I love this time of year. The New Year is stretching out infront of us, an open book ready for a story. That story will be fleshed out by the content you create and share over the next 52 weeks. Seems like a long time, but it will go by in the blink of an eye – just like this year.
One of the reasons that questions are so important is because they drive the curiosity to find answers. In a best case scenario, the answers to your prospects’ questions will be found in your content.
So how do you find the questions?
Some resources include:
- Trend and prediction reports for the industries you serve. The analysts are out in force right now and many reports based on surveys of the types of target markets you serve are being published with an eye to what’s coming.
- Customer interviews. Not necessarily formal surveys, but one-to-one conversations that help you hear the phrasing, concerns and opportunities voiced in your customer’s words. If you can’t do this, ask your salespeople to help out. Outline some goals for what you’re interested in learning and let them run the conversations. If you can sit in, all the better.
- Social Media listening posts can also help to pinpoint interests. If you’ve created a list of prospects on Twitter, for example, what are they sharing with their networks? Which prediction posts do they find worthy enough to forward on? What are the trending topics you can identify and how do they line up with what the analysts or top industry bloggers are saying? (You are following them, right?)
- LinkedIn Discussion Groups are also a good source of industry-related topics that are gaining traction. With many of the groups now sporting open membership, you can often gain access where you might not have been been able to gain entry before. You’d be amazed at what you can learn.
You may also take a look at the end goals your customers have stated and then back into the questions they needed to answer to arrive at the decision to buy. LinkedIn profiles and job descriptions for roles your prospects fill can also provide insight to goals people in their positions are responsible for achieving.
Questions can also be indicative of which buying stage your prospects are in.
For example, a question that’s equivalent to “Why should I care?” indicates that a prospect is in status quo. They are not actively pursuing solving the problem your products address or they wouldn’t respond to that type of question. They would already care. These people are at the very early stages of the buying process and your content’s job is to answer that question well enough to get them to assign their attention to learning more.
If the question is the equivalent of “Who can best help me solve this problem?” then it’s likely that your prospect is in the options stage where they are in the process of selecting their short list. If this is your first entree to the party, you’d better come in fast and strong with information that will make them stop and consider learning enough about your company to consider adding you to their list.
The beauty of structuring your content to answer your prospects’ questions is that you’ve designed the content to help you learn more about which stage of the buying process they’re in. Once you’ve got an idea about that, you can increase the relevance, and thereby the level of engagement you can establish with them, through subsequent interactions.
To begin generating a list of questions for your prospects:
- Start with the problem they are trying to solve.
- Narrow your focus to one persona or profile.
- Based on what’s involved in solving the problem, what do they need to know?
– what are their concerns about risk?
– who else will be impacted and at what perceived level of cost or effort?
– who do they have to convince to gain consensus for the purchase decision?
– what could derail the deal?
– what impact could their decision have on their career?
– why should they trust your company and solution to deliver?
– what do they need from a vendor that they don’t already have? (beyond product)
Those are just a sampling of questions to ask yourself to get to questions your prospects will have. But hopefully enough to get the juices flowing.
Once you have your list of questions, how will you answer them? The answers will define the content you’ll develop.
As you go through this process, you will start to see the order or flow that makes sense for publishing. (You can find more in-depth instructions on this process in my book – excuse the self promo)
When it’s all said and done, how well you can anticipate your prospects’ questions and answer them in a helpful and relevant way will serve to determine your success with content marketing in 2012.
As CEO of my firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc., I help B2B companies with complex sales create eMarketing strategies that use contagious content to turn prospects into buyers. I also authored the book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale and Tweet as @ardath421…. View full profile
This article originally appeared on Marketing Interactions and has been republished with permission.