To ignite your story, start with the right questions
When I work with clients to co-create their business story, we start with questions about customers and the business. From the answers, we co-create a 1-PageTM Message Map.
Use these 84 thought-starter questions to create or improve your business story.
What’s your company’s purpose? How do you make the world a better place – today and tomorrow?
How do you help customers succeed? How do you help audiences achieve their business, career and personal goals?
What’s in it for your customers? Employees? Distributors? Retailers? Investors? How does each audience benefit? What outcomes do you enable them to achieve?
Imagine: if the company disappeared, what would people miss the most about it?
What do customers say about your company today? Employees? Investors? The local community? Industry analysts? News media? Bloggers? Social media users?
What is your company’s origin story? Who founded it and why?
What’s new in your industry? In your customers’ industries? How does that news connect with your message?
Who are your customers? Whose names can you drop?
What are the new technology trends? Market trends? How do you fit into them? How do you help customers adapt to new trends?
What are your customers’ questions? Worries? Pain points? What keeps them up at night?
Which information do buyers need, exactly? Where do they go to find it?
Are there gaps in customers’ information that you can fill? How can you make them even better and smarter buyer?
How can you make customers more effective and productive as users of your product?
What’s new for your customers? How are their needs changing?
Which challenges and obstacles can you help customers overcome? How? What are the outcomes for customers?
What’s your brand promise? How do you deliver the promise to customers? How does the promise differentiate you from competitors?
How exactly do your products and services address customer needs? Which products and services do customers appreciate most? What do customers say about you to their peers?
When did you help out customers in a pinch? When customers came to you with nearly impossible requirements – in terms of schedule, cost, quality, safety or availability – how did you help them meet their challenges?
What’s the most surprising customer story you’ve heard?
Which employees, distributors or retailers hear customer stories the most? How can you collect and curate their best customer stories?
Which customers are willing to tell their story on your behalf? Who has a great before-and-after story? What’s the moral of the story?
Which contexts do customers need to understand better: the economy, industry, sector, business model, technology, company or customers? How can you show a fuller context to them?
Which facts and figures prove your message? Which examples can you share?
Who are the independent third parties that will speak up on your behalf?
What quotes do you have from customers? Employees? Analysts? News media? How can you generate more quotes?
How do your customers use your products and services, exactly? Which applications do you help them address? What are your customers’ use cases?
Do you or your customers torture-test products in a lab, trial or extreme environment?
Do any customers use your products under extreme conditions?
When did employees, distributors or retailers go above and beyond customers’ expectations to solve a problem?
What do customers say verbatim in your surveys? Emails? To service reps? To sales?
What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? What can you truthfully say that competitors can’t? What exactly differentiates your offering from others?
What do your competitors say? How are you different from them?
By answering questions like these as you create your company’s message, your business story becomes more complete and compelling.
Start with the right questions. Create a 1-Page Message Map to serve all your business’ messaging needs.
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.