Marcus openly discussed the problems people might encounter when installing a pool, the comparative pros and cons of different pool types, and much more. He pulled back the curtain on an industry that was, until that point, shrouded in secrecy.
This philosophy of radical transparency was transformative. Not only did it save his company, but it also catapulted River Pools and Spas to one of the most visited pool company websites in the world. Marcus wasn’t just selling pools; he was building trust and authority in a space that was traditionally opaque.
From this experience, ‘They Ask, You Answer’ was born—a complete, foundational strategy that extends far beyond a marketing campaign. It’s about being the most helpful, transparent company in your space. It’s about becoming the most trusted voice in your industry through insightful, educational content.
This story, one of redemption through ingenuity and customer-focus, exemplifies what’s possible in today’s digital landscape. It proves that if you earnestly and openly address your customers’ questions and concerns online, they will come to trust you as a resource. And when they’re ready to buy, it’s your name that will be at the top of their list.
What 'They Ask, You Answer' really means: A strategy, not just a phrase
At its core, ‘They Ask, You Answer’ is a remarkably simple concept. Marcus recognised early on that today’s consumers have virtually limitless access to information, and they’re using this power to research, compare, and scrutinise before they decide to make a purchase.
In this landscape, Marcus’s strategy was radical but straightforward: listen to the questions your potential customers are asking and answer them. Not vaguely, not eventually, but clearly, completely, and immediately. It’s about being the best and most complete source of information in your industry, and in doing so, becoming the go-to expert in your field.
A shift from selling to helping
Instead of viewing content as a way to sell, Marcus advocates for viewing content as a way to help. In ‘They Ask, You Answer,’ businesses are instructed to be educators first. Your content—whether it’s a blog post, video, podcast, or eBook—is there to solve the problems of your potential customers. It’s there to answer their questions honestly and thoroughly, without a sales pitch lurking in the last paragraph.
Becoming a trusted adviser
When your company is consistently answering your potential customers’ questions in an honest and comprehensive manner, you naturally position yourself as a trusted adviser. You aren’t just a vendor; you’re a source of valuable information. When people trust you, they are far more likely to buy from you—and not just once, but repeatedly. Trust fosters loyalty, and loyalty is the backbone of long-term business success.
A culture, not just a campaign
‘They Ask, You Answer’ is not a one-off campaign—it’s a fundamental shift in how your business operates. It’s a culture that needs to permeate every part of your organisation, from the C-suite to customer service. Everyone in the company becomes a part of the answer. It’s a living, breathing, evolving strategy that grows as your audience does, as their questions change, and as your industry evolves.
This approach is more than a marketing strategy; it’s a company philosophy. And for Marcus, it was the philosophy that saved his business during the toughest of times and turned it into an industry leader. It’s a philosophy that any company, from large medical device multinationals to nimble start-ups, can adopt to align with the needs of the modern digital buyer.
Business benefits of 'They Ask, You Answer' for sales and marketing
As Marcus ardently proclaims, ‘They Ask, You Answer’ is not just a marketing strategy—it’s a business philosophy. It is based on the principle of true, radical transparency in the digital age.
Let’s delve into the tangible business benefits this philosophy can bring, especially in the realms of sales and marketing.
Increased conversion rates
By answering the questions your prospects have and addressing their pain points in a transparent and detailed manner, you build trust. This trust is the foundation upon which higher conversion rates are built. Prospects who feel that they are getting all the information they need, without feeling pressured or manipulated, are far more likely to convert into customers.
Shorter sales cycle
‘They Ask, You Answer’ educates your prospects before they even contact your sales team. When they do reach out, they are informed, engaged, and likely closer to making a purchasing decision. This invariably shortens the sales cycle, as the groundwork of educating the customer has largely been done through your content.
Increased website traffic
Marcus’s approach positions your business as a thought leader and a trusted resource in your field. By providing valuable and informative content that answers real questions, your website becomes a destination—not just a stop along the way. This naturally boosts organic search traffic, as people will find your content while searching for answers.
