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Why Asking Your Readers is The Best Marketing "Technique" Ever… and EXACTLY How You Can Do It

question-mark-96288_640Are your blogging efforts living up to your expectations? Are you getting high conversions, lots of engagement, tons of sales and more income than you can handle?

If so, great. There’s no need to read the rest of this post. Go and plan your next holiday instead – I recommend the Fiji islands.

However, if you’re rather disappointed by…

  •  low conversion rates
  •  little or zero engagement
  •  no sales
  •  and miserable earnings despite all your hard work

…read on.

First of all, don’t worry. There are tons of bloggers and marketers who suffer from these symptoms, even though the solution could be as easy as asking a simple question. Here’s how you can do it.

The Pattern of Failure: FIRE-Ready-Aim

In the incredibly useful eBook called Why People Fail,  Ken Evoy says that there are three personality types destined for failure:

  • FIRE-Ready-Aim (shoots before she aims)
  • Ready-Aim-Ready-Aim-Ready-Aim (never actually takes action)
  • FIRE-FIRE-FIRE-FIRE-FIRE (chases one idea after another without ever accomplishing anything)

Fire-Ready-Aim

Here’s a quote from Ken Evoy’s book that perfectly summarizes the flaw of this character:

“No research or prep work is needed for me. My gut tells me what to do: start running, don’t worry about direction. I’m excited, I have a great idea. Let’s go, just give it a shot… even if it’s in the dark.”

Although this may seem like a very obvious mistake, it’s actually one of the top things that cause most bloggers to fail in my opinion.

They think they have a great idea and get so excited that they start executing without making sure that there are enough people who’d be willing to pay for it.

Even if they know the importance of finding out what the market wants, they ignore it thinking they can get away without doing any preparation. And you know the saying by Benjamin Franklin: “Fail to prepare and you’re preparing to fail.”

In fact, FastCompany.com wrote a detailed article on this very problem titled 8 Ways to Ensure Your New Product Launch Succeeds (you can replace “product launch” with whatever business idea fits your case). Here’s a very important quote from their article:

“Companies often refuse to acknowledge a new product or service serves no strongly identified customer need, and they try to retrofit their marketing to compensate.”

This is the text-book definition of the Fire-Ready-Aim approach. Doing business this way can cause huge problems and make you waste a ton of time and money on developing something that no one needs. Here’s why…

Let’s assume that you want to create a new product for your audience.

1. Should you rely on your gut feeling to come up with the topic of the book and then hope for the best?
2. Or should you ask your readers as the very first step what they need help with and what they’d be willing to pay for it?

Just think about it: if you don’t ask your readers what they want, you’re firing first and aiming only second. Then you’ll be disappointed and feel like a failure once you’ve put months of work into a product that no one buys.

Tons of people make this mistake. Instead of surveying what the market demands they create their product first and later try to convince people why they need it, which is a lot harder than selling something with already existing demand.

Here’s another quote from a Forbes article on the importance of polling your target audience before doing anything else:

“By doing your homework before starting your business, you can be assured that your product or service is properly priced and positioned and you are offering the most sought after attributes. This will make your company a powerful force in a competitive business landscape.”

So whenever you have a new product launch idea in mind, resist your urge to start working right away. Instead, take a step back and ask your potential clients whether they find it as brilliant as you do.

How can you conduct this kind of market research on your blog? Doesn’t it cost thousands of dollars to hire a firm to help you out?

Not if you know how to set up a simple and free, but incredibly effective surveying tool on your blog…

How to Poll Your Readers… Without Being Annoying

If you know surveying tools for small business owners such as Survey Monkey and Qualaroo, now is the time to start using them. If this is the first time you hear about them, you’ll be surprised how cheap and easy they are to install.

All you have to do is create a simple survey based on one of the dozens of available templates and give a few days for your visitors to fill it out.

Once you have enough feedback you can act based on solid knowledge, not just guesswork.

