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The power of questions (and how to be a curious marketer)

Posted by Suzy Timms - July 21, 2015

Call it nosy, I prefer curious, but there’s nothing like a really good question.

You know the ones I mean. The ones that really make you think.  Even the incessant “why, why, why?” you get from children can make you think differently and get to the root cause or meaning of something.

Where will a good question take you?

Oprah is truly the queen of a good question – who else would be able to get a confession out of Lance Armstrong?

And during the General Election this year, one of the best questions to David Cameron came from a 10 year old girl who asked:

“If you could pick one politician, apart from yourself, to win who would it be and why?’.  It remained unanswered, but in that alone there is power.

Questions lie at the very heart of research in B2B marketing, whether they are the open-ended ones you might pose during a brand or concept testing focus group or the closed ones that make up an online survey.  Whether you’re a client, an agency or respondent, really good questions have the power to shift mindsets, drive connection, fuel creativity and to improve results.

The best questions, while leading to more understanding, often do result in yet more questions.

Centuries ago, Voltaire asked that we “judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”  He had a good point then but, in the age of big data, an even more relevant one now.

Content marketing in B2B is all about providing the answers to the questions a potential customer might have – putting the customer at the absolute centre of things, rather than your product or solution.

As marketers, we should be endlessly curious about our customers and about how our businesses can be serving and communicating with them better.

Here are some questions we should keep asking, through formal research or everyday conversation, to work our curiosity muscle to the max:

Who are our customers anyway? What do they actually do on a daily basis?  What do they get measured on?  Who influences them? These kinds of questions can form the basis of persona workshops and really help us to get to know who we are selling to, to structure our content marketing activity and get cosy with our customers

What keeps our customers awake at night? What do they worry about? What makes them feel good?  These are the emotional rather than rational levers that B2B buyers have.  Asking these questions (and listening to the answers) helps to shape our messaging, allowing us to address the painpoints of our buyers and really understand where they are coming from

Does our content serve our customers or ourselves? Consider doing an honest evaluation of all your content assets. Are they joined up? Do they move people any nearer to engaging with you?  A bit of content navel-gazing can tell you a lot

If we were to completely delight our customers, and resources were not constrained, what would that look and feel like to a customer? This tells us if we are focusing our attention in the right places for the customer and can inspire big thinking around new directions, products and solutions

We all know the wisdom of “why” as a question. But two other questions can hold particular power in delivering insight and driving marketing transformation:

“What if?”


“What else?”

We often ask these in one way or another in focus groups, persona workshops and even in online research.  And these are the questions that give rise to those real golden nuggets of truth and Eureka moments. Let’s all make the point of being consciously curious and ask “what if?” and “what else?” more often.

Curiosity, while allegedly a killer of cats, breathes new life into marketing and makes a difference to our thinking and results.

We’d love to hear how you use numbers to tell stories so do drop us a line, pop in for a chat, or tweet me via @suzytimms


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