Young Child looking through Magnifying Glass

The most common question in the world is: What is this? Kids ask it at least ten times a day. And you ask it quietly in your mind every time you encounter something new, like land on a new webpage or open an email from a new contact.

What is this? – Moment is a great opportunity to tell a story that engages the inquirer and answers her question in a way that exceeds her expectations and creates relevance and meaning to her. The opportunity could not get much better, since the person asking is willingly 100% focused on you and your answer. If you succeed, you might be able to start a new relationship. If not, she is going to ask about the next thing.

How to answer to: What is this?

Objective: To start a new relationship. (If not – no need to answer.) Side note: A brand is something that has a relationship with a substantial amount of people. So if you are looking to build a brand, you are looking to create relationships.

Setting the expectations: Even before you start to answer the question, the recipient has set her expectations about you based on your look and feel. This is an integral part of the answer. You want to set the expectations towards you and your answer to intrigued and moderately hopeful to deliver maximum satisfaction for the inquirer by exceeding her expectations. So pass those attributes along to your designer. When you start to become confident and experienced in your storytelling you can start to mess with the expectations to create an experience that really stands out. But for starters, try to create intrigue and some hope of delivering something.

Your tone: Anyone who has been married, or has had a parent, knows that tone of voice is the part of the message that sets its urgency and priority. The tone that you think would work, will not necessarily work with the people you want. Luckily the web is a perfect place to test it. Try out a tone. Then look at your small data. If you are lucky to have big data, look at the small data within it. By small data I mean a behavior path in a real human encounter and its results. In addition to your pricing, your tone of voice is a very good tool for you to actually select the people you want to have relationships with.

Engage: Engagement is something everyone wants from a relationship. Your answer needs to be engaging because it is a sample of the engagement of the relationship you are offering. If you cannot answer in an engaging way, I expect that in the future you won’t engage me either. I don’t want an idle relationship to use up my limited mental energy.

Answering the question: You must not recite information, nor specs or the features of whatever this is at this point. Tell a short story about the problem this solves and why and how it solves it, and what is unique and really special about it (this part can include a few key features). Then tell simply how to use it, try it or buy it.

This is how to answer next time someone asks you: What is this? It happens every time someone new arrives to your website or gets a message about a new subject from you. Grown ups just don’t ask it out loud.

Antti Sipilä

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