In the world of business-changing insights, words matter and powerful questions can lead to answers that completely transform a business. They create a demand for change and for choice.

A marketer might ask questions like:

“How can we grow in urban Canada?”

“Everyone is growing in urban Canada and we’re behind – how do we catch up?”

But those are the wrong questions. Is winning in urban Canada the right strategy for your brand? In most cases, yes, it is. But, what if your business is actually better suited to winning in rural Canada? Should you burn all of your resources catching up in urban Canada, or pick off the low-hanging fruit and invest the rest in strategies that increase your dominance in rural Canada where your formula is already successful today? Being prescriptive in question-asking, whether consciously or unconsciously, closes doors too early and can lead marketers and their brands down the wrong path.

Too often, we choose questions that let the tail wag the dog.

For transformations to be sustainable, marketers need to:

  • Identify all the ways a brand might grow
  • Align and focus efforts on the right way for a brand to grow

This happens by asking the right open-ended questions. Open-ended questions put more hypotheses on the table, create more paths to success, and increase your odds of making the best decisions. Powerful, open-ended questions put marketers and their brands on offence. Weighing the options and aligning on a way forward engages key stakeholders in the decision-making process. It engages and empowers key stakeholders by ensuring they have skin in the game – that their voice is heard, they understand the trade-offs, and they are committed to the decision.

So what are the four types of business-changing questions?

Questions that create clarity: Questions that create clarity help people to understand motivations and the reasons why behind something. They ensure those around you are clear on where they are going.

  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • What does success look like?
  • What do we know, what don’t we know, and what we do we think?
  • If you had no information, what would you do?

Questions that define strategy: Once you are clear on where you’re going, you need to ask the right questions to guide strategy. These questions are the core of business-changing insights because they are the ones with the most transformational power.

  • What business are we really in?
  • How should we grow?
  • Who must we win with?
  • What are we the very best in the world at?
  • How does the business make money?

Questions that drive action: Questions that drive action help to build a clear speech. They put you on the front foot.

  • What actions will we take?
  • What’s the right thing to do?
  • If you do this, what will you not do?

Questions that build trust: Questions that build trust help in establishing and sustaining strong business relationships. It’s lonely at the top and it can be hard to know who you can trust. But, having a strong network of trusted relationships with your work peers is critical to your success in business. These questions keep you honest and position you to learn rather than tell, and they demonstrate your care for and genuine interest in others.

  • What keeps you up at night?
  • Where do you spend your time?
  • Where do you want to be a year from now?
  • How can I help you most?

With these questions ready in your back pocket, tou’re now ready to generate powerful questions that will create more paths to success, and increase your odds of making the best decisions.

Ready to learn more? See how we used the Triple CTM framework to help Sport Chek Start a Retail Revolution. Or, learn how we helped M&M Food Market breath new life into their brand by understanding who to win with, defining a compelling, differentiated brand promise, and overhauling the customer experience.