Ad-libs: What’s now? What’s next?

Ad-libs: What’s now? What’s next?

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

QuestionNot long ago, I was in the audience for a consultant’s presentation on today’s business climate. The thing I most remember was listed in the bullet points on one of her PowerPoint slides – the words “What’s now? What’s next?” She spent all of 30 seconds discussing them.

Although these four words were not the main emphasis of her speech – and although they were not used in a sales context – they provide a solution to a problem faced by many sales people. Let’s say you’ve worked with a new advertiser to set long-term goals and plan a campaign, and now the ads have started running. Your strategy is to meet with your client on a regular basis to discuss the state of the campaign and see if any tweaks are needed.

What do you say in those meetings? It’s vague and repetitive to ask, “So how’s your campaign going?” in every conversation. That’s where these two questions can be a good alternative. Simply establish the format in the first follow-up meeting by saying, “We both want you to get the best possible results from your advertising. So in order to focus our attention, let’s concentrate on two things: What’s happening now and what’s the next step to reach your overall objectives?”

Let’s take a closer look:

1. What’s now? The beauty of this question is that it takes today as the starting point. It doesn’t rehash previous meetings you’ve had or open the door to the history of past campaigns. Certainly, you can discuss relevant points from past conversations. But this question is all about the present.

What’s happening with their sales? What about inquiries from potential customers? Is the budget under control? Have other media outlets made sales pitches since the campaign began? If so, how were those presentations received? Are staff members excited about the new campaign?

2. What’s next? After the current situation is thoroughly covered, it’s time to talk about the next steps. Has anything changed since the original goals were set? Has one marketing tactic outperformed the others? How can we take advantage of that?

Nothing is carved in stone. Tweaks should be part of the conversation, because little adjustments can make a big difference. When a rocket is launched to the moon, constant adjustments have to be made. I remember hearing that a trajectory which is off by one degree will miss the destination by one mile for every 60 miles traveled. Since the moon is an average of 238,857 miles from Earth (allowing for the elliptical orbit), a rocket which is off by one degree would miss the moon by 3,980 miles.

This 1-in-60 rule can easily apply to a marketing campaign. Things don’t always stay the same. And marketing is not as precise as a programmable moon launch.

In addition to keeping your advertisers on course, asking “What’s now?” and “What’s next?” can help you accomplish more in meetings.

In other words, these two questions can be booster rockets for sales.


John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information:

(c) Copyright 2015 by John Foust. All rights reserved.