Director of Sales, HubSpot Alumni, 8+ Years of Marketing & Business Development Experience
June 9th, 2020
As an account executive at IMPACT, it’s my job to help people embrace They Ask, You Answer as a way of doing business.
Some people I talk to have just finished reading the book and are so fired up they can’t wait to get started. Others have never heard of it but know their digital marketing performance is a dumpster fire, so they’re open to new ideas.
While I’m there for their initial introduction and adoption to the philosophy, it’s also my job to support them as they progress through the stages of the journey.
In the years I’ve been at IMPACT watching clients succeed, and fail, with They Ask, You Answer, I’ve come to realize there are some key problems teams often face when implementing this philosophy, especially in the first six months.
In my role, I try my best to help them avoid those problems wherever possible. That’s why I’m detailing them here.
1. Resistance to They Ask You Answer as a company-wide initiative (not just a marketing initiative)
They Ask, You Answer is a business philosophy in which you strive to be the best and most helpful teachers in the world at what you do.
If your customers have any question, issue, concern, or worry, you know about it — and you’re willing to address it honestly and thoroughly.
You want to be the Wikipedia of your space. It’s an obsession with how your buyers think.
Notice how in that paragraph, I never mentioned the word “marketing.”
That’s the number one misconception about They Ask, You Answer — that’s it’s an initiative or responsibility of just marketing.
First and foremost, They Ask, You Answer is a business philosophy that translates into a digital sales and marketing strategy and a way of doing business.
Any employee in your company that ever interacts with your clients (directly or indirectly) can and should contribute to a company’s They Ask, You Answer initiative.
Who are the people who interact with your clients the most?
For most, it’s salespeople, account managers, and customer service representatives. Not marketers.
That’s why company-wide buy-in to They Ask, You Answer is so critical.
In order for your content marketing efforts to be successful, they need input from sales, leadership, subject-matter-experts, and anyone else who has insight into how to educate your prospects. It’s a big job, and many hands make light work.
The last thing you want to have happen is for anyone (especially a member of a sales team) to think this isn’t their responsibility.
2. Struggling to produce enough content
I’m not saying this is an easy problem to solve, but it’s absolutely critical nonetheless.
In order to be successful with They Ask, You Answer, you’ve got to produce 2-3 pieces of educational content each week on an ongoing basis.
That’s exactly what our most successful clients have done, diving into The Big 5 as their starting point.
We’ve found the most successful way to do this is to have at least one person within the organization own the content creation process. In most cases, we call this a content manager.
They don’t have to necessarily create each content piece, but they do need to own responsibility for content being published.
That could mean they manage multiple people who create content or they build the content calendar and multiple people across the organization all contribute on a rotating basis. Or maybe they do write every single piece of content.
Each organization is different, but one way or another, the content needs to get out there (more on why in the next point).
If that’s not happening, you’re just not going to see results with They Ask, You Answer.
One reason why people fail on item number two is because of this problem right here.
I have clients whose content publishing process is so elaborate and labyrinthian that they struggle to produce quality content on a regular basis.
While I applaud their attention to detail and commitment to excellence, at the end of the day, the most important thing is to get that content published and have the search engines take notice.
While amazingly great content will ultimately perform better than just ok content, sometimes you’ve got to just ship it and improve it later on.
The last thing I ever want to hear from one of my clients is, “we’re just waiting for __ before we start publishing.”
Whether it’s video or written content, just work with what you’ve got. Get the content out there however you need to do it, see how people react, or how it performs, then use that data to make it better.
Create videos with your iPhone and a tripod for now. Have whoever can make the time to write blog posts for you (maybe even the CEO needs to pitch in) until you get that content manager hired.
Do whatever it takes because at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to determine your success or failure.
4. Fear of change
Every new beginning is an end and every end is a new beginning.
When you introduce new ways of doing things to your company, you’re going to have to make room for them somehow and oftentimes that means eliminating old processes that weren’t producing results.
For a lot of teams, that could mean cold-calling, email marketing, attending trade shows, investing in print or radio ads, etc.
I’m not saying immediately stop if you’re doing any of those things, but what I am saying is that you might need to give up some of those things in order to create time and/or budget to invest in They Ask, You Answer.
There are so many companies who invest in growth channels just because that’s what they’ve always done.
It might be scary to stop attending that one trade show you go to every year or cutting off your advertising in the local newspaper, but if you can’t measurably tie back it back to return, how do you know they’re worth investing in?
Just because you’ve always done things that way doesn’t mean they’re worth continuing.
A lot of teams get pushback when they introduce the idea of being willing to address any customer question honestly and thoroughly, even if the answer disqualifies the buyer.
For a lot of companies that represents a big change since marketing and sales culture for so long has been about doing anything to make the deal.
That change can be downright scary, but it’s necessary to build the trust that They Ask, You Answer stands for.
5. Fear of radical transparency
The most successful examples of They Ask, You Answer companies are those who’ve embraced education as a key pillar of their company culture.
Embracing transparency, trust and honesty could have a variety of consequences. While most businesses pride themselves on honesty and integrity, businesses can be afraid to speak honestly about some topics for fear of scaring people away.
The reality is, however, companies who embrace They Ask You Answer aren’t afraid to disqualify people.
In fact, it’s one of the cornerstones: the more quickly and efficiently people educate themselves about your product/service the sooner they find out how qualified they are.
Ask any salesperson in the world and they’ll tell you they want to know as soon as humanly possible whether someone is worth talking to or not. If they’re not qualified, they don’t want them in their pipeline.
On the other hand, if someone has access to transparent and thoughtful information that helps them make a purchasing decision, they’re way more likely to build trust and qualify themselves further down the sales funnel.
At the end of the day, trust is the fundamental building block of all businesses. Honesty and transparency build trust, and trust brings in qualified leads which turn into sales.
6. Ineffective ROI Tracking
Last but certainly not least, comes the critical piece for being successful with They Ask, You Answer: tracking ROI.
At IMPACT, we and the majority of our customers use HubSpot to accomplish this, but it doesn’t matter what you use as long as it is effective.
Companies who embrace They Ask, You Answer generally make a dramatically larger investment in content creation than they were making before.
Those businesses are also interested in one thing: growth.
If you’re going to expend time and effort doing anything, you’re going to want to see growth or a return on that investment.
If you can’t determine if and how you’re growing, what’s the point of all of this, right?
More importantly, if you have no effective means to track the ROI of your content marketing efforts, you’re running several concurrent risks that all lead to nowhere good. You could waste time, effort and money writing about topics that don’t lead to revenue generation.
Your sales team could question the point of contributing to the effort at all. Worst case of all the scenarios, a senior executive might pull the plug on the whole program altogether (since they don’t see where the ROI is coming from).
An example of successful ROI tracking could be as simple as calculating the best performing blog posts each month, not just in terms of traffic but also leads.
An even better example would be taking that process a step further and tracking the ROI of your content in terms of leads and customers it influenced. Really good ROI reporting can calculate the value of content down to the dollar.
It’s simply not good enough to post and pray. You’ve got to be able to measure and track the performance of your marketing, and there’s really no way around it.
Help is on the way
So there you have it. Those are the 6 most common problems teams face when they start embracing They Ask You Answer as a new way of doing business. The good news is all six of those problems are 100% possible to overcome.
At IMPACT, we subscribe to the vanguard principle--the best time to deal with a problem is before it occurs in the first place. Now that you know about all these issues, now is the time to think about how you can overcome them.
We’re here to help you at IMPACT, but there’s also our community in IMPACT Elite. There are thousands of marketers who’ve dealt with all the problems listed in this post, so don’t hesitate to ask for help!
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