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Honest Curiosity Is Key to Honestly Effective Marketing


I have been doing this marketing thing for longer than I would like to admit. I would be lying if I said it came naturally. The ability to understand a client’s industry, learn about it and then effectively develop a plan to market that company within that industry in a way that works is not “natural”.

It takes a lot of research, understanding buyer behaviors and listening. After years of working with companies from a variety of industries, particularly in fields I know nothing about, and also watching people new to the industry try to work with them, I have determined the key is just simply honest curiosity.

“Asking questions is hard for a lot of people. But, when we start asking questions, I have found clients truly appreciate the time taken.”

Think of the “How It’s Made” series and the strange sense of discovery you have when learning how everything from aluminum foil to canned corn is made. Apply this interest when meeting with a new company and you’re on your way.

Asking questions is hard for a lot of people. They feel they may appear stupid if they ask the wrong question. Especially in my field, we should be the expert, right? After all, they hired us to tell them how to market their business.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I am completely comfortable telling a new client or potential new client that I know absolutely nothing about cryorefrigeration, for example, or injection blow molding or even how exactly interest rates are determined for loan products.

However, when we start asking questions and being truly honestly curious about their process, how they sell it, who their customers are, their history, and all the intricate details of their industry I have found they truly appreciate the time taken and that I actually give a shit about what they do.

Quite frankly, how could I even do my job if I didn’t understand all of that. I can’t tell someone the best way to sell their product or service unless I have invested that time to understand all those things. And to understand all those things, I must have an honest curiosity. I must ask a lot of questions – sometimes to the point of annoyance.

“Ask your own questions. Be curious.”

Look, I’ll admit there is such thing as a stupid question, but you can’t be afraid to ask something that may sound dumb. There are nuggets of information to be mined from even the most innocuous – maybe even irrelevant – questions or comments. In my business, it’s the authenticity that matters most. Genuine interest produces the best research.

In order for this to work, of course, business owners and organization leaders need to be honest as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked a very successful owner of a company why his customers choose him or what makes his company different, and they don’t have an answer. Hey, that’s OK. In that case, let’s find out together. All of those questions and all of that research is what’s needed to develop a sound marketing strategy that actually works.

“In my business, it’s the authenticity that matters most. Genuine interest produces the best research.”

For those in the business, you may be saying “Yeah, duh, no kidding,” but I must ask if you are asking those questions with an honest curiosity or are you just checking off of a list of pre-determined questions you have on a document you created years ago or, better yet, some sales manager handed you. Ask your own questions. Be curious. Give a shit and that will make you actually care about this company you are about to represent. Be honest. Be creative.

About The Author

Travis arrived at ABC back in 1995, when photography was his main creative outlet. That passion evolved over the next decade as Travis began thinking beyond imagery and pitching his broader ideas and strategies to clients. It was the birth of the idea-based marketing philosophy: Getting to know the client inside out, learning about the successes and failures, then spinning that into an idea that could build a better outcome. That’s the cornerstone he’s built his creative-first agency on since buying the place in 2005. ABC has grown exponentially since then both in terms of people and clients. Local, regional, national, banking, destinations, nonprofits: Travis has greatly expanded services over the years to accommodate them all. He’s also assembled a talented team. Just like them, he’s greeted each morning by a simple reminder etched on the wall: “Create Cool Sh!t Today!” He’s proud to run the kind of agency that does.