Why thoughtful questions are so important during a branded content pitch

By: David Arkin
February 26, 2024
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Recently, I was reminded again why it’s so powerful to ask questions before just jumping in and pitching your product.

A client had set up a host of Zoom sessions with advertisers who they believed were a good fit for their branded content program. They were all small business owners in areas like dining, furniture and auto repair.

I have written previously about the kinds of questions you should ask advertisers when doing a sponsored content story, but today I want to center on why thoughtful questions are so critical during the pitch to get them to buy.

The advertisers who we were visiting all had or were currently doing marketing in one way or another with the media company I was presenting for. But regardless if you know the advertiser well or not, getting them talking right off the bat warms them up and provides you with really important information as you go through your pitch.

One advertiser told us about a new product they were introducing and another shared a challenge they were having with one of their services that they wanted to bring more attention to.

That information was helpful because it made our pitch more specific and as an advertiser starts sharing information about their business you get a sense of the tone they probably want to hit with their content. Basically, you get to know them as a person. That is all really beneficial as you pitch different portions of your program because you can bring it back to what’s important for them and also what will fit their style.

For example, I could tell one advertiser was going to want to be the face of the campaign and share his background and expertise, while another was going to want to be in the background. My questions definitely helped uncover that.

There a few points that I think may be useful for others:

1. The kinds of questions:I typically ask an advertiser to tell me what they are trying to market right now and what is important to them. If time permits, I will also ask what’s hard right now. These questions help me identify themes, but also how many of the programs the media company has can help them achieve their goals.

2. Pitching stories:While you don’t have to get into incredible detail on the kinds of stories you might do in this meeting, the above questions can help you toss out a story idea or two that could be part of the campaign. If you listen, you’ll be able to tie the idea back to what they said at the start.

3. Address what they can’t do:The idea that a professional writer will be working with them, not to just figure out the story, but actually write it, is one of the most powerful points to make during a presentation. When discussing some of the content ideas, I’ll often mention how a writer will identify the right stories to write, do research and interview them. Understanding there is a process goes a long way.

Content strategists can play a really important and powerful role in pitching branded content to an advertiser. Doing this with the sales associate is key. There is already a relationship there that the advertiser is comfortable with and allows for even more programs to be discussed based on the advertiser’s interest.

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