Have you ever been sure you know what people want only to find out you were wrong? Is there a way to get it right the first time?
Recently my sister-in-law Jenny was trying to organize a family reunion. It has been a few years since Dad died and we haven’t been together since then. She sent out multiple emails: the time is now, the kids are getting old, lists of planned activities, where would you like to meet?… etc, etc, etc.
But no one responded.
So I took a cue from my mom and put on my bossy pants (older sisters can do this). I wrote a compelling email cajoling my sister and brothers to tell Jenny what type of family reunion they wanted. Choose this, choose that, etc.
And the response was… well… crickets.
You see my family was having a hard time saying what they wanted. They could say what they didn’t want, but they couldn’t tell Jenny what they did want, so they said nothing.
It can be like this in business too. You ask clients what they want you to create and they don’t know. People can tell you what they don’t want or don’t like and they can tell you what they have done in the past, but they can’t tell you exactly what they do want.
You have to discern this. And that’s where using a survey comes in handy.
I first learned how to use surveys to design products in Course Builders Bootcamp, but the real expert in surveys is Ryan Levesque. Surveys are great because you can test your market to see if your * big idea * is actually a viable business idea.
Survey for Your Family Reunion?
I admit it seems a bit weird to survey your family but there is some logic here: If you can use surveys to find out what your clients want why not do the same with your family? It turns out this is not a new idea. Experts in planning family reunions have been recommending surveys for years.
Of course there is no easy answer if you want to have a successful course or reunion- it’s going to be a little work to get the information you need. But with the right information you will create a better product or experience. Surveys help you do that.
Do You Need a List?
You do not need an audience to survey, but it sure makes things easier. So keep working on building your list.
If you really want to get started on creating a course before you have a sizeable audience you can share your survey via online advertising and in forums you belong to, etc.
Personally, I had trouble getting responses via Facebook ads for a course I was planning despite their ability to precisely target my potential students. Fortunately, my family (my ‘list’) was a bit easier- everybody answered the survey promptly.
Free Survey Tools
Free and affordable survey services are available online. If you are new to using surveys try one of the free versions available from SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo, PollDaddy or Zoomerang; each has its own guidelines about how many questions can be in the survey and how many people you can survey.
I found SurveyMonkey very easy to customize and collect data; my family liked it since it looked ‘professional’.
Short and Sweet
The secret to survey success is to keep it short and sweet, gather only essential data, and ask for permission to contact people afterwards. That way, if you need more information you can get it. But by keeping things short, you are more likely to get valuable answers.
What Types of Questions to Ask?
When creating a survey ask open-ended questions such as ‘what would you want to ask me about XYZ?’ And ‘what have you tried for XYZ problem?’
Ryan Levesque reminds us that people will not tell you what they want, they will only tell you what they don’t want (i.e. what their problem is) and what they have done in the past.
Avoid Multiple Choice Questions
Family reunions are an exception to this rule since you may want to include a few logistical multiple-choice questions such as time of year, age of attendees, food sensitivities, etc. It’s very important to keep the questions about planned activities for your reunion open-ended so that you get more ideas.
If you suggest too many things in a multiple choice format you will miss really good ideas from your family. It’s sort of like ‘leading the witness’
Both Jenny and I had trouble getting the family to respond initially because we were asking leading questions and kept using multiple-choice formats. We had assumed that everyone would want the same type of get-together we’d had in the past but in fact people wanted something different and didn’t know how to say.
The open-ended questions on the survey gave people a way to let their real preferences be known.
The importance of listening to your group cannot be stressed enough. By listening you will create something that they want.
What to Do With the Answers?
Your job will be to analyze the data to discern what to create. In your survey promise them you won’t sell them anything but do ask for contact information to follow up.
You won’t actually follow up with everybody, only the surveys with detailed answers. You’ll follow up with the people who sound like they have a problem you may be able to help solve. Learn more in this video.
You can even create a spreadsheet with the survey answers. Then sort the answers by length and complexity. This makes it easier for you to learn what people want in your course—those with the longer, more complex answers are more likely to make a purchase to solve their problem.
It Takes Time
Set aside 1-2 months to create, gather, and analyze the data for a course. Don’t take shortcuts in the surveying process. You want to make sure you really understand what your clients are telling you.
You may discover that your * big idea * is interesting to your audience, but they are not willing to pay for it. Or you may find that your audience is interested in another idea completely.
Careful planning and analysis will save you time in the end. You won’t waste time creating a course or family reunion nobody wants to attend.
Your Goal is to Serve the Group
If you truly want to succeed with your course or reunion you will need to serve the group. To do this well you’d better find out what they actually want vs. what you think they want. Surveys are the best way to do this.
I had thought my family would enjoy a relaxing week at the beach but through the survey I found out that most preferred a weekend with lots of activities. Apparently the teens were a bit bored sitting around talking and reading books.
Take the Time to Create Something of Value
It’s important to create something of value when planning an educational program because it is a big investment of your time and money. You want to create something that your clients will pay for and recommend to others.
Market research can seem complicated and time consuming; but trust me, it’s far more complicated and time consuming to create something nobody wants (I speak from experience here).
A survey is an inexpensive and easy to use tool that can help you plan the right program, one that will truly help your audience. And isn’t that what this is about anyway… helping your audience with a problem?
And as an added bonus, you will even have some of your copywriting done. How much easier will it be to write your sales page if you know the words, the exact words, your future students use to describe their problems? They will feel as if you are speaking directly to them!
Oh yeah…the family reunion? We are headed to the beach for a long weekend. We plan to rent a house in a beach town with lot’s to do for the teens, white sandy beaches for the grownups, and plenty of restaurants so everyone gets a night off from cooking. Sounds like fun to me. I can’t wait.
How do you do figure out what your audience wants or needs? Have you been guilty of ‘knowing’ what people want instead of asking them? What tips do you have about using surveys? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!