How Do I Know When I’m Ready for They Ask, You Answer?
These six fundamental beliefs characterize a true They Ask, You Answer company.
By Zach Basner
Your business is ready to grow with They Ask, You Answer if you:
- Understand buyers have fundamentally changed.
- Accept you’re not the best fit for everyone.
- Are willing to discuss hard topics, including competitors.
- Are willing to invest in content creation internally.
- Understand it’s a long-term commitment.
- Understand you’re not different from your competitors in one very important way.
Whether you’ve recently come to learn about They Ask, You Answer, or you’re ready to begin your journey with it, you may find yourself wondering how to get started on the right foot.
And, if that’s where you’re at, you’re already asking the right questions.
They Ask, You Answer is more than a content strategy; it’s a business philosophy that requires you to adopt a series of fundamental beliefs.
It submits that success in EVERY business is based on trust, and to win that trust, businesses must obsess over the questions, concerns, and problems their buyers have.
They need to address them as honestly and as thoroughly as possible — just as much online as they do offline.
But it doesn’t stop there.
In this article, I’m going to outline six fundamental beliefs that characterize a true They Ask, You Answer company and pave the way for a prosperous journey with this business philosophy.
By the end, you’ll know if you’re ready to embark on that journey.
1. You understand buyers have fundamentally changed
Think about how differently you shop nowadays versus how you may have 10 or 15 years ago.
Would you say you’re less patient? More critical? Less trusting of salespeople?
Along those same lines, how much do you want to know about what you want or need before you’ll even consider talking with a salesperson?
If you’re like most buyers, you do a lot more online research before purchasing anything, are wary of making mistakes, and want to have a very good idea of what is a good fit for you.
This is what occurs before what is called the “zero moment of truth” (ZMOT). That’s the moment you pick up the phone, fill out that form, send that email, or otherwise reach out to begin your buying process.
Those actions you took to research and find a solution or vendor before this, are called “zero moment of truth activities.”
But why is this significant, and what does it show us about our buyers?
According to the Forrester research group, over 70% of the buying decision is made before the ZMOT occurs.
If you were to estimate how much of that decision was made before the ZMOT 10 years ago, it would probably be significantly lower.
In fact, I would guess somewhere around 40%.
We didn’t have access to all the information we needed because it either didn’t exist or the search engines were not developed enough to find it.
Buyers now have 24-hour, easy access to this information — and they demand it.
This is essential to understand before getting started with They Ask, You Answer because it’s the foundation of why WE also must change as businesses and the way we communicate.
If you don’t agree or understand how today’s buyer has changed, there will not be reasonable motivation to adopt a new way of communication or put it in the work it takes to be successful with They Ask, You Answer.
2. You accept you’re not the best fit for everyone
In addition to understanding the way your buyers’ behavior has changed, you also must understand that their expectations have changed.
Gone are the days of a salesperson having the upper hand, and we know that as buyers.
Since we have the upper hand, we deserve the most honest, most complete, and most unbiased information when making purchases.
In other words, we want the power to make the best decision for us; we don’t want to be “sold to.”
Most organizations, however, don’t truly — I mean really, truly — trust their buyer enough to give them all of the facts and expect them to still choose them as a vendor. This could also be a result of not being confident enough in their own product or business.
That’s just a bad habit more than anything; a relic of the days when we were expected to do anything for the sale.
Today, most of us would agree that we want our buyers to make the best decision with complete information and complete confidence; we want them to be a good fit and be happy with their purchase.
We simply haven’t developed a habit of providing all of that information, especially when it might expose cons with our own product or service and mean possibly losing a deal.
You will know you’re ready for They Ask, You Answer once you’re willing to trust your buyers to always make the best decision for them, and be the one to help them avoid mistakes.
Unfortunately, for those who don’t trust their buyers, they inadvertently drive them elsewhere to find more complete information.
Many times that will be their competitors, and the battle for trust intensifies.
3. You’re willing to discuss hard topics and discuss your competitors
Before I became a consultant on They Ask, You Answer, I was a marketing director for two different small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). One was a small screen-printing company, and the other was an upscale property maintenance company.
During my employment at both organizations, leadership was eager to accept nearly every radical idea and strategy that involved website designs, social media campaigns, or promotional activities. That is what I, as a marketer, was supposed to do after all.
Knowing the They Ask, You Answer strategy and how effective it was, I knew we were missing this vital component of controlling the conversations in our industry.
Not only that, but we had to think differently about how and what we were willing to discuss with our content. We had to think more like the buyer.
But that idea fell on deaf ears.
It was too risky to be transparent about cost and price. If it was so effective, why isn’t everyone else doing it?
Not to mention, talking about the competition seems counterintuitive and provocative in the wrong ways, right?
There was no willingness to adapt or to think differently, and this is the most common reason why most companies, just like my former employers, are not ready for They Ask, You Answer.
Chris Marr, our Lead Digital Sales & Marketing Coach at IMPACT recently developed a series of “Leadership Mindset Principles,” two of which will point out just how far you must be willing to push yourself to become a leader in your space.
- “We are willing to be the first to challenge stereotypes and conventions that are held onto by other leaders in our industry.”
- “We are willing to call out bad practices that affect our buyer’s experience and their perception of our industry.”
Upon reflection of what these two things have meant for successful They Ask, You Answer case studies that I personally coached, it meant discussing the tough stuff.
While we may have held cost, price, and competitors close to the chest in the past, we must be willing to think bigger, shed our fears, and consider the cost of not discussing such things openly.
