Episode 48 – Using surveys to create the type of content people want (and make more sales!)
About Rob & Kennedy
Rob and Kennedy are the most unlikely entrepreneurs you’ll ever meet. With hair styles straight out of a comic book and backgrounds in psychology, hypnosis, and showbiz, Rob and Kennedy don’t immediately strike you as typical entrepreneurs. But these guys have an uncanny knack for building successful businesses with riotous email marketing.
Rob & Kennedy’s One Hot Thing…
- Using surveys to create the type of content that people actually want (AND make more sales)
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How do you know you’re putting out the right kind of content for your audience?
It’s simple, you just have to run a survey, right? Get out there and ask people what they want to hear about. Marketers have been doing this for generations. The only problem is, for most folks, it isn’t really working…
Why your surveys aren’t working
So how does your typical marketing survey go? Generally you’ll say something like, “Hello, these are the three things I try to talk about in my marketing: Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3. Please tell me which of these three things you need help with.”
And then, of course, you’re going to have say 30% of your audience asking for more content covering Thing 1, 30% saying they’re interested in Thing 2, and the rest are champing at the bit to learn more about Thing 3.
So you’ve gone to all that effort and you’re no further forward. And if you then decide to run with Thing 1, you not only upset the two thirds of the people who didn’t want that thing, but you upset them right after you’ve just said “What would you like?”
It’s a bit like going on a lovely first date with somebody beautiful and handsome, and saying “Hello, what would like to drink? “A vodka and coke? Great! Here’s a Bacardi Breezer.” Or what’s your favourite flower? A rose? Don’t worry, here’s a daffodil.”
You’re not looking at the individuals behind the data
The real root of the problem is that, when you’re running any kind of survey or quiz, it’s very difficult to individually identify the people who’ve completed the survey. We tend to look at the results in the wrong way — we see big baskets of data, an anonymous pie chart where maybe 80 people wanted this, and 2000 people wanted that, and 12 people wanted the other thing. But what you don’t know is who those people are. Are they the kind of people you’re actually trying to attract to your business? Are they the people who’re likely to buy from you?
You’re focusing on open-ended questions
That’s another thing that everyone tends to get wrong when they create a survey — asking only open-ended questions.
Let’s say we’re talking about a survey created by a Search Engine Optimization Coach. They start by saying, “Hello, what do you really need help with?” and add a little text field. And it’s just too general. So they get people typing, “I really need help with growing my Facebook audience.” Guess what? They’re an SEO coach, so they can’t help them with their FB audience — that’s not their thing. So you’ve wasted your time and upset your audience because you can’t follow up on what they want help with!
What to do instead
Get your questions right
So forget open-ended questions — what you want to do instead is get people clicking, not thinking. We’re talking clicking on answers with big colourful buttons, check boxes, or pictures. Because that means it’s going to take people seconds to complete a survey, rather than minutes, and that really is the difference between high completion rate and low completion rate.
The second thing is to make sure your survey is no longer than it needs to be. Fewer than six questions ideally, and you know those questions you have on there which you haven’t marked as required? Well if you don’t need to know the answer, take them out because every single additional question reduces your completion rate.
Here’s the thing: you know what you can help people with and what you can’t. So let’s imagine you’re a social media person and you’re awesome with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but for whatever reason, you don’t work with LinkedIn. Maybe you don’t have experience with it, maybe you just don’t like it. But it’s not your thing and if people want help with that, you’re the wrong person to help them, and that’s totally cool.
If you were to run a survey and say, “What social media platform are you most interested in?” And they say “LinkedIn,” that’s kind of totally useless to you. You can’t sell anything to them; you can’t do anything with it.
But, if you say “Which of these things do you most need help with?” and you give them the three options of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they have to pick one of them and they’re going to pick the one that’s most interesting to them. What it does allow you to do is sort of plant a seed in their mind that actually, that’s something they’d like to pursue.
Of course, we don’t want to eliminate their choices too much, but it’s cool to say these are the things I can help you with, and therefore this is the topic that I’m serving you on. Whereas if you were a social media consultant that sent out a survey saying “What’s the biggest “challenge in your business right now?” what do you do if somebody just types into a box, “Hiring and firing staff”?
They’ve answered the question perfectly but you absolutely can’t help them with that. What you’re actually trying to find out is of all the things you can help them with, which of these things is the thing you can help them with right now?
Split your audience
The next piece of the puzzle really, is about how you individually categorize every single individual who completes that survey. Because if we just know that 40% of this clump of people wanted a certain thing, we can’t do anything to serve them particularly, right?
So what we do instead is start making sense of the data
You need to link the information for every single person who completes your survey to your active campaign in your email marketing system — Hub Spot or Active Campaign, or whatever the heck you’re using. So you’ll know that this person really, really wants help with her search engine optimisation and that person really, really wants help with optimising his Facebook page.
Now you know on a granular level what each individual wants — and what content will make sense for them. Of course, then you can also run some charts and stuff to check your priorities. If you see there’s a slight majority of people want help with the Facebook thing, you might do that one first.
