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Martin Wales

Customer Catcherâ„¢


[May 7, 2001]

Ask Questions To Reap Greater Returns On Your Marketing

How would you feel if you were able to increase the response to your marketing campaigns by 10 to 30 percent? How much additional revenue could this add to your bottom line? If you want this scenario to be a reality, consider asking questions as part of your campaign to attract and influence your prospects. Questions give you the ability to involve your prospects immediately in the selling process by referring to their biggest concerns.

While consulting many companies on their marketing strategy, I often find that they are extremely good at describing their company history, their product features and the biographies of their corporate team. However, they fail to focus on their prospects' problems and issues. They wonder why they can't motivate more people to inquire about or purchase their technology.

Questions are very powerful influencing agents that alter thinking patterns, release energy in the brain, motivate and alter -- or even control -- behavior. Their power is often not implemented or even recognized. Questions can give your company significant advantage because they:

Attract Attention
A lot of marketing  materials shout out claims, make bold statements, and present images to catch a person's attention. They originate from the advertiser, and are frequently broadcast outward without any invitation to respond. Questions are strikingly different, as they invite your prospects to offer a response, if only to themselves in their own mind. The question mark itself draws attention because it is a symbol that can break up copy.

Inspire An Immediate Reply
Marketing is measured by the response that it gets. It can be the number of Web site hits or phone calls received in response to a direct mailing. All questions inspire a reply, even if we originally have no intention of offering one.

Can you picture the flag of the United States in your mind? The image came to your mind immediately, didn't it? If you did not know what it looked like, you would search your brain to see if you did know. You might even take some action to find out, like searching the Internet or a reference book. Either way, I've got you.

Demonstrate Respect To Your Intended Customers
Questions show that you have your readers' or listeners' best interests at heart from the beginning of your pitch. All marketing comes down to two questions (see, there they are again) in your prospect's mind: "What's in it for me?" and "So what?"

By asking questions with the word "you" in them, you are showing your prospects that your pitch is about them. There is a story about two ad men where one bet the other (we'll call him Fred Smith) $5 that he could get him to read a full page of information. The man won the bet by using the words, "This Is About Fred Smith," as the headline at the top of the page.

Break Your Prospect's Pattern Of Thinking
A question breaks your train of thought and stops your current thinking pattern. You've certainly been in a conversation that has been interrupted by someone with a question. Perhaps you were discussing the implications of the new 3G standards when someone asked where the cream for the coffee was kept. You turn back to your conversation, distracted, and utter the classic phrase: "Now where was I?"

This is useful in handling objections held by your prospects and clients. By breaking their chain of thought, you have a new opportunity to offer new information and influence their decision.

Make People Pause To Think
Questions that are well posed and thought-provoking are like little gifts to the listener. There is value added when you briefly educate or consult. Similar to the popularity of small quotes that make us smile or ponder, questions have value in themselves whether they are answered aloud or not.

Add Interactivity
Marketing campaigns are often presented in media that don't allow for an immediate reply. Print, TV and radio advertising, public relations, and direct mail are all pushed out. They don't involve the prospect until they respond -- if they respond at all. An appropriate series of questions makes it more interactive. You can guide and direct a whole conversation without being present.

Reveal Prospect's Thoughts And Beliefs
If you have a good rapport with your clients, they will tell you what they believe to be true -- but often only if asked directly. Many objections in sales and marketing are based on perceptions that are unfounded. You can't succeed without first revealing and addressing them.

Ask probing questions to uncover these impediments to a call-to-action or for a sale. You need to be respectful and avoid being condescending. Ask open-ended questions that allow the prospect to respond without feeling controlled or directed.

Uncover The Prospect's Hot Buttons
If you know your target market's reasons-to-buy better than your competitors, you will win the sales. Simply ask your prospects and they'll tell you. In conversation on the phone, in person, or through some other medium, pose the question: "What's the most important factor to you when purchasing [insert your product name here]?" On the Web, you can provide the most common responses as the hotlinks that your visitors click on for more information. This one question means you're concentrating on their buying desire, rather than just rattling off a list of product features.

Reveal Possibilities Not Previously Considered
When we are forced to stop and evaluate a question, we often come to see previously unrecognized possibilities. It's that moment of revelation in a staff meeting when someone says, "Hey, don't we have a relationship with Dialogic that we could use to communicate this news?" Questions help us piggyback off one another's knowledge and experience.

Expose Your Expertise
The questions you ask demonstrate how much you already know about your prospects' industry issues. Your selection of vocabulary and themes give a direct implication of your knowledgebase and of your active participation in their industry.

In closing, let's ask some more questions. How are you using questions to improve your marketing and increase your connection with prospects and clients? Count the number of questions you ask in your marketing materials and sales collateral. How many are there? Are they written in a way that encourages your prospects to recognize a problem they may not have previously seen? To reevaluate their situation? To contact you? Recognize and use the power of questions, and you can immediately improve your marketing response rates and sales results.

Martin Wales, The Customer Catcher, is a business development specialist helping companies win and keep more business with a focus on CRM. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator focused on maximum results with minimum risk using a company's existing resources. Contact him at [email protected].

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