When we speak with prospective clients, it’s not uncommon for the starting question to be: “How can we grow more?” Driven by initial success in building customers and seeing revenue come in, there’s a natural desire to put fuel into the fire to see more topline volume.

As reasonable as this desire is (c’mon, who doesn’t want to make more!), the most meaningful course of action can’t be taken without assessing where the biggest opportunity area is. That’s why a few pointed questions at the onset can diagnose the most pressing issues and give you a clear path to move forward.

Key Questions To Diagnose The Biggest Marketing Or Sales Opportunities

We’re including below the actual questions we ask customers when we first get to know them. Since most people haven’t done marketing or sales for a living, asking questions like, “How good is your marketing strategy?” would lead us nowhere. After all, how can you assess your marketing strategy if you don’t even know what marketing strategy is?

That’s why we have simple questions that can be answered on a scale of one to ten. If people can answer the questions easily with objective examples, we know that area is a strength. However,  if someone is extremely hesitant or says, “I don’t know,” then we know we have an area we need to hone in on.

“How confident are you that you know why customers are exploring your product and choosing you over other options?”

What This Question Tells Us: It’s going to be next-to-impossible to get someone to buy your product, not matter how good it is, if you can’t explain why it’s so great and why they should want it. Without a thorough understanding of customer needs, wants, pain points, and personal or professional challenges, you’ll likely develop unremarkable messaging and marketing materials that will fall flat.

What To Do Next: Customer research is the typical course of action when there is limited understanding of who the core customer is. Depending on the underlying questions being asked, research can take a variety of forms including observational research, one-to-one interviews, and surveys. The end goal is to formulate concrete customer personas or segments, a strong understanding of business positioning and value propositions that will resonate with them, and good sense for where or how to market to them to catch their attention.

“How well are you able to differentiate yourself from competitors?”

What This Question Tells Us: Almost no customer makes a decision in a vacuum. They are often weighing multiple decisions and purchase opportunities. Businesses need to be prepared for this and be able to separate themselves from the pack. A weak understanding of competitor differentiation means a business hasn’t yet settled on what makes them unique and therefore what to do to increase the chances of their product or service being purchased.

What To Do Next: When organizations have a weak or limited understanding of their competitive landscape, let alone how they can set themselves apart, an ideal course of action is performing a competitive audit. Competitive audits are structured approaches to analyzing what competitors or tangential players are doing across their marketing activities. This can include examining paid advertising, branding and value propositions, use of content marketing, pricing and trial offers, path to conversions, and much more.

By having an objective way of visualizing what competitors are doing and how, you’ll be able to develop truly unique marketing and branding that differentiates you in a crowded territory.

“How confident are you that you have the right measurement protocols in place to track marketing activities?’

What This Question Tells Us: You should always have ways to know if your resources, be they time or money, or being used wisely. If an organization says they have weak measurement protocols it means they will never have a strong understanding of what’s working or not working. Therefore, they won’t know what to invest in more heavily and what to stop doing entirely.

What To Do Next: When there are weak tracking protocols in place, the step is to assess what, if any, tracking is happening. This is generally done by reviewing tracking tags within different marketing activities as well as ways to aggregate that tracking data. By developing a clear protocol for tracking implementation and measurement, you’ll have the foundations you need to “read” how well marketing activities are performing.

“Are you able to quantify how well your different marketing activities are doing and how valuable they are to your business?” 

What This Question Tells Us: This single question helps identify two unique things: if there is a consistent process in place for measuring marketing activity performance and is there is a sense for performance benchmarks. After all, it’s not enough to be able to track activities but you must be regularly looking at them to know what’s working and if they are worth it to the business.

What To Do Next: If they aren’t yet in place, develop the key metrics you want to be looking at on a weekly or monthly basis for each marketing activity. Additionally, it’ll be necessary to start setting performance benchmarks around ideal cost of acquisition and customer lifetime values. This will help create broader business benchmarks to see how well individual activities contribute to hitting business goals.

