Guest Post by By Dan Kennedy

Asking the right questions is important if you want to get the answer you most need. If you walked into a restaurant and they immediately served you a ham sandwich and gave you the bill, what would you say?

You’re not a ham-hater, but what if you were in the mood for roast beef? Or waffles? You’d think, They clearly don’t know me. And they certainly didn’t care enough to ask. Hello one star on Yelp.

How is that different than what most of us do in communication? We’re constantly churning out messages. Have we stopped to consider whether or not they truly bring value to our audiences on their terms or are connected to what they’ve asked for?

When is the last time you asked your audience questions?

A real-life example

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to an entrepreneur who is launching a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of millions of orphans and widows. This guy seems to have all the ingredients for success: a big vision, a well-thought-out business plan and financial model, contagious passion, and a clear dependency on God. A bonus: he placed a high value on the role brand and marketing can play in the success of an organization.

But as we talked through the foundations of building his brand strategy, it became clear he needed to better understand what his audiences truly want and need (no unwanted ham sandwiches here!)

I pushed him to gather groups of the people he wants to reach—no more than six at a time—and ask the following questions:

  • What are your greatest needs? (List those needs, then ask people to rank them in terms of importance.)
  • How would your organization be different if these needs were addressed? (More of what? Less of what?)
  • What might help look like? (What has worked in the past? What do you hope would be different in the future?)
  • How will you know if that offer for help is credible? (Is there a clear process to deliver help?  Is there a proven track record?)

[ProTip: When taking actual notes, write down the words ‘they say,’ not your summary of their words. Understanding actual audience language is a key indicator or your ability to truly understand the very people you desire to serve.]

Where have you had success in understanding your audiences?

Dan Kennedy’s journey has taken him from brand management at Procter & Gamble to Christian retail, and then three years serving in China doing business as mission. It’s there God gave him the vision for Kumveka, which he founded in 2009 and serves as Executive Director.  You can connect with Dan @ Kumveka.org

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