7 Marketing Questions “Corporate” Marketers Can’t Answer

You might not be able to answer them either

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Corporate marketers manifest in various forms. The ideal incarnation lures potential customers through their doors begging to be sold — rendering their sales team to the role of an order taker. These marketers insert themselves early on in the process and ask these questions before the product launch.

A second type fulfills more of a public relations role, drafting drab public communications. The third and final type is what a former mentor of mine called Powerpoint pushers. They throw together dazzling presentations that leave you in awe but communicate absolutely nothing of importance to a prospective customer.

The second and third groups cannot answer any of these seven questions. Even the pros can’t answer all of them.

And I hate to admit this.

I’m a Product Manager, and I cannot answer all seven about my own damn product. A well-versed product person could reel off the answers to all seven questions as though they were his vital statistics like age, weight and street address.

Try answering these for yourself. Better yet, ask everyone on your team to take a stab at these and compare the results. Do you all agree?

1. What do you make?

You would be surprised at how much trouble people face answering this most basic of questions. It does not matter whether you deliver a product or service. Everyone makes something. A software company creates software for a specific purpose. A writer produces stories. A sculptor produces sculptures. Go beyond the obvious.

Specificity wins.

We make financial software fails the specificity test. You may as well say you make stuff. What kind of financial software? We build software that links investors with financial advisors vetted by…

Complex products present a more significant challenge to explain. You must understand that complexity and break it down to simple, understandable language a layperson could understand.

2. What does it do for your customers?

We all like to believe we offer a compelling product or service. What about your product makes it so? Features make your product or service interesting but not compelling. Benefits that satisfy their desire or eliminate their pain compel them to buy.

Compare these bullets to see the difference between a feature and a benefit.

Benefits: Instantly removes dark circles and swelling under your eyes… without pills, surgery or potions

Features: A water-based, unscented under-eye-cream has all natural ingredients, and costs under $10.

Nobody buys because of cool features. We buy because of what we believe a product will do for us — the benefits.

Speak the language of self-interest from your customer’s perspective. Allow them to conclude that they need it (or at least want it). A former mentor of mine expressed it this way.

The benefits should be so compelling, your prospective customer begs you to sell it to them before you ask for their money.

3. What is the change you seek to make with your product?

You seek to do something with your product. It doesn’t need to revolutionize the world or solve global hunger. It can make a small change in a small group of people. Whatever the change, you need to be clear on your mission.

Even small and inexpensive products and services can transform the life of a customer. See these examples.

“I make no-frills software for managing personal finances.”
Change — Enable low-income families to access financial products previously available only to rich people.

“I make eco-friendly water bottles.”
Change — Empower consumers to eliminate eighty-four pounds of plastic from the environment each year.

To be fair to marketers, product professionals often neglect this question during the innovation stage. You should design a product or service with this question in mind. For a better and more complete explanation on the topic read Michael Shrage’s Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become or listen to the audiobook.

4. Who is it for? Who benefits the most?

One of my earliest lessons in Copywriting focused on finding the ideal customer. This customer was a person, not a group or a demographic. Picture a real live individual and describe every detail about this person. What does she do on weekends? Describe his biggest fears? What does she struggle with? What does he aspire to become?

By getting clear on your ideal customer, you learn where and to whom you target your message. You can ignore everyone else and speak directly to the person who benefits from your product.

If you make power tools for carpenters, talk to them in the language they understand. It does not matter if nobody else understands. It’s not intended for everyone else.

5. What basic desires does your product satisfy

Basic desires go beyond benefits. These are deep-rooted cravings that exist in all human beings. This list represents only a handful of the most common desires.

  • Adventure
  • Wealth
  • Security
  • Romance
  • Prestige
  • Power
  • Sex
  • Safety
  • Popularity
  • Peace of mind
  • Freedom

How could buying financial software satisfy one of these primal desires?

If you’re buying from a risky startup, it could satisfy a need for adventure and attention (being the first one to use it). If you’re buying from a stodgy but reliable company, it could satisfy a need for safety and peace of mind.

There’s an old saying nobody ever got fired buying from IBM. The person who thinks or says that is not looking for adventure. He wants reliability and peace of mind.

6. Says who?

So you’ve gushed on about your mission, what it does for your customer and what makes it so compelling.

Prove it.

Who else would agree with your claims? Do you have trusted customers who will back you up? What makes their word trustworthy?

Anyone who has ever bought something on Amazon, asked for a recommendation on social media or gotten a job from a referral knows the importance of social proof.

If none of your customers rave about your product or service, you need to take a second look at your product or service.

7. Why not your competitor?

All of us face competition. What makes you a better fit for the folks you target? Try doing this exercise twice: once from your perspective and once from your competitor’s.

Your competition is any viable alternative to what you offer.

Nobody gets a free pass on competition. All of us contend with at least one ferocious competitor no matter how unique, unusual or innovative our product.

Apathy. Inertia. Indecision. The desire to do nothing.

The larger the investment or purchase, the more formidable the do nothing competitor.

Why should they choose you over doing nothing at all?

Why don’t we ask these questions?

  1. We don’t know to ask them — No longer a viable excuse
  2. We fear the answers — What if my product isn’t all that? What if I discover that it doesn’t meet the need of our customers? Sometimes it’s easier to remain ignorant than face a painful reality.