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The first and most important step to creating great content for your marketing to schools is to ask yourself the right questions.
The answers are the easy bit. You know those already. It's just that some of them – the very best ones – have a habit of being tucked away in some dark corner of your subconscious.
And what I've come to realise is that the questions that will shine a light upon those answers are rarely the ones that we ask ourselves when preparing to email teachers.
For example, take the briefing document that Sprint Education's Copy Writing Team send out to new strategy clients. It poses 10 quick questions, the answers to which are supposed to give us everything we need to create killer content for them.
If the questions are right then the answers should go to the very heart of how we need to sell the client's product or service.
However, I've noticed lately that the answers we're getting back aren't getting to the heart of the matter, they're only scratching the surface.
My initial reaction was to blame the clients. To shake my head, exhale loudly, and lament their lack of marketing know-how.
But all they had actually done is answer the questions we gave them. It was the questions that were wrong.
Let's look at an example of my battle with one particularly straight talking client:
Q. What action do you want teachers to take from your email?
A. Buy our sports resource.
Now, you just cannot fault that answer. It cuts through all the waffle and goes straight to the truth. The question had got the answer that it deserved.
The only trouble was that it really didn't help us create a killer marketing email to teachers. So, I emailed the client in question and tried to get him to drill down a little on the details.
So, I asked him this question and got the following response:
Q. What particular action do you want teachers to take in order to buy your product?
A. Go to our website, buy our sports resource.
It was clear at this stage that I was up against a formidable individual. This chap had a rare talent for answering a question faultlessly with only the most economical use of words.
I knew that if only I could find the right question, the answer I would receive would be a thing of exquisite beauty. Something that would cause me to shield my eyes from the blinding light of its pure unadulterated genius.
What the hell was wrong with my question? It hit me all of a sudden.
“What action do YOU want...”
That was where I was going wrong. Of course this chap wanted teachers to go to his website and buy his sports resource... it was the best possible outcome for him wasn't it? No work involved, money in the bank... Good Lord, who wouldn't want that?
But was that what teachers wanted? So, I asked the client the following question:
Q. When is a teacher most likely to buy your sports resource?
A. When they see it in action.
Bingo. Now we were getting somewhere! Not quite to the heart of the matter yet, but certainly pushing softly against its fleshy outer regions.
So the best way to sell this sports resource was certainly not asking teachers to buy it via the website. Okay. One more carefully phrased question and I might just be in business.
So, deep breath, and here we go:
Q. What could you offer that would help teachers see the resource in action?
A. Free 30 minute taster session, maybe?
I decided to ignore the fact that he'd answered my question with another question.
I deleted the question mark and the word 'maybe' and I realised that what I was left with was the blinding piece of genius I always knew was coming my way.
Then I started to doubt. I added the question mark and the word 'maybe' back in. I needed to make sure this was indeed the right answer to the right question and not just the right answer to the wrong question.
Let's tie this baby down:
Q. Are you definitely able to offer schools the 30 minute taster session?
A. As long as it's no more than 50.
I rocked back in my seat, put my hands behind my head, and quietly nodded to myself as if to say, “nice job you handsome devil”. Now I had the bare bones of a killer call to action: 'Free PE session for first 50 schools'. It sounded so much sweeter than, 'buy now from our website'.
Thanks to this client I'd learned that, 'What action do you want teachers to take from your email?' was entirely the wrong question to be asking in our briefing document.
What we needed was something more like this:
Q. What's the best thing you can offer teachers that will increase the chances they will buy your product?
A. (Try to think of the most enticing thing you can offer as an introduction to your product or service)
I'm still not sure that the wording of this question is quite right but it's already yielding better, infinitely more useful answers. And it's helping us to write better marketing emails for our clients as a result.
I'll take that for now.
But I'm going to continue to ponder on what other questions are out there that could enable us to capture even juicier nuggets of information in the future.