Everyone has heard the axiom “there's no such thing as a dumb question”, but there is such a thing as a dumb way to start your marketing or advertising message, and that's with a question. It seems to me that in every copywriting class or training seminar in America, these young minds are trained to use a question as a means to qualify the target audience. If you're so unsure if your target audience is listening to, seeing, or hearing your message, then don't run it. The reality is in today's attention starved, Twitter-crazy, messaging world, wasting the first few precious seconds with a question is just plain dumb. If that's not a good enough reason for you to not start your messaging with a question, then what if, for whatever reason, the prospect answers your question with a "no" and then stops listening to an offer that would have otherwise interested them? This mistake is not limited to just commercial copy, but blogs, brochures, digital ads, social media, etc.
Before all of you copywriters and bloggers start attacking me for saying you should never use a question, let me be clear. Questions can be important in your content creation, but virtually never at the beginning. Like anything in life, there's always exceptions, but the exception proves the rule, doesn't it? Oops was that a question?? Here are some simple steps to kick the ‘starting with a question’ addiction:
- Assume you've targeted the right audience and that your offer will immediately grab the attention of your prospect. Example: “Are you looking to save money...?” becomes “Save money with...” If the offer isn't powerful enough or clear enough to grab the attention of your prospect, go back and create a new offer.
- If the question is used to describe a circumstance, start with the solution in a clear, concise way. Example: “Want to avoid a leaky roof?” becomes "Avoid a leaky roof with...."
- Here's a third and surprising tip: Ask yourself the question "Why am I starting with a question?" and then ask yourself "How can I make that into a compelling statement?"
Statements, offers, and assumptions that are properly focused on a clear benefit motivate action in a direct and concise way. Questions on the other hand, distract or even annoy your prospect. Example: ‘Of course I don't want a leaky roof... duh’.
Let's start a revolution- one that assumes our target audience is smart and capable of understanding what offers benefit them without asking them to take time to answer your dumb question. (Ok, that was harsh, but as anyone who knows me knows I hate messaging that starts with a question. Do you know what I mean? Damn, I did it again. Maybe I should have titled this blog "Is it dumb to start with a question?")