How a Content Questionnaire Creates a Path to Compelling Content

Debbie Williams

Written by Debbie Williams on Tue, Nov 29, 2011

At SPROUT Content, one of the first things we send to new clients is a 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, points of differentiation, offerings and competition. It helps us dig in to reveal the vital nuggets of information that tell a brand story before beginning a content marketing strategy.

What is in a content questionnaire?

Here are some of the key questions we include in our content questionnaire:

  1. What services do your clients/prospects most want and need?
  2. What are your customers trying to accomplish?
  3. Who is your competition? (please list at least 3-5 competitors)
  4. How do prospects find you?
  5. What is your target location (international/national/regional/state/local)?

How do the answers help?

The questionnaire starts a conversation to help us identify key messages, along with holes and weaknesses in a brand's story. It highlights 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.

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 an in-depth getting-to-know-you process, but it’s thoroughly worth the effort, and the result is content that really connects to the right audience.

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

Of course, collecting the information is only the first step. In many cases, the most important “a-ha” moments occur while talking through the answers with clients. A simple conversation helps us uncover little details that are often left out when the questionnaire is initially submitted.

For example, we worked with a plastics company that we discovered was one of the first companies in the country to recycle plastic in the 1960s. This vital information was not mentioned anywhere in its questionnaire because they didn't see it as an important detail. It came out in a conversation which the questionnaire help guide. We used the information to craft key messages and develop their content style guide. The new content highlighted that that the company was a pioneer in recycling. Without going through the content questionnaire with the client, this important detail would have gone undiscovered.

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.

This post was originally featured on the Content Marketing Institute blog.


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