The Case Against Client Input Forms

B Y   T O M   T O R T O R I C I

Sure, it’s easy to direct a prospect or new client to answer a bunch of questions in an online Input Form. Web designers, copywriters, and other marketing specialists often employ this tool, perhaps, to avoid the effort of having to talk to anyone.

As if making things easier on themselves was the main point of the exercise.

While written forms might make sense for gathering certain types of basic information, it is no substitute for an open, two-way conversation between the agency contact and the company contact. Especially in the crucial initial phases of the relationship.

That relationship is more likely to be strengthened during a scheduled phone or video call, where the agency person asks many of the same prepared questions – but can also now customize those queries for that specific prospect. 

But here’s the real difference: the questions are considered to be just a starting point. The astute interviewer can pick up on information or an exchange that shows unexpected promise, and dig deeper. In other words, they can ask follow-up questions that weren’t on the original list.

Let’s say that in the course of this open-ended conversation, the company contact casually mentions some value-added practice or approach. From their perspective, that was just how they did things; no big deal. But from a marketing perspective, it may point to a genuinely beneficial advantage that none of their competitors can match.

So the agency person digs deeper, and ends up making that unique benefit the core message of the company’s marketing. It naturally resonates with their target market, which propels the company to new heights of success.

Would any of this happened if the agency had used a written Input Form instead of a live personal interview? Pretty unlikely. That ‘unique benefit’ would probably have gotten buried in the middle of a handful of brief bullet points somewhere.

For savvy marketing pro’s, the process is kind of like mining. You have to dig deep to unearth the gems; recognize them even in raw form; then cut and polish them to outshine all the vague and common marketing cliches that otherwise pervade the company’s marketplace.

In any case, expect the first hour of your interview with the client to be filled with these superficial, off-the-top-of-their-head answers. But by continuing to ask the same strategic questions, in slightly different form, it forces the interviewee to think it through on a deeper level.

A smart interviewer will also ask the client to answer questions from the point-of-view of their own customers. That client will hesitate and perhaps stumble a bit as they redirect their thinking. But what comes out of that exchange just might be pure marketing gold. Because finally, we’re getting into how buyers actually see buying issues, not just how the sellers see them.

That’s important, because while this is the company’s website, the company is not the intended audience.

It’s been my professional experience that it’s often the second hour of the input session where the good stuff really starts to come out. Yes, it can be a slog, but it’s almost always worth it.

For initial ‘intro’ calls with prospects, a bit of verbal back-and-forth makes it easier for that prospect to imagine working with that agency person, because, well, they’ve already started.

Once again, here’s the big question: Would any of this marketing magic happen, if the main means of input is a coldly impersonal standard written form?

You know enough now to answer that yourself.


Looking for a marketing magician who will ask  the right questions? Get in touch.


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Tom TortoriciAbout the Author:  Tom Tortorici is an Atlanta copywriter and web content writer who helps companies make a genuine connection with their audience. His classes and conference presentations have focused on how writing, strategy and design can work together to grab attention and interest even among readers with short attention spans. In addition to working directly with businesses, Tom regularly partners with web designers and marketing agencies.

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Tom Tortorici Inc. | | 770-934-7861 | 3101 Rockaway Rd | Atlanta GA 30341