  • If people say they would be willing to spend money on your idea, it’s a green light.
  • If they’re not interested, you can save yourself from a huge failure.

You can only win by running a survey: you’ll either have your idea validated and get tips on how you could make it even better, or avoid falling flat on your face.

Here are a few real life examples to help you see the power of asking.

Note: to get the most value out of running a survey it’s important to have at least 50-100 daily visitors. After all, if no one sees your question you obviously won’t get enough feedback to help you improve.
However, getting this kind of traffic is quite easy if you follow the right advice. Here are the best resources to get you there:

Also, the thing I love about Qualaroo is that it makes filling out a survey almost irresistibly easy, so even if you have only 10-20 visitors per day you can expect to get enough feedback to readjust the direction of your future blogging and marketing efforts before you grow a huge audience.

How I Increased My Income by Asking My Readers One Simple Question

My website focuses on teaching “the average person” how to earn extra money on the net. Since I write about very basic topics sometimes (e.x.: how to choose a niche, how to choose a domain name, how to use WordPress) I automatically assumed that most of my visitors were wanna-be bloggers without a website.

As a result, I put a lot of affiliate links on my pages for HostGator which is the web hosting provider I recommend for building a new site. Considering that I receive over 600 visitors daily, I was expecting to make at least 30-50 HostGator sales in 30 days. With one affiliate commission earning $125, I was hoping to make around 40x$125=$5,000 per month.

In theory, everything worked out great… the only problem was that I couldn’t generate even 15 sales per month so my income was disappointingly low for my expectations. In other words, I realized I had made the FIRE-Ready-Aim mistake.

That’s when I decided to ask my visitors what they really wanted from me so that I could serve their needs better.

I used Qualaroo’s 14 day free trial to poll my visitors. The reason I chose Qualaroo over Survey Monkey and other options is that it makes creating a survey very easy and – even better – it makes filling out a survey ridiculously simple for visitors, too.

In case you’re not familiar with it, Qualaroo is the tool that pops up in the bottom-left corner of a webpage, usually asking you a multiple-choice question.

qualaroo-example
More on setting up Qualaroo later…

The question I asked was “Do you want to start a website or blog?” The two possible answers were Yes and No.

  • If someone answered Yes, the Qualaroo box would change into a so called Qualaroo Nudge, offering a link to a video course I put together to show people how to build a blog with HostGator, which of course used my affiliate link.
  • If someone responded No, the Qualaroo Box would ask them “Why don’t you want a site or blog?” where people could tell me why there weren’t interested in starting a new site and what they wanted instead.

It took only a week to receive over 150 responses, the majority of which indicated that most of my customers weren’t interested in starting a new site. It was either because

  • they already had one or
  • they were looking specifically for work from home ideas that didn’t require a site.

That explained why my HostGator sales were so few and far between, but it didn’t stop there. Since Qualaroo reports from which page each response comes from, I could easily figure out what my visitors wanted on a page by page basis, based on which page they were reading when the survey box showed up.

And based on their responses I could simply find the products or services that would best fulfill their desires and promote them as an affiliate.

This resulted in much better results (and more income) than plugging HostGator on every single page to people who weren’t even interested in buying it.

And that’s just one example of the power of asking a simple question.

How Mirasee Revived Their Podcast via a Survey

If you’ve been a regular Mirasee fan for some time (and who hasn’t!?) you know there was a time when they almost decided to pull the plug on the “Fireside Chats” podcast.

The problem was they didn’t have any data on how well the podcast was doing; besides they didn’t get too much encouragement from their audience either.

Fortunately before making a final decision, they decided to ask their readers’ opinion:

“With all of this being said – there remains just one thing to do…

Ask what YOU think we should do!

So… we’ve put together a short, 3-minute survey about the Fireside Chats with Danny Iny Podcast Series, so that you can let us know whether you like this feature, or think we should pull the plug.

