Open or Closed? The Role of Questions in Content Marketing

For me, it all started during a mock-trial for class. We were told that we didn’t want to be asking our witness yes or no questions because it limited the story they could tell. Similarly, you wanted to ask the other side’s witness close-ended questions so they couldn’t tell a story.

Then in journalism school, I learned that the key to a good interview was to never ask a question that could be answered with yes or no. You want the interviewee to tell the story, not you.

That leads me to the use of questions in marketing. The goal of questions in marketing is to get the target audience to start thinking about your brand and seeing it as something they want to add to their own, internal story. This can be achieved using both open-ended and closed questions. Both types of questions should be utilized in marketing and each has their own distinct advantages.

 

Open- Ended Questions

The key selling point for asking an open-ended question in your article is that you are giving your reader many more options than just yes or no. That’s the risk for closed questions. If you ask someone, “Are you tired of eating fast food?” and they answer “no” you know for a fact you won’t be selling to that person.

But if you ask, “How much fast food do you eat in a week?” then a person is more likely to start considering the answers to your question instead of coming out with a flat out no.

And that’s the appeal of open-ended questions. You’re asking for an answer other than yes or no, so the reader is less likely to come out with an answer like no.

 

Closed Questions

These are the questions with predetermined answers, typically yes or no. These questions can be dangerous because if someone answers “no” to your proposition, chances are they won’t open your email or download your file.

But if they answer yes at each step (the micro-yes) and creep ever-closer towards the macro-yes (the buy) then you are doing your job.

Getting your audience to answer yes at each step can be more than a little difficult, which is why so many marketers and advertisers work so hard to make their questions rhetorical or impossible to say no to.

Want to save $1,345 a year?

I mean, of course they do. Who wouldn’t? Unless they’re well off enough for that amount of money to not matter, everyone wants to save $1,345 a year.

That’s what makes questions so powerful, they are able to hit on a certain pain point that immediately makes the reader see that the logical solution to the problem they just realized they had, happens to be your product.

So by that logic, all you need to do is make your argument so irresistible that it would be ridiculous to say no (obviously within the scope of what you can deliver). This is easier said than done of course. And it is also much easier in B2C marketing where the single customer is the decision-maker but in B2B, the decision-maker happens to be 15 different people with conflicting interests.

If your question is good enough, it will have widespread appeal amongst your group of potential clients and, combined with the rest of the copy, convince each team that they need your product or service.

This may take more than one question, easing potential customers closer and closer to the actual act of buying. Ask the right questions and they’ll give you the right answer:

Yes.

 

When to Ask

Email subject lines and content titles is where it all starts. Your first opportunity to pull a micro-yes out of your customer is when they open their inbox and see your email sitting there. Or when they are surfing the web and they see your piece of content. This is where your brand will get to ask your customer the first question. Oftentimes this could be the first question your brand asks

You can also pepper your copy with questions, not too many, asking just the right ones to lead your buyer through the series of micro-yeses towards your call to action.

In content, such as a blog post or whitepaper, questions are suited to pull the reader through the piece, forcing them to engage with it even if they were only casually reading or skimming through the piece.

Using bigger questions at the end of articles and copy can be a very powerful way to hook in the reader and get them to follow through your call-to-action. But as mentioned above, the trouble with this is if you ask a question at the very end of your copy, no matter what it is, and the reader says no, every single micro-yes that you attained up until this point would be for moot.

 

Why Questions Work

By nature, questions are engaging. Even if a person wasn’t planning to engage with your content, a question forces them to, even if it’s just in their head. You ask them about something that hits one of their pain points and all of a sudden they are started down the path to becoming a potential customer. This can be done through positive and negative questioning, which is gone over in more detail in this article.

But while questions often work better than most other types of copy, they also are polarizing. Ask something that makes your reader say no, you’ve lost them. Ask them too many questions and their answer might be no. They are like anything else, overuse them and they lose effectiveness.

And one last key thing. Not everyone will say yes all the time. There are people who will buy what you’re selling and those that won’t.

 


 

Do you use questions in your marketing? What sorts of questions make a difference? Do certain types of questions work better for you? Share with us in the comments section.

 


 

FURTHER READING

Creating Content that Converts

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