In part one of this trilogy of articles, we looked at the importance of asking your target audience the right questions.
Turns out, asking what they want is NOT one of them.
(Not sure why? Grab a quick recap here.)
A more effective approach is to ask them what they don’t want.
It’s an easier question to answer, because you’re not asking your audience how to solve their problem…
…you’re simply asking them to tell you where it hurts.
And the answers they’ll give you are more useful to your marketing (& product development) than answers about what they think they want.
That’ll get you off to a good start.
Almost certainly better than most of your competitors…
They’re probably still busy asking people what they want, and struggling to figure out how the heckins to give it to them.
So what’s the most effective way to get this all-important question in front of, not just your best customers, but also your best not-yet-customers?
It’s simple really:
Use a good ol’-fashioned survey.
Done right, surveys are now more powerful than ever…
They may not be the newest or sexiest marketing tool in town, but a well-executed survey can benefit your business in so many ways.
Surveys can help you:
- develop new products & services you KNOW people want, and help you sell them
- get more specific user testimonials that go way beyond just “this is awesome!”
- discover the exact language your audience uses to talk about their problems (so you can communicate like one of them – instead of sounding like a marketer)
- create customer avatars for different products and targeted ad campaigns
- identify the differences between people who ‘might buy’ in the right circumstances… and the people who will be ‘hyper-responsive’ to your offer
- segment your subscribers, site visitors and customers into different channels based on their responses
These are some of the most important insights any startup, marketer or entrepreneur can uncover.
And that last one’s HUGE.
Segmenting your audience into the right channels, so you can communicate better with them, is becoming more and more important.
And digital marketing has made it even easier to segment your audience than ever.
(If you’re not yet segmenting and creating customised offers, content and onboarding for each channel, you’re leaving money on the table.
But it’s my goal across this 3-part series of articles to show you how you can get started doing that…
And surveys of course play a key part in this.)
Whether you call this growing trend of segmentation based on behaviour ‘Personalised Content’, ‘Smart Content’… or just…
‘Damn Good Marketing’
…is up to you.
What’s clear though, is that in almost every niche you can imagine (so yup, probably in yours) businesses are already laser-targeting their prospects based on what they’ve discovered about them.
They’re segmenting their prospects into different channels, and adapting their marketing to each channel.
Because segmentation lets you create more relevant messaging that’s customised for each visitor, subscriber or customer journey.
So you can create content you know your prospects will seek out…
…encourage those prospects to become subscribers with targeted micro-conversions…
…and convert those subscribers into customers with optimized sales messages.
So, how to create an effective survey that delivers juicy insights you can use to improve your marketing?
Well, just as it pays to ask people what they don’t want…
Let’s take a look at the what-NOT-to-do’s when you survey your audience.
The 7 survey response killers you must avoid…
1 – The ‘Three Bears Effect’: making your survey too long (or too short)
Getting your survey length ‘just right’ can be tricky – like heating Goldilocks’ porridge to the perfect temperature (er, any fairytale-loving millennials in the house?)
Ask too many questions and you’ll lose people.
Your respondents are doing you a favour by helping you out – don’t test their patience…
But ask too few, and you won’t get enough useful insights or the data your ‘Damn Good Marketing’ needs.
To some extent, the perfect survey length is defined by the wording of your questions – making them as tight as possible, so you can ask just a handful but still get good responses.
But as a quick guide, aim for between 4 and 10 questions to hit the sweet spot.
Anyone should be able to complete your survey in under 5 minutes, including the time spent thinking about/typing any open-ended answers.
2 – Asking too many open-ended questions
I get it – you want to uncover some awesome Voice of Customer Data you can use in your marketing.
So you ask them to do something like “Describe a problem you’re currently facing”…
But if you ask your audience for too much info, in too many open-ended Q’s, you’ll dramatically reduce your response rate.
Many people hate the idea of writing long responses, even about subjects important to them – and while you do want to coax as many respondents as possible to ‘open up’ and tell you about their problems, you can’t make every Q open-ended.
Put a bunch of blank boxes needing completion in front of people and they’ll give up.
So just ask one open-ended question – two at the most.
But make it count – only ask something you really need to know the answer to…
And encourage people to give detail by providing a short ‘e.g.’ example answer to guide them.
3 – Overcomplicating your questions
Any copywriter will tell you:
If you write to impress, you’ll lose your reader, fast.
The same goes for survey questions: write to communicate, first and foremost.