“How confident are you that optimization efforts are taking place in your acquisition/performance marketing?”

What This Question Tells Us: Organizations often outsource advertising efforts like Google Ads or running ads on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. While they can be extremely effective ways of growing your customer base, they are extremely expensive too. If not managed correctly you can waste money with no strong business results. If you don’t know what efforts are being taken to improve paid activities and optimize your spend, chances are they aren’t happening.

What To Do Next: If this a weak point, an ideal course of action is to perform a performance marketing audit.  There are a lot of components to setting up strong digital advertising—ad platform set up, advertising units, landing pages, nurturing process, etc. Performing an audit will help ground you in what these components are, how well they’re being managed, and what to do next to get the most out of our advertising spend.

“How would you rate your ability to nurture prospects or leads? 

What This Question Tells Us: What this question helps us dive into is whether a business is engaging with prospects on an ongoing basis to increase the chances of converting a new customer, and if they even have the resources in place to do so. The lack of these items points to lost long-term marketing opportunities and therefore lost opportunities to convert customers over time.

What To Do Next: Implementing strong marketing operations can tackle this issue directly. This means building user databases that allow for tracking user behavior over time (often with 3rd part software) and then developing and programming triggered messaging based on certain activities. By automating the process of tracking behavior and sending marketing content, individuals can be marketed to at the right times to increase the chance of them buying.

“How well defined are the stages in your sales process and the activities that should happen within them?”

What This Question Tells Us: We use this in B2B settings to understand if a business has a structured process in place for completing a sale, which includes everything from identifying if a prospect is even viable to determining how to work with them to get them to buy. Without this structure, we know businesses likely have poor sales processes in place and are limiting the potential for converting customers.

What To Do Next: When these processes are weak it means it’s time to implement a structured sales operation protocol. This includes defining the discrete stages a prospect must move through to become a customer, how you will determine if they have moved to that life stage, and what the business needs to do to increase the chances of moving prospects closer to being customers. When fully implemented, sales operations help streamline sales processes and show sales personnel how to best engage with prospects to close deals.

“How would you rate the visibility you have over sales activities?”

What This Question Tells Us: As we mentioned above, sales is a process. With clear visibility into each step of the process, you know what’s working and what’s not working. Additionally, if you have a sales team, good visibility means knowing which members are performing well and which ones need coaching. Lack of visibility means there are likely opportunities to improve the overall sales process and increase the speed at which customers convert as well as the actual number that convert.

What To Do Next: If this area is weak, it’s time to put stronger sales measurement processes in place. Usually facilitated with sales software, measurement processes let you assess what activities are being done by which team member, as well as track where prospects are in their path to becoming customers. This improved visibility enables better team coaching as well as ensures that any customers “stuck” at certain stages are properly worked on to increase the chance fo converting.

“How would you rate the resources / materials the sales team has to nurture opportunities?”

What This Question Tells Us: A well supported sales team is one that has the tools and resources it needs to convince prospects to buy your product or service. This can be everything from competitive data and price lists to fixed processes for executing product trials or submitting proposals. The absence of this content can make it difficult for sales members to fully engage prospects and therefore convert them to paying customers.

What To Do Next: A sales content audit can go a long way to identify what team members need to support their process. By going through each sales life stage and identifying typical barriers to moving down the funnel, you can identify what materials the team will need to support their efforts and convince prospects to move forward.


Next Steps: Isolate The Low Ranking Areas

After going through each question and rating it on a scale of one-to-ten, the next step is to begin isolating where the business is the weakest. This will, after all, be the place where spending incremental energy will likely bear out the strongest results.

But what if everything ranks as a 1 or a 2? Said another way, what if a business is relatively young and hasn’t begun to explore any of these areas?

If that’s the case, we usually say start from the top.  The questions above are ordered to address marketing strategy, marketing execution, marketing operations, and sales operations. By addressing each answer in this order, you set yourself up to begin building customer interest, having visibility into how your efforts are performing, and then creating processes to optimize everything you’re doing. It. creates a natural progression that helps organically support business growth over time.