Just the FAQ's: Why a FAQ is One of Your Hardest Working Marketing ToolsJay Lipe
June 24, 2010 — 1,456 views
FAQ pages are quickly becoming a standard convention for service firm websites. But in this article I’d like to broaden your appreciation of a FAQ page to what I believe it really is: a high-return, low-cost marketing tool that can address a broad range of marketing, sales and service tasks.
Reasons every service firm should have a FAQ page
- A FAQ helps potential buyers educate and prequalify themselves – As visitors land on your site, some of them naturally wish to learn how your capabilities can help them. Enter the FAQ. With an eye towards creating FAQs that anticipate and answer a prospects most pressing questions, you can actually move the sales dialogue along—without committing any labor to the selling process. For example, if your FAQ page features questions like "What is the profile of a best fit client for your firm?", “What kinds of projects does your firm specialize in?” and “What do you typically charge for a project?” you can both educate and prequalify prospects with your FAQ.
- A content-rich FAQ page reduces demands on your support staff- FAQ pages evolved from a product manufacturer’s need to free up their customer service staffs from routine customer questions. By surfing a FAQ page for questions and answers, a potentially confused (thus potentially dissatisfied) customer could find the answer to their question and not burden your service staff. The same principle applies to any service firm. The easier you make it for prospects and buyers to serve themselves, the more satisfied they become working with your firm.
- A FAQ acts as a great internal training device - Imagine the HR director for your firm who is training a roomful of new hires. Imagine that as part of her standard orientation, she calls up your firm’s FAQ page online and walks the new recruits through each FAQ. In a matter of 20 minutes, she can educate recruits on the most fundamental marketing and service issues of your firm such as “What makes our firm different from all others in the market?” and “Who do I go to if I have a service problem?”, and as a result train a new group of marketing ambassadors.
- A FAQ page can help optimize your website’s internal links – If you look at Amazon’s Investor Relations page (http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=97664&p=irol-faq ), you’ll see that not only does it provide answers to the most relevant questions, but it also provides relevant internal links back to sections of the Amazon site—in other words, Google Juice.
The most common questions to include in your FAQ, and how to group them
Kick off your FAQ page by saying: Below is a list of questions we are frequently asked. Click on each question in order to get the answer. Feel free to contact us with any additional questions at (800) 555-1212 or [email protected]
Follow this with FAQs that are lumped together into logical groupings. The first of these is…
FAQs that answer prospect questions
Prospective clients have very different questions about your firm versus clients. Most prospect questions revolve around why they should do business with your firm. Here are some standard FAQs in this area:
- Why would my organization need to hire an architectural firm (or marketing agency, or engineering firm, or consulting firm)?
- What does an architectural firm (or marketing agency, or engineering firm, or consulting firm) do
- How is (Your firm) different from all other firms in your industry?
- What's the profile of an ideal client for (Your firm)?
- What reasonable outcomes can I expect from working with (Your firm)?
- Why would I choose (Your firm) over one of the larger firms?
- What do you charge? How do you bill? What are your terms?
- Do you guarantee your work?
- What steps are necessary before we can start working together?
FAQs that answer course-of-business questions
FAQs can also be used to manage relationships with clients well after the ink has dried on the contract. Another set of FAQs should deal with the common questions clients have during the course of working on a project with your firm.
These course-of-business FAQs include:
- Who is assigned to our account?
- How often do we meet? Where do we meet?
- What are our responsibilities during the project?
- What are your responsibilities during the project?
- Where do I go to get my service issues addressed?
- How often will our company meet with yours during the project?
- What recourse do we have to terminate a relationship once our work begins?
- What options do we have to continue working with you after the project is complete?
How to find the answers to FAQs that stump you
If you don’t have all the answers to FAQs at your fingertips, you might try these avenues to find more information:
- Sales and customer service field reps
- Sales reports
- Customer service feedback forms
- Customer service phone recordings
- Company chat room responses
- Company blog comments.
If your firm produces a consumer product, you may even uncover some unique consumer questions residing on consumer feedback sites like E-pinions.com (www.epinions.com ). For one of my clients – a national lawn and garden manufacturer – I unearthed some terrific testimonial quotes for one of their products when I searched the brand name at Epinions.com.
If you can’t find enough FAQ information using these, why not take this opportunity to reach out to your clients? You could email a smattering of your best clients with an email that goes something like this:
We at (Your firm) are developing a FAQ page for our website and are wondering if we could get your input. Would you have time to answer two brief questions?:
1. What were the most common questions you had about our firm before becoming a client?
2. What kinds of questions do you routinely ask about our firm after becoming a client?
Your Firm, Inc.
You’d be surprised how many people will actually help you when you reach out to them for help like this.
Some tips on formatting your FAQ page
In my view, FAQ’s work best when each FAQ leads off with a question. It’s now a standard convention to write FAQs this way. However, Google Reader’s FAQ page (http://www.google.com/help/reader/publishers.html) doesn’t follow this format and I find the page a bit more difficult to navigate.
If your page has just a few FAQs on it, five or less, just list the questions with the responding answer in random order on the page and let visitors scroll to find the FAQ they’re looking for. But if your firm has more than five FAQ’s, start off with a “table of contents” that lists all the questions in a hyperlink format. Then, after the visitor clicks on the question they want answered, they dynamically jump to the answer further down on the page.
For those pages with multiple FAQs, consider sequencing your FAQs. Chronologically sequencing your FAQs means that the first FAQs would deal with prospect questions they want answered before doing business with you. The next section of FAQ’s would cover the stage of signing a contract with your firm. And the last section might deal with common post-sale FAQs.
When writing the FAQs themselves, I’ve found that formatting the questions differently from the answers (e.g. italicizing the question and using a standard font for the answer) is a handy way for the reader to distinguish between the two parts of every FAQ.
Categorizing a whole bunch of FAQs
When you arrive at the IRS’s FAQ page (http://www.irs.gov/faqs/index.html), you’re confronted with hundreds of frequently asked questions (I have about a hundred myself). How do they organize and categorize all these FAQs? Quite well, I think. They group their hundreds of FAQs by category, subcategory and even by keyword.
Another service organization, the U.S. Copyright Office, sorts all its FAQs by major subheading http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/ . So, if you have a question about registering your work, you scroll down to the heading marked “Registering a Work”. Then under that heading you’ll find over 15 specific FAQs including “How do I register my copyright?”, “Where can I get application forms?” and “Can I file online?”
One thing I’d like to see more on FAQ pages is a question at the very end of the FAQ page that says “Didn’t find the FAQ you were looking for? Email us and we’ll consider adding it”. In this age of Web 2.0 why not reach out to your market and seeks its opinion?
Henry Kissinger once said “Any fact that needs to be disclosed should be put out now because otherwise the bleeding will not end.” I’d like to alter that slightly to read “Any FAQ should be put out now so the buying can begin”. If you’re like most service firms I work with, you struggle every day to generate marketing tools that are low cost, high ROI: ones that move a buyer to a sale, and keep current clients by strengthening the relationship. Consider adding a FAQ page to your marketing toolkit because it can do all this and more.
Jay Lipe, president of EmergeMarketing.com, has helped hundreds of small businesses and Fortune 500 clients grow through strategic marketing plans and programs. He’s also the author of a new e-book How to Write a Marketing Plan That Wins New Clients and Grows Your Business which can be found at http://www.emergemarketing.com/marketing-plan-ebook/. Sign up for his free e-newsletter “Marketing Tips & Tools” at www.emergemarketing.com, or contact him at [email protected]