Precision questioning is the shortcut to smarter work

Everyone wants to get more out of their team. More focus, better efficiency, less rework, better results, faster decisions, smarter decisions. What if you could get there by sharpening only one skill?

Shitty questions, you’re out. Precision questions, suit up!

Recognizing the symptoms of bad questioning is the first step.

You left a meeting with more new questions than answers. You went back to the drawing board on a project after receiving clarification instead of approval. You met with your team for an hour but you still don’t have the information you need.

Guess what? It’s not them. It’s you.

Clear, focused questions attract concise, targeted answers.

When you lack the best information, you didn’t ask the best questions. Vervago’s Precision Questioning framework is a common sense approach to sharing knowledge. It’s all about getting to the heart of the matter by asking purposeful and directive questions.

These are the five we focus on the most:

We ask go or no-go questions to make for more productive meetings. When a tangent threatens to derail the conversation, decide if it’s really relevant to your meeting’s purpose. Should we tackle this issue right now or take it offline?

We use basic critical questions to make sure our conversations have proper context. Fill in gaps with specific questions where you spot knowledge gaps. What happened to trigger this? When did this start? It’s important to understand unknowns earlier rather than later. Unknowns become action items.

Clarifying questions make for deeper understanding. Find real meaning in vague terms. Instead of asking why something has improved, ask for direct clarity. In what ways did it improve over last time? What does this metric show?

By drilling into root causes, we gain better control of outcomes next time. It’s time to eradicate surface level thinking. Go one inch deeper and watch your team sharpen their critical thinking skills too.

We tee up the best next outcomes with action questions. We have all this great information, now what can we do? What next steps can each person take and by when?

Let’s give these ideas some context.

You need feedback on a presentation deck.

Instead of asking: What do you think of the approach I took with this deck?

Try asking: Do you find the lead-in exciting enough to keep paying attention? Do you think a set of fresh eyes would have enough information about X to make a decision about Y?  Would you change anything specific to make it tell a better story?

You’re leading the charge to define your brand voice.

Instead of asking: How would you describe our brand’s tone of voice?

Try asking: If our brand was a person, what would their personality be like? You mentioned funny, but are they silly or witty? By smart, do you mean intelligent, wise, brainy, or bright? Is their writing and speech formal or do they often use slang?

Your team is analyzing a campaign’s performance.

Instead of asking: Why is this campaign underperforming?

Try asking: Which KPIs are you measuring? Is performance gauged by certain benchmarks or by comparison to a previous campaign? Was anything done differently this time in terms of targeting, budget, bid strategy, or the landing page? Could there have been external factors at play such as the timing (seasonality, holidays, cycles) or new noise within the industry?

Great ideas are regular ideas that have been pressure tested.

In the end, we all want to have great ideas that translate into great work. This doesn’t happen by chance. Better questioning is a skill you can start developing in your next conversation. So when you go home tonight, don’t ask your spouse why they never take a turn unloading the dishwasher. Get to the heart of it and start coming home to an empty dishwasher. What other tasks get in the way of you unloading the dishwasher? Would setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier give you more time? Do you need a refresher on where certain things go?


Design Resources We Love!

We know that designers are always on the prowl for the best design tools to help them get their work done. With Valentines Day coming up, we thought it would be the perfect time to highlight some faithful design resources we love. They may not be new to the web, but have always been the most helpful and efficient resources we’ve come across. After all when you find the “right one” you never let it go.


Niice screen design resourceNiice is a visual search engine made for designers. It allows you to search for inspiration across the web’s top design sources, such as Behance and Dribble. Easily search for inspiration on the main “stream” page or create customizable moodboards with the drag-and-drop interface. Moodboards can be shared and downloaded for team collaboration or used independently. Niice also features a Chrome extension so you can grab and save images as you browse the web.

Palette Creator

Palette Creator Design ResourceCreating a colour scheme with photography can be one of the most effective methods to ensure your design evokes the right emotion. It can also be one of the most time consuming. It can take hours of web browsing, downloading, and eye dropping. Palette Creator makes it fast and easy with its Chrome extension. Simply right-click the image, select the Palette Creator option, and choose the number of colours for your palette. Pick the colour mode you’re working in and save them to your clip board, or move on to another image. No commitment necessary.