Make your questions clear. Read them out loud, and to someone else in-person, to be sure what you’re asking can be understood instantly.
Any question that isn’t straightforward won’t just get skipped…
…in many cases it’ll lead to the whole survey being abandoned.
As soon as your reader thinks the rest of your Q’s may be on the waffly side, you’ve lost ’em.
You can combat this by not listing too many possible answers to multiple-choice Q’s…
By keeping your question phrasing short and simple…
And by not asking Q’s that seem completely out of sync with the preceding one.
If you want to use a ‘fork in the road’ question (where the response they choose determines the next question they see), keep it relevant – and don’t use more than one…
Too many digital surveys get needlessly code-hungry, and become more liable to break with every new path you add.
4 – Focusing on the solution rather than the problem
I know, I know…
I keep banging on about this, but… it’s crucial.
If you present respondents with a list of solutions they haven’t tried yet, the best they can do is guess in their answers.
Particularly with open-ended questions where you’re asking them for more detail.
Ideally, you want people to explain their problems in greater depth, instead of describing what they think ‘the answer’ might be.
The really juicy insights come from analysing what people are trying to avoid…
That way you can develop your products to help them fix that, and create empathetic messaging so they recognise their problem before you start promoting a solution.
5 – ‘Bribing’ people for responses with the wrong lead magnet
That value-packed how-to report you wrote on your favourite topic?
If you offer it as a freebie to folks who fill out your survey, you’re positioning that report as being connected with the survey.
a) you’re going to get mostly responses from people who really just want your free lead magnet…
…skewing results and giving you inaccurate info about your target market.
b) you’ll see a lot of ‘biased’ responses where people have already framed their answers around the expectation that your lead magnet is the solution to any problem you ask them about…
…again, skewing results and giving you misinformation.
It’s ok to offer an ‘ethical bribe’ in return for completing an information-only survey…
But keep it non-specific, so it doesn’t influence responses. How about offering a discount on any products or services you create as a result of this process?
That way (as long as you keep to your word and follow-up later) you’re likely to get more email opt-ins and be able to focus on your product development more freely.
6 – Using a generic survey template without paying attention to your market
One size no longer fits all. That’s the whole point of this segmentation boogie.
You can’t market to everyone the same way and expect better-than-average results.
So while it may seem common sense to model your survey on one you saw recently…
Or to follow a template given away with a survey software…
Be aware that what worked in an over-60’s golfing market may not work for your survey targeting Ruby developers.
Some markets are more likely to write deep, involved responses to open-ended Q’s about their problems than others…
…and some will shy away from giving personal details, preferring multiple-choice options.
Before sending out any survey, think about the questions you really need to have answered, and replace some of the more obvious Q’s in any template you see with more targeted, niche-specific ones.
Once your audience sees questions that resonate with them personally, they’re far more likely to be engaged with the process and give you the insights you need.
But when faced with a survey that seems generic, people get suspicious about why they’re giving you their ‘data’ and click away.
7 – The ‘Tapper/Listener Effect’: assuming everyone else knows what you do
Sometimes you can be too close to your business, and forget that your audience may not share your depth of knowledge.
Like the ‘Tappers’ in the famous Stanford study referenced here, you hear the song in your head. But making that song appear in your ‘Listener’s head isn’t always that easy.
Peppering your questions with references to situations or terms your prospects and customers are less familiar with can kill the whole process stone dead…
Especially if you ask them to choose from a menu of options they can’t understand or identify with (all-too common in online surveys).
Usually, the answer to a question where none of the options seem ‘just right’ is no answer at all – either in a skipped question or an abandoned survey.
That’s why it’s a good idea to get help designing your survey from someone who’s less familiar with your market, so they can analyse each question from a respondent’s point of view.
(Even better, talk to a copywriter about how to create the best possible survey – you’ll get optimally-phrased questions and help analysing and interpreting the results.)
What’s coming in part 3…
Alrighty, those are your top ‘conversion killers’ to watch out for when surveying your audience.
Avoid those like the plague, and you’ll already be streets ahead of most marketers and companies running surveys.
Next time, we’ll go deeper – and I’ll outline an exciting, impactful new survey process that helps you capture more and better responses…
Plus, how you can use those responses to create targeted messaging that sends your conversions through the roof.
It’s something I’ve been lucky enough to have ‘behind the scenes’ training in, and I’m excited to share it with you…
If you’re interested in selling more products and services to the people who really, really want what you have, you won’t want to miss this.