To get great answers, it makes sense that you need to ask great questions.
Garbage in gives garbage out, after all.
So as a designer, it's your job to understand two key things: Firstly, you must understand your client and what makes them unique - This can include the problems they solve, their 'USP' or anything else that differentiates them from their competition. The deeper you dig, the better 'ingredients' you will discover to work with.
The second thing you must uncover is who EXACTLY your client is trying to reach. The better you understand your client's customers, the more tailored, and targetted your solution will be.
But how do you get this information?
Well, the fundamentals are that you must become a master listener. Don't start any conversation with a pre-determined series of questions to ask. Very often your first question can pave a whole new direction for your conversation that will render the rest of your questions redundant.
I tend to start with 3 opening questions, which I will share with you below... But the 'power question' I have in reserve, I'll tell you at the end.
The trhee openers I use are:
1. What are you hoping to achieve?
2. Describe your target customer to me... What makes them tick? Where do you find them? etc...
3. How do you set yourself apart from your competitors?
These three questions are the backbone of any consultation that I have. I'll end up asking a dozen more questions, but they will be based on the responses I receive to THESE questions.
During any consultation I make sure I am deeply engaged in listening. You can pick up on things your customer is saying that will tell you how 'important' a certain idea is. The more you practice this, the better your instinct will become.
But what about this power question?
Well, it almost feels like a bit of a cheat or a hack.
(And full disclosure, I stole this from Chris Brogan after I heard it on his podcast).
It's so simple I'm almost worried you'll think it's rubbish...
"And what else...?"
Yeah, that's it... "And what else?"
Very often when you receive an answer, the person you are speakig to isn't giving you all the information. They're holding back and they won't even realise they are doing it.
Try using this the next time you are having a conversation where you're trying to find out more information. It works best when following up on a 'how' or 'why' question.
People won't even notice that you've asked it, they'll usally just keep on talking... And that's another bonus for you.
Inviting people to talk more about what they are already talking about makes them feel like you are truly interested in what they're saying... And you should be.
Doing this will get you better answers, and more importantly, it makes you stand out from the vast majority of people, who spend most of their time in conversations not listening - but simply waiting for their turn to speak.