According to the Neil Rackham, during the Huthwaite Institute’s study of outside sales people, they identified two type of questions sales people ask buyers in making the sale. The first type of questions asked by sales people are situation questions. You know, “How long have you been in business?” and “How many employees do you have.” The second type of question sales people ask are called “Problem” questions. They begin with such openings as:
- “Are you worried…”
- “What if…”
- “What needs improving?
According to Huthwaite, outside sales people who focus upon PROBLEM QUESTIONS have a signficantly higher success ration when making a major sale.
I could have saved Neil a LOT of time and research with that one. In creating marketing messages, situation questions and their answers would fall into the category of “features”. Features don’t make good ad copy. PERIOD! On the other hand, problem questions and the corresponding solutions would be classified as “benefits” and should be the foundation of your marketing message.
Of course, most of the time when you deliver your marketing message, you aren’t sitting face to face with your potential customer and that’s what makes Rackham’s research irrelevant to creating marketing messages.
Now, there are “info-gurus” out there who are just sure that the internet changes the rules. They honestly want you to believe that your email message or web page is a two way conversation. It’s not now (even with the new Web 2.0 applications) and it probably never will be.
On the internet, those who just watch and don’t participate used to be called “lurkers.” I don’t hear anyone refer to “lurkers” these days, but back in the 90’s, anyone who read but didn’t contribute to a newsgroup or bulletin board was called a “lurker.” For heavens sakes, they’d even venture out of lurk mode, identifiy themselves as a lurker, post and then retreat. The thing is, there were a LOT more lurkers than there were “active” participants. Come to think of it, isnt this the way it seems to goes in real life as well?. Two of the most frustrating aspects of these lurkers are:
- their numbers and
- their silence.
One of my clients has a newsletter with hundreds of subscribers, each and every one a card carrying “lurker.”. She actually contemplated shutting her newsletter down because she NEVER heard from her subscribers. Yet we’d go, look at her log files and see that 75% of her subscribers actually logged onto the web page to read her monthly newsletter. For those of you who aren’t familiar with e-mail newsletters, that is an incredibly high open/read rate. Yet my client has fallen victim to this “the internet is interactive” mentality and thought no one was reading what she was writing.
For the most part, creating messages for the web is very similar to creating messages for direct mail, television and even radio. You begin by assuming the reader/listener can’t respond. You don’t write radio copy which asks a question and then waits for the listener to actually call in and respond? (If that’s your format, you’re doing TALK RADIO and not commerical advertising.) However, if during your creation of a web application: web page, pod cast or newsletter, you hit a nerve, then expect feedback and lots of it.
My client with the successful newsletter is sending out feel good messages and recipes. That’s her sunny, bright and cheerful style. If however, she took an “in your face” approach, she might find her feedback rate increased. Knowing my client, so would her blood pressure. That’s NOT the kind of relationship she wants with her readers.
Problems are powerful. Providing solutions can make you $$$ and tons of it. Touch even briefly upon a powerful problem and you can expect and explosion of response which is what makes the web so much fun. But the first you have to identify the problem.