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Engage More Prospects in Less Time with the ‘Crisco’ of Content Marketing

by | Sep 19, 2017 | SEO Copywriting, Online Video, Content Marketing, Newsletters, Collateral, Case Studies | 0 comments

A recent client project brought to my mind a scene from The Help, the film based on Kathryn Stockett’s novel about African American women working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960’s.

In that scene, Minnie the maid is giving her new employer, the formerly poor but now richly married country girl Celia Foote, her first cooking lesson. Minnie holds up a large, familiar blue can and tells Celia, “Well… I reckon if there’s anything you ought to know about cooking, it’s this: the most important invention since they put mayonnaise in a jar.

“Ya got gum in your hair?… Ya got a squeaky door hinge?” Minnie asks, knowingly. “Crisco.”

Celia picks up a pinch of the white, frosting-like vegetable shortening and swirls it between her fingertips, staring at it in wonder. “Ya got bags under your eyes?” Minnie continues. “Wanna soften your husband’s scaly feet?… Mm hmm, Crisco.

“But…” Minnie concludes, “It’s best for frying chicken.”

What kind of content project caused me to recall such a scene? Minnie’s second and third lines provide a clue. She asks a couple of questions. She answers them. She asks two more questions. She answers those. Her speech follows, more or less, the form of the piece I was working on: a Q&A.

But that’s not what brought Minnie’s cooking tip to mind. The content I was working on was a type of Q&A I’d never encountered before. I was explaining a new marketing campaign to my client’s sales teams and channel partners. And I suddenly realized just how versatile the Q&A form is. You can use it in so many ways! Plus, Q&A’s are quick and easy to create, and they provide a host of benefits to marketers.

That’s why I call the Q&A the “Crisco” of content marketing.

The supremely versatile Q&A

You can put a Q&A to work in a wide range of situations. Here are a few examples:

The FAQ. Probably the type of marketing Q&A we’re all most familiar with is Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs – where your company provides answers to the questions customers ask most. Practically every commercial website offers a FAQ page, and for good reason. Website visitors are task-driven. They come to your website to find answers to their questions.

The ‘How to’ tech brief. Trying to explain how your offering can be used for a broad application can get complicated, especially if you have to cover a variety of user needs and scenarios. The problem often becomes non-linear – branching off in many directions – which can make it difficult to address in a user-manual-like format. Q&A to the rescue!

Questions like, “How do I get started?” “How do I _____?” “What do I do when _____?” put the various branches under useful, easily scanned headings. This makes your tech brief easier to navigate. Readers can quickly skim and find questions (and answers!) relevant to their specific situation.

The expert roundup. Q&As can also be used to achieve thought leadership objectives in the form of expert roundups. Interview two or three of your technical experts – together or separately – on a topic that’s of interest to some portion of your target audience. Record their answers. Then turn that Q&A into a website page, a blog post, a newsletter article, a podcast, an online video… perhaps even a white paper or trade article.

The case study. A Q&A can also be used as a time-saving alternative to the standard customer success story. Sourcing both questions and answers straight from the customer interview, you can either edit customer answers for print, or you can help your customers prepare their answers in advance, so you can record your interview for a podcast or video.

Sales & channel partner education. Need to bring your sales team up to speed on a new offering or marketing campaign? A Q&A can be a fast, easy and effective way to handle this task, as I recently discovered. Just anticipate your team members’ questions, and provide answers that cover all the information you need to convey. It’s a simple matter of formulating a question for every point you need to make, then answering that question in a thorough yet concise manner. (Hint: start this type of Q&A with a Why question, like, “Why is [our company] launching [this product or this campaign]?”)

Big benefits of the Q&A

Besides their versatility, the Q&A offers B2B marketers several other important benefits.

First, Q&As are fast and easy to create. Just write down the questions you need to answer, and answer them as concisely as possible.

Second, Q&As are both engaging and helpful to your prospects. The questions in a Q&A reflect your prospect’s point of view. They anticipate your prospect’s own questions. That makes the Q&A engaging, because it naturally frames the discussion from the reader’s point of view. This format is also helpful, not only because it answers readers’ questions, but because it breaks the discussion into bite-size chunks, making relevant information easier to find and more readily digestible.

Third, Q&As save your audience time. Prospects can quickly skim the content, looking for those questions which are relevant to them. They then need only read the answers to those specific questions. This helps prospects quickly find just the answers they’re looking for.

Finally, Q&As can have a significant SEO impact for your website. “Search engines view sites that give satisfying answers as more valuable,” says Dan Steiner, CEO at Elite Legal Marketing and a contributor to the Content Marketing Institute blog. “Google is paying more attention to answering questions people type in the search box. The search engine giant now offers:

  • One-box ‘instant answers’ between the search box and the search results (and references the source site)
  • ‘People also ask,’ featuring questions and answers other people had when typing a similar query

“Both features are prominent within the search results, giving those ‘answer’ sites additional exposure (as well as stealing some clicks from those pages that are not featured).

“The only way to get featured in an instant answer or related answer,” Steiner adds, “is to answer and optimize niche-related questions.” [i]

Where to find customer questions

Where do you find the right questions to answer in your Q&As? For FAQ pages and tech briefs, talk to your sales and customer service teams. Consult your CRM software. Find out what questions your customers and prospects are really asking.

For other situations, you may have to anticipate questions, especially if your topic is a new product or a novel solution to a customer problem. Ask yourself, “What would our prospects need to know about the topic at hand? What would be their most urgent questions?” Answer those questions. Then ask, “What important questions would follow from the answers I’ve given?” and answer those questions, too.

You can also use SEO tools to find questions searchers are asking related to your topic. Steiner recommends an online tool called SERPSTAT, which lets you research niche questions by keyword. SERPSTAT uses Google’s autosuggest results to generate a list of phrases based on your keyword. You can then click on the “Only Questions” tab to see a list of queries containing that keyword.

Conclusion

Whether you want to generate a new piece of content quickly, address a range of audience concerns all in the same space, or boost your SEO returns on a given topic, it’s hard to beat a Q&A for its combination of fast and easy creation, customer engagement, and impact.

Take-away Points

  1. The Q&A is the “Crisco” of content marketing, because:
    • It’s simple to understand
    • It’s fast and easy to use
    • It engages your audience
    • It’s helpful to your prospects
  2. The Q&A can be used in a wide variety of marketing situations including:
    • FAQs
    • ‘How to’ tech briefs
    • Expert roundups
    • Case studies
    • Sales and channel partner education
  3. The major benefits of the Q&A form include:
    • Fast and easy to create
    • Engaging and helpful to prospects
    • Save readers time
    • Draw search traffic

Next Steps

Need some help pulling together a new Q&A or some other piece of engaging marketing content? Call CopyEngineer at (+39) 011 569 4951. Or drop me an email at info@copyengineer.com.

References

[i] Steiner, Daniel, Does Your Content Answer Searchers’ Questions?, Content Marketing Institute, July 2016.

Image copyright: njocky / 123RF Stock Photo

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