How Tough Questions Drive Compelling Content

How Tough Questions Drive Compelling Content

How Tough Questions Drive Compelling Content

Are your pitches, blogs, videos, podcasts and white papers rehashes of vague buzzwords like transformation and digital?

To avoid pumping out “me-too” messaging, push yourself (and your in-house subject matter experts) to dig deeper and come up with specific, actionable advice for your potential customers.

One great example comes from a story about data analytics on the TechTarget publishing and marketing site. Don’t let the fact it is old (December 2013) stop you from reading it carefully. The subject (data as a corporate asset) is as fresh as ever. More importantly, this story shows how to take a common, even overhyped, topic and bring fresh, compelling insight to it.

The secret: Asking tough questions based on real-world experience with customers — the kind your sales, support and marketing staff get every day.

Five Meaty Questions

After describing the new (as of 2013) trend of older industries such as manufacturing using Big Data, the piece gets to the good stuff – a five question quiz one vendor asks CIOs to see if they’re serious about treating data as a corporate asset.  The questions include “Are you allocating funding to data, just as you would for other corporate assets?” “Do you measure the cost of poor, missing or inaccurate data?” and “Do you understand the “opportunity cost” of not delivering timely and relevant data to your business?”

While each question has a “marketing spin” (a “yes” answer makes them a better prospect) each is also valuable because they help a prospect understand the real-life challenges of implementing new technology.  Note that each question:

Drills beneath good intentions to coldly measure how committed a customer really is. (How much are you willing to spend on this new technology?”)

Talks about the non-technical issues that often derail IT projects. (Does this initiative have its own budget?)

And describes specific processes (such as measuring the cost of poor quality data and the “opportunity cost” of not delivering high quality data) that can improve how a customer implements the new technology.

Providing detailed insights like this helps establish you as a trustworthy, experienced technology provider and makes it more likely customers will listen when you come to them with a more product-specific pitch.

Finding the Nuggets

Now, how do you wring such insights from your sales, marketing or product support staffs? Whether the subject is Big Data, security, containers or any other buzzword of the week, ask them questions like:

How do you know a prospect is serious about our product or service rather than just going through the motions?

What are the non-technical factors (such as budget, corporate culture, office politics or management processes) that make implementation of our product succeed or fail?

What words, phrases or questions do you hear from a customer or prospect that tell you working with them will be a nightmare, or a pleasure?

The answers to these questions are your “raw material.”  Your next steps are to decide which of the answers are most valuable and relevant, flesh them out with real-world examples and follow up questions from your SMEs, and don’t publish until you can provide detailed, specific and actionable recommendations.

Do all that, and you’re not just another echo chamber in the IT hype factory. You’ll deliver usable, actionable content that will keep your prospects reading — and buying.

bscheier@digitalpi.com

Bob Scheier is a veteran IT marketing writer whose passion is translating IT jargon into business benefits. After early stints as a reporter and editor at The Associated Press, United Press International and daily newspapers, he moved on to reporting and editing posts at PCWeek (now eWeek), VARBusiness and Computerworld. Since 2000 he has been principal of Bob Scheier Associates, a content marketing firm in Swampscott, Mass. He regularly writes about technologies ranging from mainframe to blockchain and the use of IT in industries ranging from manufacturing to retail to financial services. He also blogs about IT marketing and PR trends.

LEAVE A COMMENT