Using Questions to Create Doubt in PPC Ads

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I have gotten to know my father-in-law quite well in the last few years. 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, than 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 to start kicking my 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 cowed or lied into a sale (and that’s not a loyal customer), a customer will buy when she decides that she is 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:

ppc carpet cleaning example deal

Go Full-on Passive Aggressive

I love the angle on this one. Someone submits a contact form to the agent who responds: “What? Your current agent doesn’t offer a free employee seminar to make sure you are all happy with your coverage? Huh, 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.

adwords competition ad example

(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 (note, I actually used a question similar to this in my, admittedly amateur, previous business cards I created in February 2013, see below):

your customers are online ppc campaign

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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.).

fake mba example for ppc ad

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: