The amazing power of FAQs

Whether it’s a web page or a document, the FAQ is one of the most powerful tools available to marketers and other communicators. It can strengthen your sales efforts, overcome resistance, minimize misunderstandings, and boost customer satisfaction. Best of all, you already know everything you need to develop yours.


I’m not sure who first created the FAQ (frequently asked questions) document or page, but I do hope I get the opportunity to thank her someday. (And yes, I’m pretty confident that it was a “her,” given the innate male reluctance to pose questions.) In the unlikely event that you’ve just awakened from a couple decades of suspended animation, an FAQ is a list of questions frequently asked by stakeholders such as customers, along with answers to those questions.


Generally, websites, brochures, and other communications tools take the place of one of your employees. They provide information to customers, prospects, and other stakeholders when you’re not around to do that. Most of the time, their information is promotional and focused on what you see as the key points. So what happens when those stakeholders don’t see all the information they need or have more questions? They could contact you, but that takes additional time and effort. By the time they do that, they may have already decided to do business with your competitor — or they may just forget all about it.


A well-crafted, thorough FAQ page or document fills the gap. Take a customer who is considering a purchase. She may be a bit hesitant and ask herself, “Well, what about …?,” and that question will create enough uncertainty to stop her from buying. But if she drifts over to your FAQ and sees her question along with your reply, you’ve instantly addressed and removed that hesitancy. You’ve turned a browser into a buyer.


If you kept a list of the questions you receive from prospects or customers, you’d determine that there were a dozen or so you hear again and again. In fact, you’re probably so tired of those questions that your answer sounds as bored as you feel when you deliver it. Those are exactly the kinds of questions that should end up in your FAQ. And, as customers and prospects spring new questions on you, you can add them to the FAQ, so it becomes even more effective over time.


It’s easy to develop an FAQ, but keep one critical point in mind: your FAQ cannot strengthen your sales efforts, overcome resistance, minimize misunderstandings, or boost customer satisfaction unless it’s completely candid and honest. An FAQ isn’t the place to duck tough subjects or hide behind weasel wording. That’s because your stakeholders are much better at spotting that kind of stuff than you realize. If they sense that you’re not being completely forthcoming, they won’t trust anything you have to say.


On the other hand, when your FAQ answers are candid, you instantly build confidence and trust in the reader’s mind. Imagine this question on competing manufacturers’ FAQ pages: “How hard is it to assemble your veeblefetzer?”


Company one responds: “It’s amazingly easy to put your veeblefetzer together with common tools you have around the shop. Before you know it, you’ll be using your veeblefetzer to core radishes faster than ever!”


Company two says: “Most buyers tell us that it takes between 90 minutes and two hours to assemble their veeblefetzers, slightly more for people who aren’t used to mechanical projects. You’ll need a hammer, a #2 phillips screwdriver, a pair of small needle-nose pliers, and a 3/8-inch socket wrench. A bench vise or bar clamp may make assembly easier. Just be sure to read the instructions completely before beginning work, because buyers who encounter problems typically confess that they missed a step.”


Which company’s FAQ would you trust? And which veeblefetzer would you buy?

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