After all, if you’re not willing to talk about them, where will your buyers turn instead?
4. You’re willing to invest in content creation internally
Although this is fourth on our list, this is likely in the top two for “non-negotiables” as it relates to starting They Ask, You Answer.
They Ask, You Answer is a content strategy with one major crux: it doesn’t work unless you and your team are the ones deploying it.
That means you can’t just outsource the content creation to a team of freelance writers.
It simply doesn’t work.
Who knows your buyer better than you? Who has a great depth of knowledge about your audience’s fears, worries, and concerns?
Who has more passion for your product or service and understands the “soul” of the organization better than you and your team?
These are things that no freelance writer could ever fully grasp.
This is actually great news because it means you can take back control of your digital sales and marketing. You don’t have to rely on anyone to dictate your success.
To be clear, not everyone has to become a Pulitzer Prize winner before you’re ready for They Ask, You Answer.
The investment consists of putting the right people in the right seats and making your team available to help with the content.
Find a content manager or content writer who can interview your subject matter experts, keep an editorial calendar up to date, and own this marketing initiative, and you’ve made the first critical investment in They Ask, You Answer.
Furthermore, if you’re serious about adapting to today’s digital buyer and their preferences for video and visual content, you should also be considering hiring an in-house videographer and getting your staff on camera. This is a significant portion of your They Ask, You Answer journey and what we call “The Visual Sale.”
5. You understand it’s a long-term commitment
There are many sales, marketing, and communications strategies that can be beneficial in the short term and yield a quick ROI.
The problem is, typically things that are based on quick, short-term actions yield short-lived results.
For instance, a hardy social media ad campaign is a great way to quickly drive conversions, but, if you set up a campaign and took your hands off the wheel (set it, and forget it), results would gradually taper off to nothing.
On the other hand, there are many strategies that, if put in place as a long-term investment and continual effort, would only continue to grow in their effectiveness and profitability.
They Ask, You Answer is one of them.
It requires a long-term commitment, a cultural shift, and you must stay the course to reap the vast rewards.
Spoiler: This commitment is not a few months or even a few years. In fact, even the most successful They Ask, You Answer companies have been learning and evolving their strategy for the past 10 years.
This commitment is indefinite, but it returns with longer-term results. That is to say, the work you put into producing They Ask, You Answer content compounds year over year.
When many companies begin their journey, Google doesn’t regard their website with much authority. Most of their web pages, no matter how beautiful they are, are rarely found in search engines.
So, they put some time into creating the right content, and when search engines start noticing, they start seeing growth. Maybe it’s small at first, but over the course of a year, they’ve tripled or quadrupled their traffic site-wide.
Some companies see that, think they’ve made it, and slowly de-prioritize this initiative. Others double down, stay the course, and continue to apply the They Ask, You Answer model across the company.
Can you guess which group yields the most from their effort? And can you guess which one slowly loses their favor with search engines?
That’s the nature of They Ask, You Answer. You’ll know you’re ready to begin once you’re prepared to trust the process and embrace it as a long-term shift in your culture and mindset, not just a temporary tactic.
6. Know you’re no different
It’s interesting to think about how we regard our organizations within a global marketplace. Generally speaking, we put a high valuation on our “uniqueness” in contrast to our competitors, other businesses, or other industries.
We deem ourselves as “special” or “different.”
And yes, we all have different products, services, and solutions that solve a variety of needs and problems for our customers.
But, there is one thing that binds us all together, whether we’re a product or service company, B2B or B2C, local or international, large or small: We’re all in the business of trust.
When you break it down, that’s a fundamental emotion our buyer must feel towards any business in order to work with us.
If they don’t trust us, we can assume they’ll be more reluctant, uncertain, and skeptical about our relationship. Those aren’t emotions that move buyers to action and certainly aren’t a foundation to build rapport on.
So, ultimately, you can’t say “we’re different” and at the same time hold the belief that you’re in the same battle of trust that all of us are in.
A company that is truly ready for They Ask, You Answer can say this:
“We’re not different. We’re in a battle for trust, just like everyone else. But, if we want to become the most trusted voice in our space, we must be willing to discuss the things that no one else will. We must empower our staff to help us teach our buyer in the way they want to learn. And, we accept that the They Ask, You Answer journey is never complete. We know the things we do won’t always work the first time, but we are patient and not afraid to fail.”
Trust in the process
This obsession with trust, not only means you make strides to earn the trust of your buyer, but also that you must trust them.
This means that you want them to make the best, most sound buying decision, with complete and accurate information, and you’re willing to give them that information even at the risk of suggesting they don’t buy from you.
In addition, you must trust the process and really work at it. You must trust your employees, and give them a degree of control over how you communicate with your buyers.
Have I said trust enough yet?
I’m not sure I could say it enough to paint a truly accurate picture of how important it is and how impactful it can be for your business and buyer.
I’ve done my best, though, to help you understand what gives an organization the best footing to get started down this incredible journey.
Keep in mind, although They Ask, You Answer contains many formulaic approaches to sales, inbound marketing, alignment, and culture, it’s a model, not a formula.
A formula says, “Do these six things and you’ll be successful.” A model is something that you grow into and shape to fit your needs.
It provides guardrails so you don’t get off track on the journey.
If you’d like to see for yourself where you are in your journey, I’d encourage you to score yourself with our Digital Sales and Marketing scorecard. This will help you determine where you’re at and give you some advice on where you should be going.
In the wise words of Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Wondering where to begin?