Do You Anticipate Client Queries Before They Happen?

I’m living in a new rental in Toronto for the first time on my own in this fair city, as opposed to living with family as I usually do when in anada. So far I have opted not to have a television since cable access seems to be the only way to get any good channels here and I don’t see the need to pay for something that ultimately makes me less productive. At least that is the theory, but I am having major entertainment withdrawals and not laughing nearly as much without the Simpsons, Family Guy, Seinfeld and my new favorite, Robot Chicken, in my life.

In particular there is one time I usually have the TV turned on where I am missing it the most – when I eat. It’s hard to use a mouse and the web when you are eating, so the computer hasn’t been an apt replacement for the good old tube during meals. Since I work at home I often cook myself a fresh lunch and have a “lunch break” with my friend the television, and frankly I miss this ritual, though I’m not sure how much of this problem is merely a bad habit I’ve formed over the years (very likely).

What is a television addict to do?

I turned to my best friend, the Internet, and started looking for movies and TV online. I’ve never been much of a YouTube casual movie watcher looking for giggles – I want full length episodes of sitcoms, dramas, movies – basically television online, on demand – heck I’d even pay a dollar or two for some movies or television shows if I could download and watch them instantly. I’m not a torrent downloader because I’m trying to avoid any somewhat “suspect” activities, so I’ve been looking for legitimate solutions.

Unfortunately the era of digital delivery of television entertainment online has not yet arrived in 2006. The options are few and far between and frankly stink, so I gave up looking.

Instead I’ve discovered the joys of public domain entertainment, otherwise known as movies and television that are no longer copyrighted and can be distributed freely without risk of legal retribution. I’ll be honest with you – the selection is minimal and most of the stuff is old, but it’s getting me through my addiction and I usually finish eating and get back to doing productive things anyway.

The Day The Earth Stood Still

That little background story was a segue into my business lesson for today’s blog post (yes it had to be in there somewhere!).

I watched an old 1951 black and white sci-fi movie called The Day The Earth Stood Still, which while not being the most amazing piece of cinematic glory, has it’s moments and certainly makes me laugh now and then. Nostalgia is always fun.

At one point in the movie the main character, an alien, causes all the power in the world to stop working for thirty minutes. So nothing works at all and the earth basically “stands still”. However he pulled this little trick with the proviso that he would not cause any harm to anyone. While I was watching all these cut scenes of places around the world with no cars moving and all these people mulling around wondering what happened, it dawned on me –

“What about the hospitals? What about the planes that were flying in the air?!?”

I think shutting down hospitals and planes mid-flight would surely cause some harm to people?

Five minutes later the plot continues with a bunch of important men sitting around a table talking about what happened. One man explains the situation based on reports coming in from around the world and it appears that not everything had been shut down:

The hospitals and planes in mid-flight were still working. Nice.

My question had been answered and I didn’t have quite as much scorn for the movie as I may have had previously. It just became that little bit more legitimate in my eyes because they had adequately answered my question – in fact specifically addressed the two areas of concern I had.

Predict What Your Client Will Ask You

So what on earth does all that have to do with Internet business you ask? Aha! Remember everything is the same, and everything has a lesson for us relevant to business hidden away somewhere. Here’s what I am getting at…

One of the very first lessons I learnt from professional copywriters was to ensure your copy answers the questions that a prospect has going through their head as they read your sales page.

This technique was developed originally by face-to-face salespeople who would manipulate a prospect by answering questions on-the-fly based on how the potential customer reacted. A good salesperson removes all buying barriers by carefully guiding the conversation and knows the right triggers to use based on verbal and non-verbal communication.

This principle translated to the online world resulted in the long sales copy page. The long sales page attempts to answer all potential questions – points of resistance – that a prospect has before making a purchase. Since you can’t respond dynamically to a prospect’s communication cues online, the sales page must anticipate the most vital questions that the whole potential marketplace of customers may go through.

Imagine how powerful it is when a person is somewhat interested in your product and is reading the sales page and a question forms in their head, and then a paragraph or two later that specific question is answered.

Prospects may have concerns about whether the product is right for a certain type of business or person, whether there is a guarantee, can the product be used to solve a specific problem, how about size, shape, color, endurance, relevance, timeliness, applicability, quality, compatibility, ease of use, etc. All of these characteristics may relate to questions or concerns your potential new customer has about your product and when your sales copy directly answers their question a feeling of satisfaction will wash over them.

Yes, this is the right product for me because they know what I want and what situation I am in. I now have justification to buy.

That’s the feeling you want to elicit in a person when they read your sales page. If you can anticipate all of the common questions asked by a typical consumer of your product you will increase your conversion rate.

