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Questions to Answer

by Hank Barnes  |  December 19, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

It’s my last post of the year, so I decided to revisit one of my most common topics–with a slightly different perspective.

When we work with tech providers, they are constantly looking for help and advice on messaging and storytelling.   There are so many things to consider that it can be overwhelming.  What content formats are needed?  How should we message to personas (a dangerous approach in B2B).  What type of stories do we need?  How does content serve the buyer journey?  And the list goes on and on.

Lately, I’ve been exploring a different approach.   I think it drives a more customer-centric perspective to these issues.   I call it “Questions to Be Answered.”  (In some cases, it might be “Information they need to confirm”).

Source: Evan Dennis on

Source: Evan Dennis on

Here is the gist:

  1.  Strive to identify the various parties to the buying decision.
  2. Identify the questions they need to answer (individually or with all or part of the buying team) to move toward a decision.  These questions can be grouped by what we call Activity Streams.
    1. Exploring – Questions related to “Why should we change?”
    2. Evaluating – Questions related to “What approach should we take to change? What are our options?”
    3. Engaging – Questions related to “How would we execute the change successfully?”
  3. Consider where the parties would typically go looking for these answers and the best format (content) to answer them?
  4. Create content and marketing programs that drive these answers

With this approach, everything you consider is driven from the perspective of the customer–and what information they need to progress toward a buying decision–and a successful project.  In some cases, the questions you identify may be ones that they are not asking–but should be.

Rather than spend time on traditional personas and message maps, consider building your plan around questions to answer.  I think it could be significantly more effective.
What do you think?

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: activity-streams  buying-cycle  content  personas  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

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