Ideally, you want to serve every single person, unless what they’re looking really isn’t high on your priority list and you’re happy for them to head elsewhere.
What do you do if you still have a fairly even split?
This is where we need to start looking at surveys in a different way. Because the thing is, the way that we’ve all thought about surveys forever, has usually been about reacting to what’s happened in the past. The problem is, unless you find that special car that flashes through time, then you can’t go back and change that past. So instead, use surveys or quizzes to power the nextstage of your marketing, rather than just doing it retrospectively.
It’s time to think vertically…
What most businesses tend to do is they’ll do some sort of list building activity. So they get subscribers into their email marketing platform, and then they will do either one or both of two things.
They’ll either just send broadcast emails about whatever’s at the front of their mind right now. So they’ll say “Oh, well this week I want to do a special offer on pens. Pens, pens, pens. That’s what the special offer is this week, special offer on pens.”
Or they’ll focus on the obvious follow up sequences that go out one after the other — a chain of messages
So when someone joins my list, great, they’ll get hit with the first sequence. I’m going to sell SEO services first and that’ll last a couple of weeks. If people buy that, great. If they don’t, well that’s okay, because after that I’m going to sell them Facebook ads for a bit, and we’ll spend a couple of weeks trying to sell them that. Okay, great, now we’ll move on and we’ll try and sell them something else, and so on…
The danger of missing your “sales window”
Now the problem with that is if somebody comes into your universe and the thing they really want help with is fourth in your chain of things, they might have to wait a month, two months, six months before you run that offer, before you give them the info they need to buy, before they even realise that’s something you sell!
Even if they do know you offer it, you’re not actively selling it to them for a really long time. That’s a real problem; by that point they’ve probably disengaged, they’ve probably unsubscribed.
Take me, for example: I have a bit of a thing against SEO. I just don’t like it. I’m sure it’s very valuable and delivers a great result but I’ve never done it in my own business. It’s not for me, so I would never pay somebody to do that service for me. But I’m so interested in Facebook ads; I would definitely pay somebody for that. So I would disengage from somebody who just talks about SEO all the time, in fact I’d probably unsubscribe from them because I’m not interested in that thing myself.
Stacking not staggering
So rather than staggering these sequences so that one goes out this month, another the following month and so forth, try stacking them vertically. When somebody comes into your business — when they make a purchase, join your mailing list, sign up for a webinar, any time they actively engage with your business in some way — you run a quick automated survey within a day of joining.
You might discover that one person really wants help with SEO so they go straight through the sequence of stuff that sells them SEO. And that’s all you need to talk about until they’ve bought that from you. It’s the thing they’ve told you they want, now you just have to put the right content in front of them until they decide that you’re the right person/have the right product for the job.
The person who joins the list and says, “Well, my biggest challenge right now is maximising my return on investment for Facebook ads.” never sees the SEO campaign. They go straight into a bunch of emails about your Facebook ads program.
Now every single person gets served the stuff they need help with
They don’t see irrelevant stuff, which means they don’t unsubscribe, they don’t disengage, and they don’t start ignoring your emails. And of course, you make sales faster. So everybody wins and that’s only possible if you individually identify every single person who’s going through.
The caveat? Don’t make it look as linear as that!
What you don’t want, though, is for someone to fill out the survey and then instantly start receiving sales emails about the thing that they want. It has to look natural; it has to look like these are the emails that they’d be getting anyway. You don’t want to call out to them and say “Hey, in that survey you said you want help with SEO, give us your money!” It’s about taking the concept — the concept that we’ve been trying to use surveys for for decades — and making it actually work in the real world without looking overly sales-ey to people.
The key takeaway?
Using surveys to drive your content takes a whole bunch of planning. As lovely as it would be to just throw it open and say, “What are you struggling with right now? How can I help you?”, to pick your audience’s brain and have them tell you exactly what they want, it just isn’t going to happen. You’ll get the folk who can’t be bothered taking the time to tell you what they need or you’ll get the ones who’ll write reams and reams of stuff, some of which you can’t even help them with anyway!
The key to a successful survey then, lies in the specifics. As good old Dan Kennedy said, “A really good message to the right market will always outperform the media”. So you can do that just by asking each of the individual people, “How do you want to hear this message?” And present that right message to the right people every time.
If you put the effort into knowing who you’re targeting, the problems you solve, and how you’re going to frame it to them, and get it all locked down beforeyou create your questions, these surveys should take you less than 20 minutes to put together. And remember, they need to be short — any more than six questions and your results are going to drop off.
Doing the work upfront means that when you collect the data, analyzing it is so much easier and will take way less time because of the effort you’ve put in to the planning stage.
Final quick tips to help with survey completion rates?
Other than sticking to the “fewer than six questions” and “clicking, not thinking” rules, try putting a progress bar on the top so people can see how far through the survey they are. And make sure that you use some sort of conditional logic to skip questions that aren’t relevant any more.
As you can see we’re all about keeping messages relevant!