When studying with a master teacher, one of the most important things you can do is to arrive with your burning questions. Your burning questions are the questions you must get answers to. This is something that I learned from my teacher’s teacher, Stephen Hayes.
However, some questions are better than others. Some questions will get you an answer, but not an answer that you can use to make advancements in your own growth. Your task as a questioner is to devise questions that yield real, usable answers.
How? The way to devise a great question is to know what a great answer looks like.
A great answer has in it not only the overall knowledge you need, but what immediate next steps you need to take in order to bridge the gap between the question and the big picture.
A good answer is efficient. It does not contain lots of information you already have.
Finally, a good answer cuts to the heart of the matter immediately. Some people ask questions just to talk, or to show off in front of others. You’ve likely been at marketing conferences where someone’s question during Q&A is a 30 second ad for their business before they finally get around to asking something.
Based on all of this, what does a great question look like?
A great question has three parts:
- Create a little bit of context by stating the specific problem you’re encountering
- Concisely indicate what information you already have
- Ask for the big picture and next steps
Here is a mundane example using email marketing.
A mediocre question would be, “I am having some trouble with getting my emails delivered. How would you fix this?”
A great question would be, “My emails to consumer domains like Hotmail on not getting through. I have set up SPF, DKIM, and DMARC in monitor mode. I’ve checked my Sender Score and it is clean. What should I do next? Is there a trend in deliverability that I missed?”
The quality of answer you’ll get to the latter question should be significantly more helpful than the quality of answer you’ll get from the former question. Use this 3 part format when you’re asking speakers questions at conferences. Use it when asking questions of your teachers and mentors. Use it during sales and business development meetings to advance the sale.
Ask better questions to get better answers!
You might also enjoy:
- Transforming People, Process, and Technology, Part 1
- You Ask, I Answer: Social Media Technology Stack?
- You Ask, I Answer: Simple System for Brand Monitoring?
- Best Practices for Public Speaking Pages
- Tune into the Marketing Over Coffee Podcast
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