More qualified leads
The people who reach out after consuming your content are not cold leads; they are warm, if not hot. They’ve read your materials, they know your stance, and they appreciate your approach. These leads are generally higher in quality and more likely to convert than someone who has landed on your site via a more generic route.
Becoming the voice of trust in your space
In an era where 44% of millennials prefer a sales process without a sales professional—2.2 times more than the previous generation—becoming a trusted voice is invaluable. The ‘They Ask, You Answer’ philosophy aligns perfectly with this changing landscape. Marcus emphasises that when you consistently and honestly answer the questions your prospects are asking, you become their go-to source for information, building an authoritative and trustworthy brand.
Differentiating impact for large multinationals and start-ups
For large medical device multinationals, this strategy offers a way to humanise and personalise a brand that may otherwise seem distant and corporate. It’s a method for these giants to show their customers that they understand their problems and are here to help solve them.
For nimble start-ups, ‘They Ask, You Answer’ can rapidly establish authority and trust in a competitive market. Without the huge marketing budgets of larger competitors, this content-driven approach allows startups to carve out their own space in the industry by showcasing their expertise and engaging directly with their audience’s needs and questions.
Hypothetical applications of 'They Ask, You Answer' in medical device companies
‘They Ask, You Answer’ has proven to be a transformative strategy for a variety of businesses
To illustrate how this philosophy could be applied successfully within the medical device industry, let’s consider two hypothetical examples – one from a large multinational company and one from a start-up.
Example 1: A large multinational medical device company
Imagine a global leader in surgical equipment, with a presence in over 100 countries. They found that prospective clients were consistently asking similar sets of questions about the safety, efficacy, and cost of their products. Responding to this, the company adopted the ‘They Ask, You Answer’ philosophy and began creating extensive content that included:
- Detailed comparisons between their products and competitors’ offerings, with transparent discussions about pros and cons.
Case studies showcasing successful surgeries using their devices, complete with surgeon testimonials.
- Informative videos demonstrating the products in action and explaining the technology behind them.
The Result: A predictable outcome from these activities could be a 70% increase in website traffic within six months and a 50% reduction in the time spent by their sales team on educating prospective clients. Most significantly however, could be a 35% increase in conversion rates from inquiries to actual sales.
Example 2: A medical device start-up
Consider a start-up focused on wearable health monitoring devices. This fledgling company noticed that potential customers frequently asked about the data privacy and accuracy of their devices. Instead of avoiding these concerns or burying them in the FAQ section, the start-up embraced Marcus’s approach:
- Comprehensive blog posts explaining the stringent data protection protocols they employ.
- Whitepapers and webinars that detail the science and technology that underpin the accuracy of their monitoring devices.
- Real stories from patients whose lives have improved because of the insights and monitoring from the start-up’s devices.
The Result: This could be triple-digit growth in organic website traffic, increased engagement on their site by 90%, and, crucially, leads generated through their content were 2.5 times more likely to convert into paying customers than leads from other sources.
How to uncover 'They Ask, You Answer' questions for your audience
In a world where the buyer’s journey is largely digital, medical device companies must anticipate and address the questions their potential customers are asking online. But how do you discover what these questions are?
Here are some focused strategies to uncover the critical questions your audience is asking:
1. Host a company workshop
Gather your sales, marketing, and customer service teams and ask them to identify the top questions they are answering 80% of the time. These front-line employees interact with your customers daily and have a wealth of insights into their concerns and curiosities.
2. Set up regular revenue meetings
Organise bi-weekly revenue meetings with the sales and marketing teams. Use these meetings to discuss new questions that are emerging from prospects and customers. Keep a running list and prioritise creating content around these questions.
By systematically uncovering the questions that your audience is asking, you can create targeted, relevant content that meets potential customers where they are in their buying journey. This proactive approach not only positions your company as a trusted resource but also helps to nurture leads more effectively through the sales funnel.
The Big 5 questions
Marcus Sheridan asserts that there are five critical types of questions that customers are consistently searching for online before making a purchase. These are what he dubs ‘The Big 5’.