Typography Design ResourceJeremiah Shoaf launched Typewolf back in 2013 because he was frustrated by the lack of useful resources available for typography. Typewolf identifies the fonts used in some of the most inspiring type-centric designs across the web, making it easier to pick beautiful font combinations for your own creations. Typewolf even provides useful guidelines and resources about typography to keep designers educated and inspired. It’s one of the most recognizable and useful typography related resources on the web.

These are just a few design resources we’ve come to trust, and as much as we love them we’ll always open our hearts up for more. So if you have any suggestions or recommendations about your own faithful design resources we’d love to hear about them!

Download on Digital Marketing

Download on Digital Marketing: January 2017

What’s new in digital marketing? The answer is always “everything”. In a world that is constantly changing, we’re making it easy to stay on top of the latest updates.

This Month in Digital Marketing…

Google refused to give up on Google+
The search giant announced a handful of changes for the service, including hiding “low-quality” comments, adding zoom functionality, bringing back its events feature, and killing the classic design.

Facebook launched the Journalism Project
The project will create deeper relationships with publishers, including giving early access to new tools and features.

Snapchat launched universal search to simplify navigation
Snapchat just made it much easier to find friends, groups, and brands with a universal search bar that’s always accessible at the top of the app.

Google Voice got its first big update in five years, adds new UI and features
Google Voice – their call and text app for the US – got a modern UI, Direct Reply support, and MMS photo support.

Instagram turned up the heat on Snapchat with video ads in ‘stories’
Instagram rolled out full-screen, auto-playing video ads to the stories feature. Brands are excited.

Snapchat’s cracked down on content
Snapchat doubled down on its efforts as a media platform by cracking down on clickbait and banning explicit images. Facebook did it. Will Twitter follow?

Google introduced search data into its YouTube targeting model
Google announced big changes to its targeting model, allowing advertisers to target YouTube ads based on people’s search histories.

Subscribe to the Download on Digital Marketing email

Find this helpful? Subscribe and we’ll come directly to your inbox with the need-to-know of digital marketing each month.


Stop! Don’t Talk to a Marketing Agency Without These Things

So maybe you need a marketing agency. Instinct tells you to get a conversation started ASAP. But there are some things you need to be ready with first.

Try prepping with these three things:

Go Beyond Goals to Gaps

In the first conversation, a marketing agency will help define your goals. The best agencies will go one step further and ask questions about your marketing gaps as well.

Talking about marketing goals is important. Don’t get us wrong. But discussing gaps can get to the heart of the most pressing issues. It’ll guide your agency to tackle the things that make the biggest impact.

Have Realistic Timelines

Here’s how an initial conversation with a potential client sometimes goes:

We say: “When would you like your website launched?”

Potential client says: “Yesterday.”

We think: “Okay…”

Good marketing agencies have a process for doing great work. They need to do a proper discovery phase to learn the context of your business. They need to think critically and creatively about proposed solutions. There are cycles of collaborating, pitching, and getting feedback. All of this happens before marketing tactics or assets get launched. Great work needs time to happen.

Try to think of your marketing plans in six-month or one-year increments. Anything shorter and you’ll fall into the trap of thinking only tactically not strategically.

Cultivate C-Level Buy-In Sooner Rather Than Later

The earlier the client gets buy-in from their C-level execs the better. Proposals get complicated when a marketing manager needs a perfect plan before getting approval. But not all of the details need to be set before a top dog says “yes”.

The proposal process works best when it’s iterative. First, the agency will help you flush out the big picture. Then, the marketing manager gets buy-in on the potential objectives, deliverables, timelines, and budget. This is the time for an early check-in with the C-suite. Frame the conversation as an opportunity to gather their feedback before plans are formalized. Nothing has been set in stone yet.

The earlier you engage your execs, the better the proposal process will go with a marketing agency.

If you have these things in place, the proposal process will be a lot faster and more pleasant. In the end, your objectives are more likely to be met, less time will be wasted, and you’re more likely to make and save money for your business.