Have you thought about the little things you say to your customers? The subtle sentiments behind your words that can take them from “just another meeting” to “game changer?” Did you know it can be as easy as showing them you care by asking the right questions up front?

But what are the right questions? Media Shower recently touched base with Jon-Mikel Bailey, President of Wood Street, Inc., to elaborate.

What is the difference between asking a customer “What are your needs?” versus simply asking what a business does?

This is all part of understanding their story. It’s the story they tell about their company that gets them excited and gets the hairs on their neck to stand straight up. We need to figure out how to translate that excitement into their marketing materials and online communications.

It’s easy to get stuck in boring corporate-speak and making sure you cover all the “main points” and please all the involved stakeholders. But it serves no purpose in today’s marketing. Organizations have to find ways to stand out in a sea of content – print, video, social, blogs, email, etc.

If we can help them to understand what gets them excited, what gets their audience excited, and where those two things intersect, we’ll know what to focus on. And we will achieve success!

When crafting the messaging and strategy for their website and other marketing, why is it important to know the client’s end user/target market?

You wouldn’t build a car and not consider the driver. The same applies to your marketing.

Ann Handley from Marketing Profs co-wrote one of my favorite books called Content Rules. I was featuring her in a presentation slide deck and needed a quote. I asked her to sum up the most important point of her book in one sentence. She said, “As yourself, ‘what marketing would my customer thank me for?'”

The simplicity of that question is brilliant. You can run everything you do that is customer-facing through this filter. “Will they thank me for this?” We operate in a world where those who offer the best utility are the winners.

If you know your audience and can turn them from visitors into fans/cheerleaders, your ROI will be exponential! Why? Because they buy, they refer, and they return!

When a company asks their customer, “What do you want to achieve today as well as in the future?” what can they actually help them accomplish “today?”

We want them to consider the reality of right now. Some get lost in thinking 5-10 years ahead. It’s great to prepare, but what about right now? What is happening right now? What’s working? What isn’t? What problems can we solve right away?

For example, let’s say you’re a business owner with a 5-ear old website. It has an outdated look, the content is stale, and it’s not optimized for mobile users. Those are three things you can resolve today.

1. Give the design an update. Use modern design and development best practices to improve the user’s experience.

2. The content might be stale because you cannot edit it yourself, which causies a content bottleneck. Move the site to a Content Management System like WordPress or Drupal.

3. Make the site responsive. Google wants you to do this and will no longer show sites in mobile searches that are not optimized for mobile.

Then there are the things you plan to implement in the future: a blog, podcast, product database, e-commerce, and so forth. We certainly want to consider those when redeveloping the website. But in phase one, let’s tackle the more immediate problems.

How are these questions so vital when putting together a project for a market?

If we aren’t talking about these things, then we’re just taking an order. “You want a new website? Great, which color?” What purpose does that serve? Be a utility. Be a resource. Be a hero.

How you deliver your content and that content’s value to the reader are so important today. Catchy jingles and flashy graphics no longer work, at least in the long term. Look at it this way:

· Old way = SEO; New way = Content Marketing: content that your target audience likes, shares, and converts into a client because of. Even better: New way = Utility Marketing.

· Old way = flashy design; New way = user experience: design and functionality combined to wow the audience and win them as clients and fans. They get something and so do you.

· Old way = glossy corporate brochures; New way = booklets with tips and other useful information that your audience will continue to return to again and again.

The old way was to impress. The new way is to empower.

Follow Jon-Mikel Bailey on Twitter!