Some times it is not the solution you give but the question you ask that engages readers of your content. This is especially true in niche markets. A question can be a good indicator that your content is customer-centric rather than product-centric. Asking a question you are genuinely curious about lets readers know you are a thinker, not just a seller. Voltaire judged a man by his questions and Carl Sagan believed: “We make our world significant by the courage of our questions…” On a practical level, questions provide focus and frame your content. They give the reader a path to what lies ahead. Content that goes deeper than surface level yes-no thought is being rewarded by Google too, so give it a try.
Questions are powerful tools
If you want to create a positive mindset, ask a question. If you want to influence behavior, ask a question. That’s according to Professor Delores Albarracin Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in attitudes and persuasion. Her research shows that when you pose a question the brain begins a search for positive answers and recalls past incidents of success.
Here are several ways to cultivate the art of asking good questions in your content.
Be specific. A specific question helps you avoid the “we are for everyone” content syndrome. It hones your thoughts and those of your readers to one aspect of the subject. For example, “Why did we change the handle design of our most popular product?” Is better than “Why does design matter?”
Anticipate. Write about a subject of interest to you and your audience. Anticipate what question they will ask and pose it for them. In this way questions are a great way to share your expertise. Writing about maintaining advanced machine electronics readers may be wondering: “Will jumpstarting batteries ruin my machine electronics?” The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no (depending on the age and type of the equipment). Explain.
Stay open. Open-ended how and why questions will take your reader deeper into the subject. Do not ask about what’s already known. “Why do families eat out?” can be turned into “How many times a week does the average family eat out?”
Be clear. Keep yourself and your audience intrigued with clear, concise questions. Questions must not ambiguous. Identify which product or service you are writing about and under what conditions or applications.
Don’t assume. Leave assumptions out of your questions. “If everyone is using brand X why add another model?” Rest assured your reader knows that not “everyone” is using that brand.
Add complexity. A good question should have some complexity to it. A simple question such as “Will transportation companies respond to new legislation?” can be replaced with: “What are the common challenges transportation companies will face and how can this new legislation reduce the cost of transporting goods?”
Don’t overdo it. One or two targeted questions are usually adequate. You don’t want to sound as if you are drilling your reader.
A question strategy
Begin by finding a good content topic. Ask yourself an initial targeted question. Then sprinkle one or two questions strategically where you want to create a positive mindset or influence your reader. Of course, you should answer the questions you pose in your content. Credible third party sources, personal expertise, and data can be used effectively. Do your research.
Questions will help you limit your topic and the amount of research required to find adequate answers. If you can’t come up with good questions ask your top sales people. For example, when writing about how a company identifies decision makers avoid the yes-no answer. Here’s one from Rick Tiemann, president at The Executive Group: replace “Are you the decision maker?” with “Whose budget does this come from?”
English writer, director and broadcaster Antony Jay said: “The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” Go ahead and share favorite right or wrong questions that you’ve seen posed in content in the comments box below.