I love questions. Questions are how you learn things. Questions create curiosity. But, for marketers, questions are one key to B2B buyer enablement. The process of Q&A drives momentum based on addressing how context shifts with each new intake of relevant information that helps your buyers advance their thinking.
Asking questions is the best way to gain deeper insights. B2B buyers facing a problem must find out how to fix it—or even if they should. There’s no way to know which way to go without asking questions and getting answers that inform your thinking.
Another upside to questions is that you remember information better because you participated in getting it. You gained information related to an open inquiry you had so it means more than just random information you think is interesting.
Yet another impact from asking questions is the ability for your buyers to eliminate confusion. This one is critical for buyers given the overwhelming amount of content available on every topic—not to mention the conflicts in information they must untangle.
I admit this seems basic. Really elementary. But it’s surprising how few marketers use questions as a tool and framework to achieve goals, including:
- Gaining awareness from specific personas, segments
- Building engagement
- Advancing buyer enablement
- Accelerating pipeline momentum
- In support of sales conversations valued by buyers
A Question Needs an Answer
Questions and answers are the foundations of conversations and what drive digital dialogues. There’s a natural back and forth rhythm that keeps the exchange moving. Harness this rhythm and you’ll see higher engagement as buyers find resonance with your content because they learn information that helps them advance by answering their questions.
To be effective, the questions your content answers must address buyer inquiry. This is where the elementary part of using questions strategically appears to be a trick. Most marketers still struggle to understand what’s relevant to their buyers and customers. That’s a problem you must solve to use Q&A for high-impact results.
So, where do you find buyer questions? Easy – they’re everywhere your target audience is…
- In the customer interviews you conduct to build personas
- In the recorded sales calls you listen to
- In the win/loss assessments conducted by revenue teams
- From the feedback you get from your sales team – and the content requests (if you dig)
- At the end of every webinar you present
- In the chat threads on Zoom calls and virtual event sessions
- In the comments on social media posts
- On forum sites like Quora and Reddit
I could go on, but you get the point.
Being a Good Listener is Not Optional with a Q&A Strategy
It’s time to step up and formalize your listening game!
You need to get good at listening to what’s said and then looking for the underlying inquiry. What is it they’re alluding to or asking about? Why? What does it relate to?
Start collecting questions. Write them down. Start a Slack channel for questions that everyone can contribute to – yes, everyone. From marketing to product to sales to customer success to UX designers, and more. Invite all contributions.
Ask them to include the role of the person, industry, company, the related problem, and product along with the question. Pretty soon, you’ll have a ton of them.
Most importantly, talk to your customers. Customer conversations conducted to gather information for building buyer personas is the key place I’ve found the most compelling questions. You won’t necessarily hear them posed as questions, but by listening to what they say, you’ll uncover them.
For example, if you ask your customer what they needed to learn to decide to buy, their answers can be reverse engineered into the questions that were top of mind during their buying process. It’s not likely they’ll remember them as questions, but you can uncover them easily.
But you need to ask them the right questions to get to the questions they needed to ask to advance at each stage of their buying process. Remember it’s important not to “lead the witness.” Nudge them forward with versions of “and then what…?” Stay neutral, but interested and curious.
Take good notes capturing the words they used. Or better yet, record the call and have it transcribed. You’ll come across statements, such as, “I needed to find out if there was a way to accomplish X faster, with less dedicated resources.”
Given the context of the entire conversation, this could result in the question they asked being about efficiency or about whether the process could still work as promised with automation, for example.
Create a Contextual Messaging Framework for Buyer Questions
Once you’ve gathered your buyers’ questions, you need a method for organizing them. This is where we go back to the beauty of simplicity.
Questions will actually organize themselves. Yep, it’s true.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say you have three buyer questions:
- What options are available to solve the problem?
- What if our users won’t adopt the solution?
- Is it worth solving the problem?
Which one comes first? Number 3, right? Your buyer is not going to ask questions 1 or 2 if they haven’t answered #3.
If you have questions you’re not sure of, talk it through by considering how you’d answer the question. That information will help you see where a question fits along the customer continuum.
The best thing to look at is the “takeaway” from your answer. What will the buyer learn? Given that learning, what are they now able to ask next because they have this information?
To lay this out and organize your questions, I find it easiest to build what I call a Contextual Messaging Framework.
Put the problem, your product that solves it, and persona at the top and then create a chart as follows:
|Question Buyer Asks||Answer (your content)||Takeaway (what buyers learn)|
|Is there a way to do X faster?||How automating X shaves 30%
off your time to market.
|We can get updates out to our customers before competitors can replicate our features.|
|Will it work for our products?||Why automating X is valuable
for the automotive industry.
|Ah, companies like ours are doing this. Geez, what if we don’t?|
When questions, answers, and takeaways are in the right order, you’ll see a kind of flow start to develop. As in the second row where the next question pops up given the takeaway, driving the story forward and building momentum.
Just as easily, you’ll see when questions are out of order and there’s a leap of faith that’s not congruent so you’re likely to lose that engagement and momentum.
This format is also great for conducting an audit on existing content to find the gaps and ensure your content is working in harmony to help your buyers advance. Add columns for the link to existing content, format, and stage.
As you identify gaps, insert rows with questions, answers, and takeaways to close them and identify the content you need to create. This is a much better use of content development resources than creating new content just because you need to post to the blog or need a pillar asset to drive lead generation.
One more thing to consider is the questions your buyers will get from others on the buying committee. They will need to get these answered, as well. This is where pass along content comes into play, but that’s another post. Or these questions are in the framework for another persona. It’s important to consider the overlays across personas for sharing this content in the situation where that persona is not engaging directly with your company.
Amplify B2B Buyer Enablement by Knowing Where They Are
Context is critical for buyer enablement. Structuring your content with questions will help you know just where they are in their buying process. If they’re self-educating about the problem, they’re at the beginning. When they attend a webinar about how to evaluate a solution to address the problem, they’ve likely decided it’s worth solving.
You get the idea. Questions help you create a natural order for the buying process. A contextual messaging framework helps you group your content together to drive momentum by guiding them to learn what they need to move forward at each step.
Don’t forget that buying isn’t linear. If they suddenly go backwards to content answering questions you thought they’d answered, this means they’ve gotten new information that’s causing them to go back and verify that what they thought they knew is still true.
These signals are great for arming your sales reps to reach out with thoughtful and valuable insights to help buyers move forward again. Context is important for both buyers and sellers. It’s a beautiful tool for aligning marketing and sales with buyers to work in parallel across their buying process.
Using insights from your content that indicates where buyers are gives your sales team the opportunity to put the humanity in digital buying, helping to build buyer confidence when they need it most.
Ideally, the contextual message framework will extend across the entire customer continuum. Buyer enablement is not a campaign, it’s an always-on orchestration for advancement. Think about it. Buyers are also customers who can expand their use of your products. This means they once again need buyer enablement to move forward.
What questions do they have now? Think continuum, not campaign.