I’ve had clients get frustrated or even mad because I asked a lot of questions. I guess they were under the assumption that I could just wave a magic wand, say a few magic words, and… poof! Out of the hat comes brilliant marketing content that brings in money by the truckload!
I like to think I’m reasonably good at what I do, but what I do does not include instant gratification. Or magic. Or in-depth knowledge of every organization on the face of the earth, what makes them special, and the needs of their target audience.
These unfortunate shortcomings of mine require me to ask questions. A lot of them. As I always say, my heavy lifting is done before I sit down to write.
Through initial conversations and research, I can gather general information about what a company does, who their target audience is, and what they’re trying to accomplish. But there are certain questions I have to ask to dig deeper.
The answers will help me develop a message that matters to your audience and moves the needle for your business.
There may be other questions depending on the company, the industry, the specific product or service, or the objective. But these are questions that I ask of just about every new client, especially when it comes to website content.
I strongly encourage you to ask yourself these questions before you develop your marketing content or hire someone to do it for you.
1) What are your ideal client’s most common problems or pain points?
You can’t be everything to everyone, so focus on the needs of your ideal client. Identifying your ideal client is a separate topic for another day.
Why would your ideal client be motivated to do business with you? What keeps them up at night? What causes them stress or hardship? What makes them unhappy? What would they like to change or improve for themselves, their family or their business?
Keep in mind that not all problems and pains are life and death. Maybe someone is driving a Honda and wishes they were driving a Lexus. Depending on your product or service, it could be more about filling a need or desire than solving what the average Joe would classify as a problem.
2) What’s your process for solving these problems or making the pain go away?
This allows you to answer the “what do you do” question in detail and differentiate yourself from competitors.
Unless you offer a product or service that’s completely unique and can’t be found anywhere else, your key points of differentiation are probably found in your process. Some are obvious. Some might require digging.
It’s important to uncover these key points and explain how they help you deliver value to your target audience. Otherwise, it’s easy to get stuck in the abyss of stale, vague and unsubstantiated marketing clichés, including but not limited to:
- For all your (fill in the blank) needs
- Your full-service (fill in the blank)
- Best customer service
- Friendly, knowledgeable staff
- Highest quality and lowest prices
3) What are the results of doing business with you?
This is what people really pay for and care about – the end result. Answering this question is critical so you can use your content to preview the outcome of using your product or service.
Help people picture what life will be like when you’ve solved their problem, filled a need or desire, or made their pain go away. Sell the outcome and people will want your product or service.
4) What are the consequences of not doing business with you?
Marketers and business owners tend to focus on proving return on investment. In many cases, focusing on the return on not making an investment will have much more impact.
What pain points and problems could arise if someone doesn’t do business with you? What existing pain points and problems won’t go away? What will they be missing? Fear of missing out is a powerful motivator.
You don’t want to be a Debbie Downer and dwell on the negative, but there’s nothing wrong with agitating pain points as long as you don’t exaggerate or mislead.
5) What objections or misconceptions could be preventing your ideal client from doing business with you?
As part of the sales process, we all have to overcome objections. We all have to deal with misconceptions, assumptions or preconceived notions that could be holding up a sale. Why not let your marketing content do some of the work for you?
Instead of hiding from these obstacles or pretending they don’t exist, address them head on, and transparently, in your marketing content. Educate people about the truth and, as long as you live up to your claims, you’ll remove barriers to a sale.
Tap into an underused and often overlooked source of knowledge.
If you’re not sure how to answer or any or all of these questions, talk to your clients. They’re probably capable of answering these questions more accurately than anyone, including you, based on their own experiences. And they may share a few important nuggets that you hadn’t considered.
Don’t assume your clients are unwilling to share their insights. If that were the case, nobody would participate in surveys or review products. If you’ve taken the time to build relationships with clients, they’ll probably be happy to help.
You can’t just say the magic words to make magical words appear.
I wish I could just sit down and type. I wish I didn’t have to ask a lot of questions. I’d be able to charge lower prices and enjoy more free time.
But just like anything else worth having in life, I need to put a lot of work into content writing. Most of it doesn’t involve writing.
I can’t create a powerful marketing message and great content by saying the magic words. Neither can you.
If you’re thinking about updating or overhauling your marketing content, start by asking these questions. Listen carefully to the answers. Ask follow up questions. Record the conversation so you don’t miss anything important.
The deeper you dig, the better the message. And the greater the reward.