5 Questions All Marketers Need To Ask Themselves

In order for your campaign to really cut through the noise, you need to know what your customer wants—not what you want.

Sometimes the biggest ideas come from unexpected places. Twitter was born out of a dispatch routing software for taxi cabs that Jack Dorsey developed as a teenager.

He was intrigued by the way taxis could briefly update others on their whereabouts, and soon he began to contemplate developing an online program that would allow everyday people to send short messages to others in their online community. A few years later, he and co-founders Biz Stone and Noah Glass started Twitter.

Twitter has become an integral part of our lives, and the mindset that led to its creation is just as critical to those looking to market their organizations. Dorsey speaks passionately about creating a "user narrative" when developing a product that tells a story of the user’s day-to-day life. This allows his companies, like Twitter and Square Reader, to create products that are built with the sole intention of filling a particular need.

This same mindset can also be applied to marketing. Often, businesses market themselves without the prospect in mind. But successful marketers align all their marketing efforts with a prospect narrative. Creating a prospect narrative is an easy and powerful way to put yourself into your prospect's shoes—and ultimately increase the effectiveness of your marketing.

Here are five questions to consider when developing a prospect narrative for your company's next marketing campaign:

1. What is your customer doing during his day?

Most organizations create their marketing materials without considering what the potential customer will be doing when he receives a marketing message. People are busier than they have ever been. In fact, they are spending over a quarter of their day just responding to emails. In order for your campaign to break through the clutter, you must consider how the person you are trying to reach is spending his time.

2. What is keeping her up at night?

Usually, a company centers the majority of its marketing efforts around the company itself or the features and benefits of a specific product. However, no one cares about your company. All they care about are the issues they are dealing with right then and there. What are the challenges that your potential user takes home with her each night? If you want your marketing to elicit a particular behavior, then spend some time matching your message to the challenges your audience cares most about.

3. What will catch his attention?

Most organizations are so focused on broadcasting how great they are that they don’t think about what will most effectively catch people's attention. Most commercials, for example, are generic and not memorable, so in order for yours to stand out, you need to develop a message that is so appealing or jarring to your audience that he has no choice but to react to it.

4. What action will she most likely take?

So many marketing campaigns are solely focused on increasing awareness of an organization, rather than encouraging someone to take some action. This is like burning cash. Think about what action someone would most realistically take after absorbing your message. Would she most likely go to a website, send a text, pick up the phone, or find you on Twitter? Once you know which medium the person is most likely to use, then you can develop a call-to-action that aligns with it.

5. How will you keep him engaged?

Rarely do companies develop marketing campaigns that create long-term engagement. However, those that do receive dividends over and over again, all from that initial investment. Therefore, the question great marketers want to answer is: What are realistic ways to engage him in the long run? This will be the difference between developing a one-time customer and a long-term fan.

By formulating answers to these five questions, you begin to create a story of what your potential customer is doing and thinking about. After the prospect narrative is created, your marketing team should channel Dorsey by fitting campaigns precisely into that narrative.

Marc Wayshak is the author of two books on sales and leadership, Game Plan Selling and Breaking All Barriers, as well as a regular contributor for Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post business section. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcWayshak.

[Image: Flickr user Zaprittsky]

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28 Comments

  • Akshita Ramamurthy

    Great read. Personalization is definitely the key to survival now. The only way to do that well is by truly understanding the customer psyche. Read something about it in another post here http://bit.ly/1fuWYJO

  • Charles

    He was intrigued by the way taxis could briefly update others on their whereabouts, and soon he began to contemplate developing an online program that would allow everyday people to send short messages to others in their online community. A few years later, he and co-founders Biz Stone and Noah Glass started Twitter.

  • AMS

    So, if "By formulating answers to these five questions, you begin to create a story of what your potential customer is doing and thinking about", and if what you need to sell is also your own story or that of a client's story, then story is really what it's all about, whether it's a story you need to sell, or knowing someone's story that you want to buy from you.

  • Charles

    Imagine ranking every ZIP code in the country according to where it ranks in both college education and median income. For example, I am writing this post from Somerville, Massachusetts, which has a median income of $66,627, and where 56% of all people are college graduates. In these factors, Somerville ranks in the 88th percentile compared with all U.S. ZIP codes, which isn't bad. But there are far wealthier communities out there.

  • Waqas

    resistant to creating meaningful brand experiences because that requires time and money

  • Gina Testa

    Great piece, Marc! I agree that asking those questions when developing a marketing campaign will ultimately lead to more success. I’d also like to add that a focus on personalization and relevancy is key to cutting through today’s clutter and reaching consumers in a truly meaningful way. Increasingly I’m seeing successful marketers use cross-media approaches, complementing personalized direct mail pieces with tailored websites, videos, social media, email marketing and any number of other touch points to reach potential customers during their daily routines. This kind of direct marketing customization concentrates on the consumer, enabling marketers to send the right message to the appropriate recipient—increasing the chances of the recipient being open to receiving it. Ultimately, connecting with consumers in a unique, personalized way will help your message stand out among all the others.

    - Gina Testa, Vice President, Xerox Worldwide Graphic Communications Business

  • Charles

    By formulating answers to these five questions, you begin to create a story of what your potential customer is doing and thinking about. After the prospect narrative is created, your marketing team should channel Dorsey by fitting campaigns precisely into that narrative.

  • ak

    If you want to read articles that use grammar that ignores the existence of women, I'm sure they're easy to find. You would love the French language, every noun has a gender and even the "male" abstract concepts and inanimate objects are given priority over the "female" ones.

  • Mitchell Wade-Cole

    Just didn't really require any gender promotion. Made me feel all creepy.

  • Sol_of_Texas

    Since there are an odd number of items, one could say it's not balanced, or at the very least it is "odd". -)

  • Anthony James

    This will be the difference between developing a one-time customer and a long-term fan

  • Charles

    are resistant to creating meaningful brand experiences because that requires time and money -

  • Charles

    This approach contradicts the tradition that dictates mentorship, both formal and informal, should flow from the top of an organization down. Aaron Perlut, partner at the digital marketing and public relations firm Elasticity, articulates that in a large public relations firm “When you are a junior-level staffer at a large agency, you’re told what to do and how long to do it for, and little input is asked for or appreciated…younger employees should be seen periodically, but never heard from.”