So please, take a few minutes to fill it out at [survey link]”

A few weeks after running the survey they announced to keep the podcast alive, and drew the following conclusions:

“One of the big things that I think we did wrong setting out with this project was not getting quite enough input from all of YOU as to what you want and need from this kind of format – so we’re going to be changing that too.

“The feedback we’ve gotten so far from the blog comments and survey we asked you to complete was invaluable in making some of these choices.”

“The takeaway here is that when you’re starting a project like this, it’s a really good idea to plan in advance what you want the style, tone and content of the podcast to look and feel like. It sounds terribly obvious, but we really thought that we’d get the hang of it without too much difficulty. That wasn’t the case, and our quality suffered because of it. “

“Finally – we need to promote the podcast much, much more on the blog! Lots of people in the survey didn’t even know we had one! If we’re going to keep it up, it needs a little more promotion time and space.”

The point is, this podcast and the survey is the perfect example of what you should do if something doesn’t go as you planned.

If you fell into the Fire-Ready-Aim trap when getting started, don’t panic. Ask your audience what the problem is and how you could fix it and then make the necessary adjustments. As far as I can see, the Fireside Chats Marketing Insights Podcast has been doing just fine after running that 3 minute survey (and of course getting an expert involved).

How to Set Up Your Survey in 10 Minutes for Free

There are many survey tools out there, but my favorite is Qualaroo so I’m going to show you how you can set it up. Of course if you want to go with something like Survey Monkey as Mirasee did, feel free to do so.

Step 1 – Sign up for a free Account

The first step is obvious.

Step 2 – Add the Code to Your Blog

Once you log in you’ll see the code you have to insert on every page of your site where you want the little box to pop up.

Once you’re done with this, click the green Create New button to get started.

qualaroo-step1

Step 3 – Customize Your Survey

If you want to have only one question and a Thank You message at the end, leave everything “as is”.

If you want to add multiple questions and take people from one question to another, add a New Screen and choose it from the drop down menu next to the text that says “If selected continue to”. This enables you to customize people’s experience based on which answers they choose.

Play around with these features until you get the hang of it, then move on to the next step.
qualaroo-step2

Step 4 (Optional) – Create a Nudge to Increase Conversions

Creating a “Nudge” at the end of your survey can help you get more people to deliver your most wanted response.

To set it up, go to your Thank You message and tick the “Display a call to action button”. Then specify the URL you’d like your readers to visit once they get to the end of your survey.

qualaroo-step3

Step 5 – Customize your Qualaroo Settings

Once you’re ready and click Save, a new page will open where you can set how you’d like the survey to be displayed:

qualaroo-final-step

So that’s it. Now you know why asking your readers is the best marketing “tactic” ever and exactly how you can do it. If I can give you one final tip, check out these 3 tips on how to ask the right questions when running a survey so that you get valuable responses.

Now it’s your turn: have YOU ever run a survey on your blog? If yes, what kind of results did it help you achieve? If no, are you planning to start one based on this article?

Let us know in the comments below, since one lucky commenter will win one free month of Small Business Insights Qualaroo Package worth $79!

About Steven Fabian

Steven Fabian is a young online entrepreneur and the webmaster of Business Online Guidance, a resource dedicated to helping "the average person" create a profitable website and make money blogging.

27 comments

  1. Hi Steven,

    I’ve never ran a survey but have heard that it is a great way to get some feedback. I am planning on running it with my email marketing once my list gets a little bigger and more responsive.

    Never thought about running one on my blog. I’ve heard of survey monkey but never heard of Qualaroo. Thanks for these tips and I will definitely consider running one on my site. I hope you have a great day.

  2. I’m super behind on my e-mail, which includes the Firepole Marketing e-mails, so I’m a little late getting to this post.

    I want to add that one of the best ways to know what your readers want is to consider what they constantly ask you about. If you’ve had a blog for a while, you’re likely to be getting the same questions and over, which can offer you ideas for e-books or courses you can offer, for example.

