5 Essential Questions Drive Marketing Impact

5 Essential Questions Drive Marketing Impact

Questions, especially the right ones, can have more value to marketing impact than what we think are the right answers.

That’s valuable in business and especially in marketing.

That’s the thinking of Wait What by James Ryan, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The book is based on his 2016 commencement address to the school’s graduates.

Ryan believes that there are five essential questions that will improve your relationships and results.

He also believes that to be effective at using these questions, Ryan suggests cultivating the art of asking good questions by being mindful of:

  • Resisting the temptation to have answers at the ready and to spend more time thinking about the right questions to ask.
  • The truth is that an answer can only be as good as the question asked.
  • Posing good questions is harder than it might seem because asking good questions requires you to see past the easy answers and instead focus on the difficult, the tricky, the mysterious, the awkward, and sometimes the painful issues.
  • Well-posed questions make knowledge come to life and create the spark that lights the flame of curiosity.
  • Great leaders don’t have all the answers, but they know how to ask the right questions — questions that force others and themselves to move past old and tired answers, questions that open possibilities that, before the question, went unseen.
  • Jonas Salk, who discovered and developed the vaccine for polio: “What people think of as the moment of discovery,” he observed, “is really the discovery of the question.”
  • Einstein famously said that if he had an hour to solve a problem, and his life depended on it, he would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.
  • The simple point is that posing irresistible questions is an art worth cultivating.

Ryan’s five essential questions:

  1. “Wait, what?” is asking for clarification, which is crucial to understanding. It’s the question you should ask before drawing conclusions or before making a decision. It fosters the importance of inquiry before advocacy — it’s important to understand an idea before you advocate for or against it. The wait before the what reminds you to slow down to assure you truly understand.
  2. “I wonder?” which can be followed by “why” or “if.”  So, I wonder why, or I wonder if. Asking “I wonder why” is the way to remain curious about the world, and asking “I wonder if” is the way to start thinking about improvements.
  3. “Couldn’t we at least?” enables you to get unstuck. It enables you to get past disagreement to some consensus as in couldn’t we at least agree that we all care about telling the right story to our customers, even if we disagree about strategy? It’s also a way to get started when you’re not entirely sure where you will finish, as in couldn’t we at least begin by making sure that there is value in all using the right channels for storytelling.
  4. “How can I help?” because you are interested in helping others. How we help matters as much as what we do to help. And if you ask “how” you can help, you are asking, with humility, for direction. And you can recognize that others are experts in their own businesses and that they will likely help you as much as you help them.
  5. “What truly matters? is the question that forces you to get to the heart of issues and to the heart of your own beliefs and convictions. Indeed, it’s a question that you might add to, or substitute for, New Year’s resolutions. You might ask yourself, in other words, at least every new year: what truly matters to me?

So how can you see these five essential questions driving your marketing impact?





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