Digging in to reveal the vital nuggets of information that tell a brand or company’s story is an essential first step in the content development process. At SPROUT Content, one of the first things we send to clients is our content questionnaire. This simple yet informative Q&A doc is tailored for each client to help us get to know them better. The goal is to bring out the most important information about their history, goals, offerings and industry. It’s like an online dating profile for businesses.
Regardless of if you are working with a client or managing your projects in-house, it’s a good idea to use a tool like the content questionnaire because it sets the foundation for the editorial content strategy, key messages, voice and positioning. It also reveals where more agreement is needed.
Here are the questions we include in our content questionnaire (you can also download the PDF):
- What services do your clients/prospects most want and need?
- What are the core strengths of your organization?
- How do people feel after they use your services?
- What are your customers trying to accomplish by using your products/services?
- Describe your typical customer (needs, desires, preferences, fears, pain, etc.).
- Who is your competition? (please list at least 3-5 competitors)
- What sets your company apart from others in your industry? Is there a unique aspect to your company that you could use as a point of differentiation?
- Do you have an existing tagline, slogan or brand statement? If not, would you like to create one.
- How do prospects find you?
- What are the central keywords/trigger words that prospects might use to find you online? (I.e. what words would your target audience use to describe the key products/services/information you provide?)
- What is your target location (international/national/regional/state/local)?
Setting the foundation
Of course, collecting the information is only the first step. The questionnaire is really valuable because it starts a conversation with a client where we identify holes and weaknesses and highlight areas where we need to dig a little deeper.
If a client returns a fairly blank questionnaire with one- and two-word answers, we know there’s more work to be done to help them clearly define who they are, what they do and who their customers are.
Believe it or not, we’ve worked with companies that could not even completely agree on their most important services. No wonder their websites didn’t reflect who they are or generate more leads.
Revealing those “a-ha” moments
After the internal review of a client’s content questionnaire, we review it with them to uncover the little details that are often left out.
We talk about what they do beyond industry jargon and buzzwords, who they’re doing it for and what makes their business different from the competition.
In many cases, the most important “a-ha” moments occur after talking through the questions and hearing answers in their own words.
For example, we worked with a plastics company that didn’t mention anywhere in its questionnaire that it was one of the first companies in the country, to recycle plastic in the 1960s. This vital information not only helped the client stand out from competitors, but helped us craft marketing content showing that the company is a pioneer in recycling, and over the years increased its recycling expertise to better serve clients and improve the environment. Without going through the content questionnaire with the client, this key detail may have gone unnoticed.
More often than not, the content questionnaire reveals that companies haven’t thought through who their content is for, how customers feel about their products and services or how clients and prospects find their company. The Q&A inspires companies to fine tune goals and helps us get to the heart of their organization. It can be a long getting-to-know-you process, but it’s thoroughly worth the effort.
We’ve learned time and time again what a valuable tool the questionnaire is as a stepping stone to creating great content. It’s such a simple concept, but one that stimulates conversations, sparks ideas and helps companies zero in on the most important things they are trying to communicate to people.
Feel free to use or build on our content questionnaire. If you try it out let us know if it helped you with content strategy and creation. Do you have any similar tools? We’d love to hear about them too.