    In my case, I’ve had my homeschooling website for over 3 years, but I’m just now writing my first e-book. It deals with helping homeschoolers choose curriculum (from my own angle as a homeschooling veteran of over 23 years). The reason I chose that topic for my e-book is because, ultimately, that’s the one question people keep asking over and over, even if they phrase the question differently.

    And that’s another good point, I think, because it’s a good idea to look beyond the surface questions sometimes to discover what people are really asking. Are they overwhelmed with some aspect of their lives? Is the problem really that issue, or is it actually something underneath? And does that same theme seem to run through many of the questions you get? If so, you now have a great topic to create a product or service around!

    1. Hi there Anne,

      I’m glad you finally made it to this post. 🙂

      I agree, you can find out a ton about your readers by looking at the questions they ask you the most. In your case I can see it helped for an eBook idea and in my case I realized that people wanted to know how to build a website or blog so I could record this video and show them that in 10 minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zarIBEsX5wo

      So yes it can be a good alternative if you don’t want to deal with surveys, but if you prefer a more of a pro-active method then you can always try the surveying later. 🙂

      Thanks for your insights,
      Steve

  3. Wow! What a fantastic and amazing opportunity! I thank you so much and I’m really humbled that you chose me. I will put it to good use. Thanks again
    Andrea 😀

  4. I have no audience and no traffic to talk about. So the survey is no-no.
    But I do ask people on FB groups about various subject. Last time they helped me to choose the domain for my author’s blog.

  5. Hey Steven,

    One of your recent followers here. 😀
    I can personally vouch for that you stand by your promise and reply to questions very quickly. Which I am so grateful for!

    You have pointed me to a completely different direction than some other so called gurus preach.

    This post is no exception and my mind is already racing with the possibilities of surveying visitors of my website. I’ll definitely try it out.

    It seems as somewhat of a paradox as Katherine pointed it out, because I didn’t even know that I needed a surveying tool, but I am very convinced now that I must implement one ASAP!

    Keep up the great work,
    Andrea

    1. Hi Andrea,

      After a lot of consideration we decided that YOU would be the ideal person to get full access to Qualaroo for a month, since you seem to have a ton of ideas on how to use it to improve your site’s performance. As you said “…my mind is already racing with the possibilities of surveying visitors of my website” and now we’d like to give you that opportunity. 🙂

      So please either reply here with your contact information or find me at steve at business-online-guidance.com and we can discuss the details from there.

      Thanks so much for everyone else who read, shared and supported this post! I’m very very grateful to all of you!

      Steve

    2. Hi Andrea, glad to hear you liked the post.

      I wouldn’t say you absolutely NEED a surveying tool right away, but it can always help. It’s like creating a Facebook page: you can get away without one, but you can also leave money on the table if you decide not to create one.

      Thanks for the comment and for vouching for me. 🙂

      Steve

  6. This is so amazing, as I almost never insert a survey on my site, but today, I did, and it really did boost my hits.
    I usually have rather heavy content: how-to, political, and heads-up type stuff, but often on the weekends, I lighten up. Today I showed a before and after of some furniture arrangement in my house and asked readers which they preferred. The insights I gained today have explained to me WHY I don’t like my new arrangement very much. I cannot wait to return things to normal around here.
    The best thing, though, is that in addition to the poll, several who almost never comment, did leave a comment this time. Yay! 🙂
    I do have a question, though: How often is too often to include surveys? Thanks!

    1. Oh, I meant to add that I realize my poll was for a totally different purpose, just to entertain, mostly.
      Are there times when we must give customers what they need, as opposed to what they want?
      I mean, if a doctor ran his business by surveys of what patients wanted to read, he might have lots of fatalities. I do counseling and I need to share the painful truth, sometimes. I think folks come to my site because that is what they want and I say what I say because it is true.
      Am I missing some clue, here? Thanks!