For medical device companies, addressing these questions in your content can be a game-changer. Here’s a breakdown of what these questions are, along with examples tailored for the medical device industry:
1. Pricing and cost
Explanation: Customers want a clear understanding of what they can expect to pay. While specific numbers can be tricky due to varying contracts and agreements, a range or explanation of factors affecting cost is beneficial.
Example: Write a blog post titled “Understanding the Costs of Our Cardiac Monitors: A Comprehensive Guide”.
2. Problems and issues
Explanation: Be honest about the challenges that might arise with your products. Transparency builds trust.
Example: Publish a page detailing common issues with certain types of surgical lasers and how your product design minimises these problems.
Explanation: Potential customers often compare your products with those of a competitor. Creating this content for them saves time and positions you as a trusted source.
Example: Craft a whitepaper comparing your MRI machine’s image quality, ease of use, and cost to leading competitors.
Explanation: People seek out reviews from other customers before making a purchase decision. Share testimonials and case studies.
Example: Showcase video testimonials of healthcare professionals who have switched to your patient monitoring systems and their experiences.
5. Best in class
Explanation: Potential clients want to know what the best options are, even within your own product range. Highlight the top performers.
Example: Write a blog post titled “Our Top 3 Most Efficient and Reliable Respiratory Devices for 2023”.
By proactively and transparently addressing these Big 5 Questions in your content, you are meeting potential customers exactly where they are in their buyer’s journey. This approach, advocated by Marcus Sheridan, transforms your company’s online presence into a comprehensive, trusted resource, setting the stage for increased conversions and customer trust.
Embracing a new era of digital buyer engagement
In today’s digital age, where 80% of a buyer’s decision is made online, traditional sales and marketing strategies are quickly becoming obsolete.
This shift is not slowing down, and companies that aren’t prepared to meet the digital buyer on their own terms risk being left behind.
For medical device companies, the stakes are especially high. As Marcus Sheridan highlighted through his ‘They Ask, You Answer’ philosophy, providing the information that potential customers are seeking, in a transparent and educational manner, is no longer a nice-to-have—it’s a necessity.
Facing the facts: We are living in a time where 44% of millennials prefer a sales process without a sales professional involved, a figure that’s 2.2 times greater than the generation before them. This statistic underlines the essential nature of adjusting our strategies to meet this new kind of buyer.
Medical device companies have the opportunity to be pioneers in this new landscape. By committing to a content strategy that answers the vital questions your prospective customers are asking, you position your business as a trusted, authoritative source in an increasingly competitive market.
The result? Increased conversion rates, shorter sales cycles, and a pronounced rise in qualified leads. More than that, you become the voice of trust in your space, engaging with the buyers where they are—online—thus, shaping and informing their decisions from a position of authority and expertise.
In a world where companies are vetted extensively online before a buyer engages with them directly, failure to adapt to this new model can have a profound impact on revenue.
As Marcus has shown through his own journey from River Pools and Spas onwards, ‘They Ask, You Answer’ is not just a marketing strategy—it’s a business philosophy. It’s a call to be the most helpful, transparent company in your space.
In conclusion, if your digital content isn’t ready for this new era of the digital buyer, this article is for you. As Marcus Sheridan exemplifies, it’s time to listen, to answer, and to thrive in this new digital landscape.
Ready to transform your business with ‘They Ask, You Answer’?
The digital landscape is changing, and to thrive, your business strategy must evolve too. At Podymos, we’re not just observers of this transformation; we’re certified coaches for ‘They Ask, You Answer’, trained to guide companies like yours through this proven approach.
Whether you’re a startup seeking to carve out a place in the market, or an established multinational company aiming to strengthen your online authority, we have the experience and tools to guide you. We’ve partnered with Marcus Sheridan and the ‘They Ask, You Answer’ team to become experts in helping businesses rapidly adopt this powerful strategy throughout their organisation.
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In today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected world, the way people buy has fundamentally changed.Are you ready?