Head over to your Brandwork doc & re-read the set of Problems you’ve identified, plus your potential members’ success & failures. With them in mind, ask of them this question:
Can we create evocative, customer-focused questions?
Got your first draft? Click the play button below to get more context.
3 Big Ideas
Time to review the big concepts in this session:
Questions are a powerful way to engage the mind of a prospective member.
→ We live in a world where answers are as easy to find as tapping on our phones a couple times. What has become more valuable is developing the skill of asking good questions. Good questions can be the trigger a person needs to engage with you & your ideas.
Effective marketing questions are built with intention & empathy.
→ These questions have three ultimate goals. First, to engage with the reader's curiosity. Second, to show her that you understand where she's coming from. Third, to inspire action by introducing tension.
The ultimate aim of questions is to inspire action.
→ We want them to create the kind of tension that will trigger a reader into actively creating her own answers. We want her asking herself, “Have I lost a sense of balance in my life? If so, is this the place I go to regain it?” We want her asking herself, “What could I accomplish if I didn’t get so tired at three p.m.?” We want her asking herself, “What tools am I lacking that would lead me to a better life?”
All the Words
At the end of Section Two, we began thinking about how to create tension as a catalyst for action. In this session, we’re going to see that idea through by creating a series of customer-facing questions. We’re going to do so by looking back at some of answers already in your Brandwork doc.
Before we do so, it’s worth repeating one of the central ideas from the last session. It’s important that you’ve spent the time necessary to review & revise the answers in that document with an eye toward clarity & cohesion. The tighter, more unified your answers, the more effective they will be. Be unsparing in pursuit of being specific.
With that work done, let’s turn our attention to questions.
It will come as no surprise at this point that I’m a big fan of asking questions. We live in a world where answers are as easy to find as tapping on our phones a couple times. What has become more valuable is developing the skill of asking good questions. Good questions can be the trigger a person needs to engage with you & your ideas.
Our world is filled with noise, especially online. Our brains handle it by conserving as much energy as possible as often as possible. They handle it by staying passive most of the time & by skimming the surface. Our brains don't know what else to do with the onslaught of information flung at us every single day. They aren’t designed for a world of endless feeds & 24-hour-everything.
If your messaging doesn't introduce a little tension, it's unlikely you'll cut through the noise. It's unlikely you'll create the spark needed to flip an unengaged mind into an active one.
One way to cut through the noise is to focus on clarity & brevity. If a visitor to your website gets confused or is asked to work too hard, her brain will kick into energy conservation mode.
Another way to do it is to focus on her problems, her successes, & her journey. Remember that every prospective member is asking himself, "What's in it for me?" Focusing your messaging on them is how you answer that question.
We're going to work on this intersection of clarity & empathy in this session. We'll take some of the answers from Section Two & translate them into short, evocative questions. The questions have three ultimate goals. First, to engage with the reader's curiosity. Second, to show her that you understand where she's coming from. Third, to inspire action by introducing tension.
Let’s use our Corporate Gym this time around to walk through how you’ll do this.
Taking a look at their Brandwork document, we see that their new one-liner is: “Dedicated to getting you in, getting you fit, & getting you back to your life.” Their tagline is: “Make Your Workouts Work For You.” We remember that their core values are efficiency & expertise.
We’re going to build out five customer-facing questions using their identified Public, Private, & Principle Problems, as well as their prospective members’ success & failures.
Beginning at the beginning, let’s look at the Public Problem, which is: “I'm not making my health a priority & it's starting to show.”
We could take this translation in one of two directions. We could focus on the idea of prioritization or the notion of self-consciousness. If the former, a question like this is a logical choice: “Are you ready to make your health a priority?” If the latter, asking this might work: “Are your health decisions starting to show?”
I’d opt for the first one, as it stays positive & doesn’t risk coming off as mildly judgmental or insulting.
Moving on to the Private Problem, we have the answer: “I need better balance in my life.”
The simple translation here works well: “Have you lost a sense of balance in your life?” I could also see variants on the same theme working. Something like: “Do you need better balance between work & health?” Or: “Is a lack of balance affecting your life?”
As long as you’ve identified a strong, cohesive problem, there isn’t a wrong answer.
Looking at their Principle Problem, our gym has identified this: “I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my health for my work.”
I like the word sacrifice here, so I’d work to keep in as we translate the idea into a question. My first choice would be something like this: “Do you want to stop sacrificing how you look & feel?”
I’ve avoided using the word “health” again since we used it in our first question. Instead, I’ve focused on identifying the ways most people perceive their health, which is by how they look & feel.
After translating your three Problems into questions, turn to the answers you've given for what your prospective members’ successes & failures might look like.
