If your goal is to involve your readers in what you’re writing (or selling), ask them a question or three. While some poorly informed marketers steer away from using questions out of fear that the wrong answers will crop up, the reality is that questions are a time-proven way to engage readers.


The key is to present the question without answering it. That allows the reader to think about what you’re saying and form an answer in his or her mind. The question might trigger a new idea, fear, doubt, confusion, or any of dozens of other responses — and it does so far more effectively than simply presenting the idea you want to convey, because the reader comes up with his or her own answer.


Suppose you’re promoting an investment counselor. Asking a simple (but leading) question like “Are your investments growing as much as possible?” doesn’t say that your present advisor is inferior or that your client is much better … but it raises more questions in the reader’s mind. It plants a seed of doubt that your follow-up messages can build upon.


In the 1980 debate in which candidate Ronald Reagan posed these questions: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?” he wasn’t making any kind of promise to the voters. Instead, he was masterfully creating doubt in their minds about the present state of the economy and America’s prestige. Historians point to several factors as key to his election, but I believe those four unanswered questions in a widely-viewed debate did more to win the race than any other single thing.


So how will you start using questions in your own efforts?