Sunday, November 6, 2011

5 tips associations can learn from a pool guy

As I settled into one of the breakout sessions at the recent Content Marketing World conference (, I realized one of the speakers owned a swimming pool company.

My first thought was “What is a pool guy going to teach me about content marketing?”

Wow!  Was I wrong!!

Marcus Sheridan (aka the pool guy) blew me away.  Energetic.  Enthusiastic. Practical.  One of the best speakers I’ve heard in a long time ... and, he only had 15 minutes to talk with us!

After digesting his content (and sharing it with others), there are 5 ideas that associations can learn from Marcus, the Pool Guy, aka

#1 Blogs sell
Timely, member-focused blog posts can sell memberships and donations!  And, position your organization as a thought leader and “go-to” resource.  Successfully blogging takes work and careful planning (develop strategies, targets and an editorial calendar) but it pays dividends in your “sales.”  Marcus flat out says “it saved my business and kept us out of bankruptcy.”

#2 Provide solutions
Marcus said he started blogging by answering the Top 50 questions his staff was hearing from customers & prospects.  He totally gets focusing on the customer and writing from their point of view and not a selling point of view.  If you offer solutions and provide answers, your blogs create value (for members) and readers (more potential members/donors).  Ask your members/prospects what keeps them up at night.  Find ways you can answer those issues.

#3 Tell stories
Stories ( are a powerful motivator for members, potential members, staff and others important to your organization.  As John Kotter says “It is important that executives ask themselves these questions: What are the stories that define us in light of our customers, employees and shareholders? And, are these the stories we want to tell--and have others tell about us? If you answer ‘No,’ then you must start taking the actions that will replace the old stories. Your success depends on the honesty and integrity of your actions as well as on the emotional impact they make. The cynicism created when the ‘stories’ are proven be false or misleading can be extremely damaging.”  Most associations and non-profits are full of great stories but few take the time to flesh them out and share them with members across multiple platforms (print, video, social media, etc.).

#4 Use video
Video tells your story in a very personal way and helps enhance your search engine positioning.  Let members, prospects, staff create videos that tell their stories about your organization.  Take a flip camera to your events and tape short segments of members talking about what the association means to them and what they are getting from the event.  If you are a charity, get recipients to share their stories on video.  (And, yes, get signed consent forms so the lawyers don’t fuss.)  Here are a couple of “masters” of video.  Blendex ( and its “will it blend” videos has 431,517 subscribers!  When United Airlines didn’t respond to Dave Carroll’s broken guitar, he responded by creating a music video called United Breaks Guitars ( which has now been viewed 11 million times!

#5 Take advantage
When opportunity presents, use it!  Marcus does this with his swimming pool blogs (  See how he communicated with customers and prospects about pools during natural disasters such as a hurricane ( and an earthquake (  He recognized his audience who had questions and he responded ... quickly.  What is happening outside your association that impacts the members of your association community? Are you using these “events” to share solutions with members and prospects?

If you want a true sense of Marcus’s viewpoints watch the video in this post:

As you look at Marcus and his efforts, what other ways do you see his “model” helping associations in their marketing and membership programs?

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