      1. Hi,

        The answer your first question, I think one survey per month should suffice. If you always run a survey ever other day that could get annoying after a while, but I think asking a few multiple choice questions every 30 days should be OK. Personally, I haven’t run another survey since 2 months now, but I plan to do it once again. Only if there was enough time in the day… 🙂

        Regarding the second question, if you want to maximize your earnings I think you should give people what they want instead of what they need because that’s what they’ll be willing to pay for.

        That’s exactly what you use surveys for: to find out what they want, so that you don’t have to guess.

        For example… I know that it’s virtually impossible to make passive money online without a website, so I know my visitors NEED a website, but since they don’t WANT one and I can’t always convince them, I’m promoting other products that they currently want. As mentioned above, this significantly increased my earnings.

  7. I’ve been thinking about doing a survey, but I was going to start with one to my list of more than 200, which isn’t huge, but…
    I like the Qualaroo option where it is on the site itself. My quandry is that at this point, my website, although set up like a blog, is a local online news source, so I have no real product to sell. My print and online competitors both have a paywall in front of their online versions and, of course, subscriptions to their print versions, too. I want to keep my site free to readers, although I do accept donations. I rely on advertising, and get enough each month to pay my bills and my freelancers. All this to say, I’m not positive about doing a survey, because I might find out that my readers want something that I can’t or won’t give them.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Well, there’s only one way to find out: ask them and let’s see whether you can/will give it to them or not. I don’t see any way how you could lose, but only gain…

      You could also ask them how they’d feel about the “pay-wall” system and what kind of info you would have to provide in order for them to subscribe… Then you could provide that type of info and make a nice recurring income by monthly subscriptions. That’s just one idea of course, but the possibilities are endless. 🙂

      Steve

  8. Steve,

    Could I be lucky with number Seven? Brilliant post. Am heading up to set up my own survey account.

    You really simplified the whole process-makes it sound like a sweet pack. What’s left is to chew by implementing what your post advocates.

    The pudding is in the action. Need to sign up to this blog. Got here by #Jon Morrow’s tweet.

    1. Hi Peter,

      Could you win with number 7? I don’t know, maybe I’ll be the lucky winner after all… I never said I’d exclude myself from the list of potential winners. Just kidding… 🙂

      You’re correct, this “tactic” is like 99% of all the “tactics” you can find about online marketing: it won’t work unless you TAKE ACTION. But hopefully, it will give you results to work with a lot sooner than other methods.

      Thanks for reading and yes, you definitely need to sign up to Firepole Marketing! 🙂

      Steve

      P.S.: I’m so happy Jon Morrow sent you here, I’m a huge fan of him and his work.

  9. Hello Steve..

    I see you are an SBIer! 🙂

    Great post.. I don’t use Survey Monkey or Qualaroo but on the first day of my free Blog to Profit course, I ask:

    1) What is the number one think you want to achieve.
    2) What is holding you back
    Bonus Question: How did you find out about BlogBoldly?

    I not only get an inside look at what my audience needs but I start building a relationship with them. I always respond to them with detailed feedback within 24-48 hours. They are often shocked that I even answer, so I gain instant credibility.

    I started the survey for the exact benefits you outline in your post but the “unintended consequences” were far greater.

    darlene

    1. Hello Darlene,

      I wouldn’t call myself an “SBIer” per se, I think that’s a limiting way of thinking about doing business online. I’m more like a “try-everything-and-see-what-works”er, if you will. 🙂

      Also, I found that asking simpler questions gets far more responses than asking more complex ones (like your “What is the number one think you want to achieve” and “What is holding you back”), but I’m glad they worked for you so well.

      And yes, you’re totally right that responding to people goes a long way. I always reply to anyone who contacts me and I always get the same surprised reaction that people are shocked that someone actually took the time to help them.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Steve

  10. Hi Steven!

    What a great post!

