Four Marketing Questions You Must Ask First

Whether you are writing a brochure or a newsletter or a website, there are four key questions you need to ask to help you organize your marketing message. Some of these seem obvious, but my experience with a variety of clients is that often no one asks them directly or answers them in enough detail.

Who is the audience? Talk to them and not yourself!

You should be as specific as possible about your audience, and go below the surface. It is too easy to end up writing to please yourself and not your prospective customers or clients.

For example, I once worked for a high tech company where the Marketing Communications group was totally female (we used to call them The Gucci Girls because of the expensive accessories they sported). Unfortunately, their audience was a bunch of t-shirted techies, almost entirely male and obsessed with the latest high tech gadgets. Because they didn’t think deeply about the audience, the Gucci Girls created pretty pastel brochures and turned off an audience for whom silver and black and saturated colors would have been more appropriate.

Ask yourself: rich or poor? old or young? latest-and-greatest or conservative? international or local? exec or techie? Talk to them and not yourself.

 What is your purpose? Always selling

Although I used to think this only happened in high tech companies where engineers always seem to think that the mere mention of an acronym will create excitement, I am finding that few companies, regardless of their product or service, think deeply about what they are really selling.  Describing a product is not enough. You must also tell your reader why they want what you are selling. You need a solid list of features and benefits.

Let me provide two simple examples.

So-so: Our product supports IPv6.

Better: Our product supports the latest industry standards, such as IPv6, allowing you to move easily to newer platforms.

 So-so: Our product works on tablets.

Better: Our product is carefully formatted to work on the latest mobile devices, such as tablets, that appeal to affluent early adopters of new technology.

Who is our competition and what are they doing?

What you want to know first is whether or not your product or service has unique (and valuable) selling points. If it doesn’t, what are its major strengths? I’ll never forget the company I once worked for that considered itself the leader in the field, and totally ignored its rivals. It turned out that this company was doing its competition a huge favor. The competition simply copied the “latest and greatest” features that the leader came up with, but explained their purpose better. They made a lot of money without spending a fortune on R&D, and had a great reputation for being more customer-friendly.

What aspects of your product or service do customers praise?

Many companies in the USA are often loathe to provide direct endorsements because their lawyers feel it opens them to being sued if what they praise turns out not to work as well for someone else. The resulting court case may name them as co-defendents. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your salespeople constantly asking what the customers like best. What the customers like will clue you in to what you should be stressing in your marketing materials.

Do your products enable efficiencies? Are your products reliable and seldom break down? Do they cost less than the competition? Is your customer support especially responsive? There are many ways you can turn this kind of information into statistics without naming names.


About Regina Domeraski

I am a writer and have been for as long as I can remember. I worked as a technical writer and now a marketing writer for high-tech companies, but my interests go far beyond technology and include writing as an art and a craft, creativity, film, classical music, and the mystery genre (after all, Hamlet is a murder mystery).
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