As a reminder, here’s what our Corporate Gym has for the successes they are seeking to create: “Her clothes begin to fit better, she has more energy every single day, & she makes connections to others in her city & profession.”
We have a few different routes to take here. We could focus on the improvements in aesthetics, productivity, or connections. Here’s how I would think through it: This gym’s Brandwork doc has focused on neither the idea of losing weight & looking better naked, nor the benefits of networking with others in the gym’s community. It’s not that these features aren’t great ones to highlight & foster. They are. It’s that this gym hasn’t chosen to tell that specific story in their marketing & messaging. Seeking cohesion, then, leads them to the obvious answer being to focus on the productivity angle.
So the success they want to highlight is that their members will have more energy every single day. What does that actually mean, though? In the lives of the right person for this gym, it means they're able to get more accomplished. So that’s what I’d focus on. I'd ask a question like this: “What could you accomplish with increased energy?”
Lastly, the failures this gym is hoping to help their members avoid reads like this: “He continues to make the choice between spending too much time in the gym or no time at all. He lets the grind of work dictate bad decisions, from poor nutrition to lack of sleep to inactivity.”
My first inclination here was to translate these ideas into something like this: “Are you tired of being tired?” Two reasons why I continued to dig & revise, though. First, it’s a cliche & cliches don’t often activate our brains in the way we need. We’ve seen them so often that we don’t see them anymore. Second, it’s a little too redundant to the previous question we created. When you only have a few words to use, you want to make sure to use each one to their greatest potential.
I continued to look at this list of failures & started thinking about how they all seemed to stem from a lack of understanding or a lack of knowledge. Another way to state them could be: “If you don’t become a member here, we’ll never be able to teach you what you need to thrive in work & at life.”
That lead me to think about how welcoming a new member to your gym is like handing them the key to a whole new toolbox. Inside the box are all the tools necessary to achieve better fitness. I thought that kind of language was suitable for this gym’s particular audience. Using the metaphor, then, I came up with this question: “Will a better toolbox help you build a better life?”
So we’ve got our five customer-facing questions now. The final step of this session is to take a look at them as a set & make sure, as always, that they’re cohesive & unique. We want to look at them to make sure they’re speaking the same language & telling the same story. We want them to create the kind of tension that will trigger a reader into actively creating her own answers.
We want her asking herself, “Have I lost a sense of balance in my life? If so, is this the place I go to regain it?” We want her asking herself, “What could I accomplish if I didn’t get so tired at three p.m.?” We want her asking herself, “What tools am I lacking that would lead me to a better life?”
In other words, we want her asking the kinds of questions that will ultimately inspire a decision. We want her take the next step. We want her to act.
Our Pretend Gyms
[ Full Example Gym Brandwork Docs here: Community | Corporate | Competitive ]
Answers to today’s question:
Are you ready to lose that stubborn extra weight?
Have you worried your health might be a burden on your loved ones?
Do you want to transform your family's health?
Can you imagine walking around with more confidence?
Are you tired of making false starts?
Are you ready to make your health a priority?
Have you lost a sense of balance in your life?
Do you want to stop sacrificing how you look & feel?
What more could you accomplish with increased energy?
Will a better toolbox help you build a better life?
Are you ready to unlock your true potential?
Have you wondered if you're maximizing your time in the gym?
Do you want a smarter way to work harder?
Can more confidence improve your competitiveness?
Have your been relying too heavily on guesswork?
Time to Do Work
With what you just learned in mind, revisit your original set of customer-facing questions. Head back into your Brandwork doc & see if you can revise & make them stronger.
Now that you’ve got your five revised questions down, let’s check them for maximum potency:
Have you avoided redundancy in your question formulation? In other words, does every one of your questions start with, “Do you…”(or “Can you…” or “Are you…”?) Take another look at the questions from our Corporate Gym - notice that each question starts with a different phrase. This will help avoid a sense of redundancy on your website.
Make sure you don’t have two questions that ask the same thing but with different words. For example, if we look at our Competitive Gym, it would be redundant to ask: “Are you worried you’re not performing at your peak?” since they’ve already asked: “Are you ready to unlock your true potential.” (Note: One is not necessarily better than the other; we just don’t need both.)
What’s the best question you have? As you head into the last couple sessions of the Branding Mechanics program, keep it in mind. You’ll want to lead with it on your website. Here are my takes for the strongest ones from our example gyms:
Community: Can you imagine walking around with more confidence?
Corporate: Will a better toolkit help you build a better life?
Competitive: Do you want a smarter way to work harder?
In the next section, we’re going to work even harder to simplify how a prospective member begins their journey with you. Here’s a lesson from Mark Cuban you can get without having to embarrass yourself on Shark Tank first:
"Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.”