    So, I’m guessing that you should ask short questions with very few options to choose from?

    Also, would you check out the link to Kikolani post – I wasn’t able to access it.

    Anyway, great stuff and I’m looking to implement this somehow as well.

    Shared on BizSugar and BlogEngage.

    Cheers,
    Timo

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for your support and for sharing the post. The more people find it the better. 🙂

      Yes, I recommend that you ask at the max 3 multiple choice questions because too many options usually distract people and they won’t give any answer at all. You can find more info on how to ask the right questions here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/customer-satisfaction-surveys/ (under 3 Tips for Creating Winning Customer Surveys)

      Also, the link is wrong because it leads to a .htm page instead of the .html version, but it’ll soon be corrected. In the meantime, here it is: http://kikolani.com/how-to-get-40000-readers-without-guest-blogging-2.html

  11. Not doing a survey is like going fishing without knowing you are going to catch a fish or not.The bait you use is specific to each type of fish.
    It is important to know who our customers are,what they want to solve and why they are looking for that particular product or service.The best type of survey is by asking your customers what they want through your blog or website.
    If the equation:
    survey=demand<supply and you have targetted your audience properly then your formula is great and you are heading towards the road to success….

    1. Hi Michael,

      “Not doing a survey is like going fishing without knowing you are going to catch a fish or not.”

      I like your analogy a lot, but I think you could also say that not doing a survey is like going fishing without knowing whether there is any fish in the water or not… 🙂

  12. Hey, have been reading most of your work. Am very new to affiliate and online marketing. I know I may need that gift you are giving to the reader who gives the best comment. Am not commenting for that.
    I have no site and am planning to get one in a few weeks. Yet I also want to make sure that I understand very well what am getting into. I have done research on the topic and still want to make countless research one the topic.
    All that I have read is very useful. I have not done this before but I will disagree with John. What you are saying looks old to John yet people are still making money off it. I often receive Eakins for survies. If it wasn’t useful, companies wouldn’t still be using this idea. I find that companies that have been in business for many years still use survies to know how they can best serve their customers. These same companies are also good at cutting costs in business. So, what am trying to say is that is creating a Survy wasn’t useful, would be the first thing they remove from the monthly planning; would also cut costs and time on how, who or which company they would give the job of creating the Survy and how much it would cost.
    I think some times we need to be old fashion, John.
    Hey Steven, you’re doing a great job and it being for free to makes me even for thankful. Information is better than the gift. But not all see that.
    Thanks man

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for the comment and your kind words. If you’re still in researching mode and would like to learn what you’re getting into, Firepole Marketing, Think Traffic, Smart Passive Income and kikolani.com are among the top resources you should read.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts,
      Steve

  13. Hi John,

    Thanks for the comment. I checked out One Minute Poll (never heard of it before), it looks as a nice alternative to other surveying tools out there.

    By the way, initially I made the same mistake as you did, regarding not listening to feedback but going the way I thought was good (which of course is paved with disappointment). Turns out again, the customer is always right. 🙂

  14. I like Ken’s quote. Yet, that model is old, and may be good only when you’re desperate for cash, and don’t care to hear what the market wants…

    The user feedback model is what I use to launch my products… actually, I’ve only launched services before (mainly coaching for affiliate marketers), and I look forward to launching info products later next year.

    OneMinutePoll works just fine for me, for getting golden feedback and see in real time user input by graphical snapshots.

    Qualaroo sounds interesting though. You could use a mix of these. At least, that’s what I plan for next.

    However, what I often did (and recommend to avoid) is don’t listen to feedback, and go with the gut instinct. There’s often that inner voice which tells you that readers say one thing, and do the opposite. This is half true. Some feedback participants really do what they say. You cannot please everybody, isn’t it?

    P.S. Anyway, I hope to win the package, or give the chance to someone who’s in need of it!

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