Ask & Deliver: A Simple Blueprint for Business Success

Last year, I was elated to release my new book, Ask & Deliver: Discover the Heart of Your Business by Listening to Your Customer. In the new year, I’ve already been touched by the numerous conversations I’ve had with business leaders and marketing professionals alike about how the simple concept of ‘Ask & Deliver’ is revolutionizing the way they work.  

Throughout this journey, one question keeps coming up –   

“Can it really be that simple?” 

And the super simple answer is – yes. Business success really is that basic. 

Sure, problems and their solutions can be complex, but keeping your business on the upward trajectory is simple – ask your customers what they want; then, give it to them. Every day, in every way, in every circumstance. 

Why Ask & Deliver Works 

I know the idea of Ask & Deliver works because I have proven it time and again over the course of my professional career.  

B2B, B2C, D2C, P2P? It doesn’t matter. Ask & Deliver applies to them all. 

Why does it work? Because it resonates with fundamental human behavior. 

However, its simplicity often leads marketers and business visionaries to forsake it in favor of more intricate strategies – ones that make them feel smarter, stronger or more in control. 

I have lived my professional life by the belief that the best marketing campaign is the one that delivers real, bottom line results. One that not only achieves, but surpasses, what the business needs it to. 

Winning campaigns start with the simple yet profound act of inquiry. In a word – Ask. Asking customers what’s wrong, what’s right, what keeps them up at night yields a comprehensive understanding of the needs, wants, concerns and desires that a savvy business and authentic brand can act upon.  

To whet your appetite for my book, here, I’m taking a closer look at the act of asking.  

ASK: Where Every Successful Marketing Campaign Starts 

How often, as marketers, have we encountered directives to “craft an advertisement,” “design a brochure,” or “develop a website”?  

These mandates often arrive devoid of context and within tight time constraints. 

We’re implicitly discouraged from posing questions. The emphasis lies solely on ‘getting the job done.’ 

Yet, when we neglect to ASK who we’re marketing to, the tactics – whether it’s an advertisement, brochure, website, campaign, social media blitz, or influencer collaboration – are hemmed in by our own limited insights. Marketers may not realize it, but when we do this, or ask our teams to operate this way, we proclaim to possess all the answers, negating the need for customer insights. 

Indeed, pride emerges as the chief hinderance to asking the questions necessary for ensuring success. 

The Problem of Pride 

Perhaps we fear appearing vulnerable.  

Maybe we succumb to the pressure of being viewed as the all-knowing experts, expected to have all the answers. Maybe past successes, achieved through intellect and intuition, instill a false sense of confidence in our abilities to navigate the new challenges placed before us. 

Whatever the rationale, when we don’t ask questions at the outset of any campaign, we proceed with considerable risk. 

The Importance of Understanding 

As marketers, our task is to comprehend, not merely to hear.  

This proves especially arduous within time-constrained environments, where demands are abundant, and turnaround times are fleeting. Amidst this frenzy, the inclination is to plunge headlong into execution, deferring evaluation until the campaign is over. 

By then, resources are expended, and the die is cast. We’re beholden to the blind spots we chose to overlook. 

Speaking of speed, it constitutes the second hurdle keeping marketers from meeting customer expectations effectively. 

The Danger of Moving Too Fast 

How often have we heard of ‘moving at the speed of business?’ What may have started as a tagline has become a benefit in many marketing campaigns for businesses trying to show that they help customers move fast.  

The underlying belief is that faster is always better. When it comes to understanding what customers want, speed can be the enemy of success. 

And sure, business moves fast, but it’s imperative to halt momentarily and ask the client (and ourselves) important questions like:  
What’s the problem?  
What’s the opportunity?
What are we trying to achieve?
How will we measure success? 

I’ve seen professionals dive into marketing campaigns without even taking the time to look at a brand’s website first to gain even a baseline understanding of who they are – or at least how they’re communicating their identity to the world. 

Lacking even this rudimentary understanding, how can we possibly create a powerful marketing strategy? 

The truth is, we can’t. We’re left to rely on hope. And as I often profess, hope is not a strategy. 

Before pen meets paper or plans materialize, a comprehensive understanding of the client’s ethos, values, and objectives is critical. Absent this foundation, hitting the mark becomes an exercise in futility. 

The Sabotage of Politics 

If video killed the radio star, politics have sabotaged countless marketing initiatives, dooming them to death before they were even born. 

To avert the scourge of zombie marketing, we must strive to remove politics from the decision-making process. In many business cultures, that’s impossible; but we can at least recognize its existence and like a deadly plague, seek to contain it. 

All too frequently, decisions pertaining to target demographics, messaging, marketing allocations, and more are entrusted to professionals whose primary area of expertise is not marketing. 

While CEOs, CIOs, and COOs may boast unparalleled business acumen, that doesn’t make them marketers. When non-marketers are put in charge of marketing campaigns, resources are often squandered and resultant campaigns miss the mark. 

A Final Thought 

Marketing is inherently simpler than we perceive it to be. But simple is not the same as easy. Often, we mistake simple and easy for synonyms. But they’re not. Sometimes, the most simple tasks are the hardest, and that is true here. 

Starting your marketing efforts with one little word – ASK – requires courage, steadfastness and skill. But, if we take a little time at the start of every marketing effort to understand our target audience and what they need or want from our brands and businesses, we give our campaign a fighting chance at true success. 

Miss the ‘ASK,’ and we miss the mark. 

Are you planning a marketing campaign? A brand strategy? Start by asking yourself a few critical questions: 

Ask questions. Lots of them. Then back up your answers with quantitative and qualitative data. 

That’s a strategy – a far cry from relying on hope. 


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