Whether you’re a copywriter, B2B marketing strategist, or top business leader, you’d be wise to heed the words of direct-response copywriting legend Gary Bencivenga:
“Begin every assignment like an investigative reporter… [Ask] your client and his or her best salespeople a torrent of questions.”
Gary’s point is well-taken. Central to you and your client’s success is an effective exploratory phase—one that hones in on select words, clarifies key differentiators, and that goes on to define a brand’s voice and how it articulates its offerings.
It being early days for 2019 ‘n all, I’d say now is a superb time to take stock of how your basic marketing tools and processes are performing—such as your initial client questionnaire or project interview. Here’s a checklist of our 15 best queries, one that gets just about any new marketing initiative off to a great start.
1. What’s the #1 aim of this project—the action you want MOST from this marketing effort?
Your client’s overarching business goals might be lofty, but their answer to this question should be specific, and most of all, measurable. For a website, it’s the main call-to-action: do they want visitors to fill out a form? Sign up for a newsletter? Download a white paper? Pick up the phone? Help your client focus their scope here—and frankly, help yourself define what success looks like—by narrowing in on a single customer behavior.
2. Who is your current target audience?
These are your client’s heaviest users, the 20% “bread ‘n butter” clients who, according to the Pareto Principle, generate 80 percent of sales. Or, have your client describe (in detail) their distinctive customer segments, and how they differ.
3. Who is your ideal customer of the future?
What does this customer look like and how are they different from the current target? This should get at brand aspirations—i.e., what sort of brand image they want to project, what sort of audience they hope to attract, and in what specific ways that audience departs from their current audience.
4. What are the primary problems and challenges your prospects come to you to solve?
What’s bringing folks in the door? Frustration? Fantasy? FOMO? Get clear on the pain points—both emotional and rational—that your client’s products or services can alleviate.
5. What is your core offer?
Now that you’ve clarified your client’s main audience and key benefits, now’s the time to dig into the meat and potatoes of the offering. Have your client walk you through the complete product or service, soup to nuts, as if you were a brand new customer walking in their door.
6. What makes you THE choice in your niche? How is your business special?
In other words,what is the primary value proposition? How and why does the client’s offer fulfill a consumer’s needs better than the competition?
7. Who are the competitors you want to outperform?
Now you know what makes your client stand out—WHO are they standing out from? There’s no better way to position a client than getting to know the competitive landscape—and even better, the entire market. Make sure your client includes both brands they want to differentiate themselves from, and competitors they want to emulate in some way.
8. Beyond direct business competitors, what other alternatives to buying your product/service are your prospects considering?
What other solutions (including taking no action at all) might interfere with someone placing an order? Putting yourself in the mind of the consumer might mean thinking of all the hacks, workarounds and counterarguments—all the reasons not to buy—so you can start flipping the script.
9. What are the primary emotional benefits that resonate with your customers?
What’s the emotional state of those who end up buying? And how does it evolve through the buying process—or stay consistent? Customers buy on feeling, and often rationalize purchases later. So you’ll want to lean into those key emotions, whether through words, content or visuals.
10. What are the very best examples of your product/service making your customers happy?
This is where your client should provide as much demonstrable value and evidence as possible—because every proof point, fact, figure, and testimonial in this section is like marketing gold. Primary analytical points, credible case studies—anything that has prompted a “wow” response can and should be mined again and again for strategy and content.
11. What aspect of your pitch has been the most effective to date?
Look to your client’s sales team for uncovering those “aha” moments for the consumer. What’s the one selling point that always seems to clinch the deal, and when in the buying process does it happen? By understanding your client’s go-to pitch, you’ll see areas to either maximize, or improve.
12. How do people typically find your business?
Have your client name all marketing sources (that make up 15% or more) of their incoming business and simultaneously, dive down on each (i.e. what sources make up 15% or more of their incoming web traffic?, etc.) Knowing where the eyeballs are coming gives you greater context for crafting both strategy and message.
13. What’s the biggest obstacle to success right now?
Whether it’s a business blocker or customer issue, it’s helpful to know what product pitfalls or brand weaknesses you’ll be defending against. And while we’re highlighting the negatives: don’t assume you have to always hide every flaw (if you haven’t heard, self-deprecation is in).
14. What goes on under the hood?
By learning as much as you can—about how a client’s product is made, why it’s made that way, and even what the engineers would change if they could—you may discover some intriguing aspect or feature that turns into an unexpected selling point.
15. What’s your favorite thing about your business, and about your customers?
Give your client the floor to wax poetic all about their hard-working employees, their mission, and their devoted customer base. But be forewarned—you might end up with writer’s cramp scribbling down all the pearly nuggets dropping from their mouths.
Of course, as with any new project you’ll want to throw in some process questions (like timeframe, budget, revisions, stakeholders, etc). But for almost any marketing launch these 15 simple client questions should get you in, get you the lay of the land, and get you out—so you can get a lot more done in 2019.
Want to get a jump on your business’ marketing this year? Get in touch with us stat.