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How to Stop Boring Your Readers. Ask the Right Questions

Let’s face it.

Marketing and selling (online or face-to-face) is tough. You have a lot of competition. And even in the B2B world, you are selling to people. You are trying to get people to give up their hard-earned money for your product or service.

And people are complex, emotional creatures.

Making matters even more difficult for marketers, advertising is not nearly as effective as it once was.

We are so inundated with advertising messages that our brains work overtime to try and block them. Content marketing was supposed to be the answer to advertising’s increasing ineffectiveness.

And it still can be—if done right.

A Lot of Content Gets Ignored. Does Yours?

But guess what?

We’re drowning in an ocean of content. So much of the content that a lot of marketing professionals, talented writers, and business owners put a lot of effort into creating and distributing gets ignored. A lot! Maybe even completely!

Not only does a lot of content and copywriting get ignored before it ever gets read, much of what does get read bores the reader leaving them feeling indifferent, or even offending them.

Good copywriting engages the reader and interests him. Good copy focuses on the reader and his needs.

Good copy is salesmanship in print. Good copy is “conversational.” Click To Tweet

In other words, you are not talking at the reader, you are talking to him and with him.

A full explanation of how to make your content and copywriting more effective—and much more likely to get noticed—is beyond the scope of this article. But here’s a proven way you can power up your marketing messages: incorporating the power of asking questions.

stop boring your readersIf you want to engage your reader. If you want to focus on the reader and his needs rather than your product and your company. If you want to grab and keep his attention, and involve him in a conversation… ask him questions.

Ask questions that are timely, well-thought-out, and designed to drive the conversion process forward, whether the end goal is to get him to take out his credit card and make a purchase through your e-Commerce landing page, or to download your latest white paper.

The Benefits of Asking Questions In Your Copy

The right questions, at the right time can help make the difference between copy that bombs and falls flat, and copy that sizzles and helps your business boom.

The right questions help you get your readers emotionally involved in your content.Click To Tweet

This is very important for driving the conversion process forward.

Why? People are emotional. It doesn’t matter if they are buying a home security system for greater safety and protection for their family, or if they are buying industrial chemicals. Their emotions are involved in the decision making process.

Copy that is strictly logical and rational is likely to be ridiculously ineffective. Your copy needs a strong emotional element to it.

Questions are a powerful tool for “setting the stage” and the emotional tone of your message. You can use them to plant doubt in your reader’s mind about his current course of action, the one your product can help him change and overcome.

Questions give your reader hope that he can enjoy a solution to a difficult problem. Questions help him paint a vivid emotional picture in his mind that makes him desperately want to buy what you sell.

And questions can keep him from feeling like he’s been “sold.” How? They can cause him to sell himself.

A series of questions that result in “Yes” answers builds conversion momentum in a big way.

happy customersAnd there’s another benefit here. “Yes” has a pleasant effect on the brain of the person saying it. Doesn’t it make sense that this feeling might lead to more sales for you?

Legendary direct response marketer, Dan Kennedy, perhaps the highest paid copywriter of all time, would probably agree. To quote Dan, “People buy more and buy more happily when in good humor.”

Back in the 1930s, direct response marketing great Robert Collier advised copywriters to:

Always enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind.

We all have this conversation regarding our problems and desired solutions going on in our heads.

This holds true for your potential customers. Your copy needs to become part of this conversation. What better way to grab your readers’ attention and enter this conversation than by asking compelling, attention-getting questions that pique their interest?

A Word of Caution… And Some Valuable Tips

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is.

But here’s a word of warning: Done wrong, questions will cause your content and copy to tank. They can drive readers away.

Want some tips on how to make your questions more powerful and effective? Here you go:

First, as I just mentioned, you want your readers nodding their heads and enthusiastically saying “Yes!” as they read your copy.

YesSo ask questions you are very confident will elicit a “Yes!” response.

Be careful here. If you ask a question hoping the reader will say “Yes” and he says “No” instead, there’s a strong chance he will mentally and emotionally disengage. In other words, you just lost a customer.

Know the difference between open-ended and closed questions, and ask the right type at the right time. A closed question demands a “Yes” or “No” response. Use it to get the reader in the habit of saying “Yes” and to build momentum towards a sale or conversion.

An open-ended question requires more thought and involvement to answer. It can’t be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.”

So when would you want to use this type of question? When you are trying to paint a vivid, emotional “word picture” in your reader’s mind with the goal of getting him to imagine enjoying what your product can do for him.

Let’s say you sell a weight loss program for senior adults who are inactive and in poor health but want to be fit and feel youthful again.

Here’s an open-ended question you might ask: “How would it feel to again have the spring in your step and the boundless energy level you once had but have feared were gone forever?

Do you see how an elderly person who desperately wants to regain his or her health might respond positively to this question?

Do You Want To Lose 50 Lbs. In The Next 3 Days?

Asking questions in your copy? Great!

But here’s another word of warning: One of the reasons traditional advertising has lost so much effectiveness is because it is often filled with hype.

Be careful not to make your copy the same way. Understated copy is more believable and more effective. This includes your questions too. So please do not ask questions that are filled with hype and impossible claims. Look a few lines up from here for the type of question not to ask!

Useful Advice?

No matter how well-written your copy, a lot of readers won’t read it all.

And please don’t take this to mean that I agree with the false notion that no one reads long-form content any more. That’s simply not true, but I digress…

You need to accommodate those readers who won’t take in your whole message, who only skim it. How? By using what marketing strategist and copywriter Bill Glazer refers to as the “double readership path.”

In other words, include elements like headlines, sub-headlines, italics, bold text, bullets, numbered lists, etc., that give the “skimmers” the gist of your message, even if they don’t read all of it.

I admit I have no proof or hard numbers to back this up, but since we are talking about questions, why not include compelling, thought-provoking questions in the double readership portions of your copy?

Got Feedback?

I’m curious. What are your thoughts on strategically using questions in your content and copy in an effort to make them more persuasive and effective? I look forward to your feedback in the comments section!

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