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Kirk Williams
Ad Creative Strategy

Using Questions to Create Doubt in PPC Ads

Using Questions to Create Doubt in PPC Ads

10/25/19 UPDATE: Hello Facebook Agency Visitor Person!  We’re delighted to have you visit this awesome post. About a year ago, ZATO stopped offering Facebook Ads solutions so we could focus solely on what we do best: Google Ads. Because of this, we’re always interested in partnerships with great Social Advertising agencies (like yourself, wink wink!) and we offer referral fees for signed clients!  Anyway, back to it, and happy reading…

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What Would You Be Missing If You Didn't Read This Post?

I have gotten to know my father-in-law quite well in the last decade (I've been married for 16 years now! WOWZA I'm getting old).  My father-in-law is possibly the best salesman I have ever met; but the funny thing is if you met him, you would never, ever have guessed that.

He is quiet, good-natured, and easy going.  He doesn't sell by forcing insurance policies down throats.  He sells by genuinely taking interest in people, identifying their genuine need, and through much relationally-minded discussion involving a lot of questions, identifying how his service can help them.  

Now, this is nothing new.  In fact, refreshingly, I've seen more and more books and articles on moving away from the crazy, high-pressured used-car salesperson mentality.  High pressure sales people tend to do lots of talking.  

They tend to talk about themselves a lot.  "Here's what I can do for you." "Here's why our company is the best" "Here's why we rock."

ME ME ME ME....Ok, Me Monster break...

Unfortunately, I think we as PPCers can be guilty of this as well.

If our target audience were groupies already obsessed with our company image, then those ads that just talk about our company might work well.

As you've probably noticed, when someone searches for [carpet cleaning] and every single ad tells them how amazing that carpet cleaning company is... then which is the customer going to choose, and why would they trust any of them if they're all making the same, generic, BBB rated claims?

I want us to start kicking our ads up a notch.  It's time to take a page out of my father-in-law's sales book in identifying what the customer actually wants, and then using techniques like questions to lead them to make their own decision.

Aside from the few customers that can actually be pressured or lied into a sale (and that's not a loyal customer), a customer will buy when she decides that she is good and ready to buy.  

How do questions work into this?  

A question helps lead a customer into making the decision herself to investigate your company by clicking on your ad. Here are some examples for how we can use questions better in our ads to create doubt in the customer's mind and get them genuinely interested in what we're selling.  

I admit, I'm still trying to improve in this area as well, so these ads are suggestions.  Hopefully they spur your brain on to think of even better questions to ask in ads for your clients!

(1) Create doubt about their competition.

There are ways to openly attack your competition, but this can be risky (as I've written about here: Stop Marketing For Your Competition).  Rather, consider using a question to help the prospective customer doubt your competition.  Using the "carpet cleaning" company example, perhaps you could think of some questions similar to this one:

Get Passive Aggressive (it's okay here!)

I love the angle on this one.  Someone submits a contact form to the agent who responds: "Huh.  Your current agent doesn't offer a free employee seminar to make sure you are all happy with your coverage?  Weird, well let me tell you about what I offer my clients..."  

You could probably find ways of tweaking it even more (especially to make it more understandable), but you get the idea.

(2) Create doubt about their current situation.

This is similar to the competition ads, but you are trying to get them to think about their current situation by drawing them to think about what is lacking.  Many times, if we just point out how someone is lacking we are seen as arrogant, too aggressive, etc (sometimes that's because we are).

However, if we can ask a question that causes the customer to consider on their own and come to their own conclusion about how they are lacking, then they will be looking for someone to help them in that area.  Examples: Ad for a PPC Marketing Agency

Ad for an online MBA program (Note: the stats in this are completely made up, I have no idea if/how much an MBA increases salary. It is just for the purpose of illustrating the direction one could choose to go in creating an ad.  For the record, don't lie in your ads.).

Let me be the first to admit, this is really hard for me to do. Thinking up questions that genuinely get at the heart of why a customer would want to buy from your client is genuinely difficult.  It's why those unicorn ads are so difficult to find, but as we keep growing with our clients and experimenting with more and more clever ways to identify and encourage customer interaction, we will likely see a direct correlation in the profitability of those campaigns.

What about you?  

Have any tweaks to add to the examples I shared?  

Any success you've seen with questions in ads?  

Tweet them to me here: @PPCKirk

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Kirk Williams
@PPCKirk - Owner & Chief Pondering Officer

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search & Social PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing since 2009. His personal motto (perhaps unhealthily so), is "let's overthink this some more."  He even wrote a book recently on philosophical PPC musings that you can check out here: Ponderings of a PPC Professional.

He has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero 6 years in a row (2016-2021), has written articles for many industry publications (including Shopify, Moz, PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, and Microsoft), and is a frequent guest on digital marketing podcasts and webinars.

Kirk currently resides in Billings, MT with his wife, six children, books, Trek Bikes, Taylor guitar, and little sleep.

Kirk is an avid "discusser of marketing things" on Twitter, as well as an avid conference speaker, having traveled around the world to talk about Paid Search (especially Shopping Ads).  Kirk has booked speaking engagements in London, Dublin, Sydney, Milan, NYC, Dallas, OKC, Milwaukee, and more and has been recognized through reviews as one of the Top 10 conference presentations on more than one occasion.

You can connect with Kirk on Twitter or Linkedin.

In 2023, Kirk had the privilege of speaking at the TEDx Billings on one of his many passions, Stop the Scale: Redefining Business Success.

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