Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The right questions can reveal details that will help unlock deeper relationships and improved understanding.
When onboarding a marketing client, what makes for a good question? And why is it important to ask questions anyway?
Marketing relationships are personal, and marketing itself is about storytelling, so the answer is a bit subjective. However, there are a few elements to consider. Let’s talk about the fundamental questions that will help quickly establish a relationship, understand goals, and create measures of success for a marketing agency and client.
Some people may misguidedly think that asking questions is bad. The thinking goes that, if someone is asking too many questions, it is because they do not know enough. Because of this, some people may even be afraid to ask questions. Well, if you don’t ask the question, you still don’t know the answer.
Here’s the thing: It’s okay to ask questions. Asking questions is a rewarding way to open the door to information and change. In fact, some of the smartest and most creative people are the leading inventors, researchers, artists, and entrepreneurs that they are because they like to question. Two questions that often drive innovation are “What if?” and “Why?” In asking such simple questions, entire worlds of possibilities open up. (The question “Why?” has even been called “the most important question an entrepreneur will ever ask” in Forbes.)
Not only are question-askers curious and creative, they are also effective. Think of your favorite detective story. A great detective is able to unravel the unsolvable mystery through observations and interviews. However, strong question-asking abilities are not only called for when crime-solving. On a broad scale, asking questions—and listening to the answers—can help individuals hone in on the right project, choose their next steps wisely, and even improve workflow and workplace dynamics.
So, put on your deerstalker hat, and embrace a good round of questioning like the true detective you are!
Why Marketing Leaders Should Love Questions
As marketers and communicators, asking questions is especially important. Audience engagement is often compared to dating and relationships, and having a strong rapport is part of that. In asking the right questions as part of marketing onboarding, the relationship starts on the right note.
There’s a certain classroom power dynamic that comes to mind when talking about questions. It is easy to imagine a student and a teacher. This is one of the reasons why it can feel uncomfortable to ask questions: Asking questions means you admit to not knowing the answer. Leaders can find this difficult to navigate. But questions can actually be your superpower, helping you learn from your colleagues and become better attuned to your field.
IT leadership expert Joan Cheverie wrote about her experience as a manager of a department that did not share her expertise. At first, she tried to fill in the information gaps herself, trying to make up for her information gap, worried she would be “perceived as a fraud by the staff.” She soon realized this was the wrong approach. “I madly surrounded myself with manuals, books, and articles, trying to absorb as much as I could, but to little avail. Then I started to talk to people, and it slowly dawned on me that I was learning by asking questions and listening. The more I listened, the better my questions became and the more I learned. Questions also helped me clarify my own thinking on projects, workflow, and strategies for my new unit,” she shared in EDUCAUSE Review.
While it does feel good to be the one in-the-know, being a leader who learns means you are a leader who stays dynamic. Being informed can lead you to also make better decisions—for yourself, your team, and your clients.
How to Love Asking Questions
Professionals in fields as varied as medicine to law know the power of the question. It is part of their daily routine. In other industries, question-asking might not be as natural. This can be a missed opportunity, as pointed out in the Harvard Business Review: “Questioning is a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking value in organizations: It spurs learning and the exchange of ideas, it fuels innovation and performance improvement, it builds rapport and trust among team members. And it can mitigate business risk by uncovering unforeseen pitfalls and hazards.”
It’s possible, HBR continues, that people don’t understand the power of a good question. Asking questions in a conversation can make people feel acknowledged and respected. So be curious! However, upping your question game doesn’t mean switching to a rapid-fire interview style. Attention to tone, perfecting the follow-up question, and thinking about the order in which you ask questions also matters.
For example, jumping in to start an onboarding with your hardest-hitting question, and asking it in a blunt way, could throw off the whole conversation. Additionally, sticking to a list of pre-written questions and ignoring curious details that may naturally come up turns you into a robot. How can you learn to love asking questions? Focus on open-ended questions that show you know what you’re talking about and invite your partner to fill in the details. Enjoy the depth and color questions bring to conversations. While there is relevant information you need to collect in an onboarding, the questions and answers are meant to help you paint a picture. The more relevant details you have, the prettier that picture will be.
…and Remember to Listen for the Answers
Speaking of follow-up questions, what are those and how do they work? These are the questions that maybe aren’t on the go-to list of Qs. The questions that naturally pop up when someone says something that makes you go, “Huh, wait a minute, let’s talk about that.” For marketing professionals, follow-up questions can be particularly important because they help hone in on what really matters to a client. This is how to understand challenges, passions, and pain points.
Great follow-up questions come with active listening, or when the listener is fully focused on the person speaking to them. Instead of listening to respond, it’s about listening to understand. Without active listening, there may be a missed detail. Perhaps the client conveys how well a past campaign did, but did they explain why? Did they note if there was a special budget, talent, or circumstance that led to a windfall success?
Think of asking follow-up questions as taking the scenic route. While you need to get from Point A to Point B and simply accomplish the journey, there are moments to take in along the way. The trees. The lake. The passing cars. The sunset. Follow-up questions ensure you know the major details, but also understand how you got there. With more information, you can truly appreciate what you know.
Our 5 Favorite Onboarding Marketing Questions
Here it is simply: The best questions get the best answers—and then the best marketing. If you find yourself in the market for a new marketing agency, you want to know the company is taking the time to get to know you. But a long conversation does not always guarantee an effective conversation. Instead, prepare for an engaging and informative conversation built around thoughtful, engaging questions.
Below are the great questions marketing companies should be asking when onboarding a new client. How do we know? They are our favorite ones to ask at Epic Marketing Consultants!
- Who makes up your current audience, and who makes up your desired audience? Audience, audience, audience! It can’t be said often enough that good marketing understands who is in the room and who an organization would like to have in the room.
- What is driving the need for a shift in marketing initiatives at this moment? Remember how “Why?” drives entrepreneurs? Asking “Why now?” will help a marketing agency understand the current needs. Has something changed, for good or bad? Is there an opening or opportunity?
- What misconceptions do people have about your organization? Marketing is all about clear communication. If a new client is looking to share a different message, it might be because they feel misunderstood. How can a marketing campaign effectively share with audiences what an organization wants others to know that they might not already?
- What distinguishes you from your competitors? As marketing professionals know, it’s important to have a hold of a client’s competitive advantage. This advantage puts an organization above its competitors and can shed light on the value audiences see in the business.
- Is there anything I didn’t ask that you were hoping I would? This question can open up a world of new information. Not only does it signal a genuine interest in listening to someone, it allows the conversation to cover anything that didn’t organically arise. It could be the final piece of info that brings everything into focus, an aha idea, or critical thought. You may be surprised what you learn!
Why Does this Matter?
Armed with the right questions, a marketing company will leave an onboarding meeting prepared to create groundbreaking campaigns and successfully nurture new relationships. If your marketing company isn’t asking questions like these, it might be time to start a new conversation.