Children are naturally inquisitive. They’re exploring the world. Learning. It can drive parents mad, the insentient ‘whhyyyyy?’ followed by a handful more whys.
But asking why is a compelling skill.
Why ask why?
Questions are like fuel for your brain. They trigger a way of looking at a problem that you haven’t thought about before.
Asking questions about the world around us is how we discover details and insights. It’s how we understand people, and relate to others. It’s how we’re able to tell a story, and crucially for businesses, it’s how they can make a difference. It can unlock the reason behind why a product or service came to exist.
‘Why?’ is the simplest and most effective way to make a breakthrough in your messaging.
Never be afraid to look stupid
A part of my copywriting brief says “Imagine I don’t know anything about the subject we’ll be writing about”. I take the same approach going into meetings with ‘subject matter experts’ and business bigwigs. Playing dumb gives you the opportunity to ask seemingly obvious questions. You get the chance to ask why over and over until you get to an aha moment.
Clients are experts in their business. But that can mean they’re too close to the subject to be objective. Day-to-day things become so blatantly obvious to them that they won’t even warrant a passing mention.
When you first ask a question, clients can bat an answer back on autopilot. That’s why you need to follow it up with another, dig deeper, get them thinking about it too. When they pause, ponder, and remark ‘That’s a good question’, that’s when you know you could be on to something.
Why is a powerful word.
Ask why when you put pen to paper too
Ask yourself real questions. Why is this interesting? Why would someone want to know this? Why are we saying x, y or z?
It’s similar to the ‘so what?’ test, and will help you find the benefits of what you’re saying. You’ll end up naturally showing you know your customers, and you’ll connect with what they need/want to know – rather than what a client wants to say.
Clients: ask yourself a question
If your copywriter or creative isn’t asking you a bunch of questions, you should probably be asking yourself why not.
Leigh James (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.