How To Anticipate Questions

If you are very close to your product and know your market well initially you should be able to come up with a handful of typical questions and roadblocks that prospects may go through in their head before buying. You must address these questions in your sales copy.

There are also standard responses or triggers – questions that the majority of consumers ask themselves before buying that sales copy can address, which professional copywriters will include in almost every sales page. Things like the money back guarantee, examples/case studies/testimonials from other people just like you who have had great results with your product, help to remove psychological barriers to making the purchase. I’m not a professional copywriter though, so if you want more assistance you might want to try Michael Fortin or Dan Kennedy or John Carlton.

A good copywriter can step into any industry and anticipate the questions that people will ask about a product after spending time researching the market. It’s something that is not easy to do. Personally I know the industries I work and play in well enough because I do it every day but there is no way I could write effective sales copy for different industries without first researching a lot about the needs and intricacies of the client-base in that industry. That’s one of the distinguishing factors that separates the good copywriters from the average – their innate (and refined through research) ability to understand the marketplace.

In your case you should at least know your market well enough to brainstorm potential questions to get yourself started. All you need to do is step into the shoes of your customer and think about what they may be concerned with before buying. If you can’t do this, put a survey out and ask – get the data straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak. If you can anticipate the concerns of your prospects and address them during the sales process you will increase your conversion rate. It’s as simple as that – but of course, test it to be sure ;-).

Yaro Starak
Copywriting Drone

This post is © Yaro Starak 2006 and originally published at You may reproduce this article by permission only. Contact Yaro for details.

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  • Spot on article Yaro. (With some laughs along the way – the “Nice.” comment after it was explained that the planes/hosptals weren’t affected made me chuckle)

    Anticipating and answering questions in my copy is something I must focus on!

  • Always happy to provide a chuckle StrangeProgress, but it’s even better if I can figure out a way to teach something at the same time.

  • Regarding your intro to your “lesson” I too am a TV addict. So bad that I actually don’t watch much. If I start, I will watch until my wife SHOUTS from the room that it’s time to sleep. And, I can’t do anything in front of an “on” television. I’ve tried.

    So, I get out Google Reader and read all my posts. Not much hand movement needed, and I feel like I’m learning (or laughing at Scott Adams) while I eat.

    Speaking of which, I’m off to get something to eat… 😉 Nice article.

  • Jon

    I spend every lunch watching:
    3 minutes of wacky humor. Then there’s always BT if you want to bend the law a little bit 🙂
    My bet is that you’ll become a real Canuck like me: TV tuner card & Cablevision on the computer…two addictions in one!

  • Nice work in turning that story into an article! I used to not have a TV while eating but because we got an extension to our house, the TV is near the kitchen “bar” (open plan house).

    Anyway, I like watching football/sports but my parents want me to widen my boundaries by watching the news. Not exactly humourous material – but at least Im learning something.

    Thanks for the insight into your life Yaro!

  • Ech, don’t watch the news Adnan – it’s all bad and highly depressing but since we respond well in terms of ratings to negative sensation news isn’t likely to change to a more positive focus anytime soon.

    So are we all hungry now? 🙂

    Thanks for the comments guys…

  • Oh thanks for letting me know about RobotChicken as well Yaro! Its got some hilarious moments – gotta love a parody of all my childhood icons.

    Trouble is, with my new found self employment, I have to try and maintain a systematic approach to remaining productive – during which time I’m being bombarded by new robotic chicken comedies!

    (All part of the Aussie masterplan to keep us Kiwi’s down! 😉 )

  • “Ech, don’t watch the news Adnan – it’s all bad and highly depressing but since we respond well in terms of ratings to negative sensation news isn’t likely to change to a more positive focus anytime soon.”

    Yeah so true. In fact most of the headlines that I heard yesterday dinner time were depressing murder/rape/war stories. But I can’t say that it doesnt have an effect on my parents, otherwise they wouldn’t be watching it.

    Maybe its time that we all started reporting on the positive things that happen in the world. Hopefully I’ll see more inspirational stories on the news tonight – I doubt it though.

  • Yaro,

    You might be able to get away with a good indoor antenna and a good TV card if you’re suffering from those withdrawals. But if you’re staying only for a year, it might not be worth it. Still it could be a good resource for people who are thinking like you

    I’ve gone cable-less (too distracting) and whenever I need my Simpsons fix and all those other shows (no Robot Chicken though), the 5 free TV channels I can get are good enough.

  • Nice article Yaro! Good to see how your experience in watching a movie relates to anticipating client queries and answeing them in your copy. But to tell you frankly, there are customers like me who do not like mile long copies and who hate to see customer testimonials on a site even before the product is released.

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