The Danger of Questions in Marketing Content

Why should you read this blog post? I know the answer I’d like. Which makes that question an hypophora–a rhetorical question that you aren’t supposed to answer because I’m just going to go ahead and tell you: You should read this blog post to prevent major problems with your marketing content–and to discover why you might need a freelance writer like (ahem) me.

The problem with questions, especially at the beginning of marketing copy, is that they very well may be answered in a way you don’t like. “Got milk?” is a great question because either way–yes or no–the point has been made. You need milk. “Why not buy milk?” is a poor question because the most likely answer is: “I don’t want to.”

The “why not” construction has another drawback–it introduces a negative; for example, “Why not use our company?” You should avoid any question that challenges readers to list the reasons for not using you.

Questions that threaten the reader are another barrier to communication. “Do you want to deplete your bones of calcium? Did you know that poor calcium intake leads to osteoporosis?” You will gain the readers who already worry about the subject but you will lose those who do not want to think about it. There’s a reason why coffin builders avoid asking, “Are you ready to be buried?”

Which brings us to good questions. Good questions demand a “yes.” The quicker your readers get used to answering “yes” to your marketing pitch, the more likely they are to keep answering “yes,” especially when you ask for a sale. “Do you like milk?” is a poor question because it shuts down the conversation with a quick “no.” A better question is “Do you have a favorite way to use milk?” Almost everyone uses some milk in some way–in their coffee, in baking, to scramble eggs and so on. Even if they don’t, they may want to hear about new ways to use milk.

The best questions in marketing collateral actively engage readers and prompt them to read on: “What is the number one drink in the world?” “What are the top 3 benefits of milk?” Those questions open up a conversation instead of closing it down and they appeal to your readers’ curiosity.

Got questions? Just make sure you want to hear the answers.

Sharon Bailly founded TWP Marketing & Technical Communications in 1999 to help business owners communicate with their customers in clear, accurate, passionate words.