One of my biggest business mistakes in the past has been making decisions based on assumptions rather than facts.
If you’re targeting a specific ideal audience, sometimes it’s tempting to think you know that audience inside and out, causing you to constantly make decisions on their behalf.
My audience won’t pay THAT for a product.
My tribe isn't interested in THOSE kinds of blog posts.
They didn’t purchase that last ebook because the landing page wasn’t clear.
So many of these statements, though, are based on what we assume about our audience, not what we know.
Wouldn’t you rather build a business based on what your customers tell you they’ll pay for rather than what you guess they’ll pay for?
And I get it, when you’re beyond busy - writing blog posts, developing products, collaborating with people, finding new clients, talking with your community - it can feel like there’s just no time to get feedback. It’s easy to convince yourself that it’s not a priority.
And yet, understanding your audience and what they want/need could be the single most important step in developing a sustainable business.
Getting real feedback from real customers (existing or potential) can actually give you an idea of where to focus your time and resources, making your business operate more efficiently.
For example, a few weeks ago was the second monthly launch window for the Better Branding Course. The launch went well, and I welcomed a number of new students into the course, but a second look at my newsletter analytics revealed that there were an additional 40 people that clicked through the launch email to the course landing page and didn’t purchase.
I could’ve driven myself crazy contemplating assumptions as to why those people didn’t purchase:
Is the course too expensive for them? Is the value that the course provides unclear on the landing page? Am I explaining it effectively enough? Is it just not the right time for them to buy?
Instead of simply guessing why these people didn’t buy the course, I wanted to hear it straight from them. I wrote all 40 of them individual emails very kindly and honestly explaining that my ultimate goal is to add value to people’s lives and that understanding how my products are perceived helps me do that. I asked each of them if they’d fill out a short, three-question survey via Typeform (I also asked them to enter their contact info so I could follow up on their responses.)
The feedback I got was beyond valuable. It took the endless guesswork out of trying to optimize the course launch, and it made it very clear what I should focus on. I took a look at their answers and there were a few recurring suggestions in terms of how to make the landing page more clear, which I’ll be implementing during the next launch (starting July 20th!)
Remember, building a business that generates revenue is about 1) identifying a specific audience, 2) understanding what value you can provide to make their lives easier/better/more awesome, and then 3) delivering that value in a quality way.
Getting feedback is critical to that second part of the puzzle -- the understanding part.
That’s why I continue to make it a priority.
In this post, I want to share with you five ways that I’ve used audience feedback to improve my business (and how you can too!)
1. Optimize your sales process by finding out why your customers didn’t buy.
I’ll be honest, the idea of asking someone why they didn’t buy my product initially scared me. Will they feel it’s intrusive? Will it look like no one bought the course? Is it weird to ask that? At the end of the day, I decided that I wanted the honest feedback more than I feared asking for it.
My idea was to identify people that were clearly interested in the course (they signed up for the pre-launch email list AND clicked through to the landing page from the email campaign on either days of the launch.)
*Pro-tip: you can identify these people in Mailchimp by clicking on your campaign, and clicking “View Report,” then clicking “Click Rate” to view your links and their clicks. Then, by clicking on “Unique Clicks” for whatever link you care about, you can reveal the email addresses of those subscribers that clicked through (see image below.)
Of course, you'll then want to cross-reference that list with your list of customers so you don’t end up emailing anyone that actually did buy.
Here are some additional tips for when you do reach out for feedback:
Make it easy on them. Don’t just leave your request open-ended by saying, “Do you have any feedback on my latest launch?” Determine the top three specific questions you have and either write them in an email or create a survey using something like Typeform so that it inconveniences them as little as possible.
Provide an incentive. I offered to give away one free course randomly among those who gave their feedback because it was worth it to me to hear their responses. Hopefully that extra motivation will help ensure that you have enough people respond to make it worth your while.
Keep it personal and honest. Be truthful about WHY you’re interested in their feedback and describe how you’re going to use the insights to improve your products. Do not send out a standard, boiler-plate email because it will feel insincere. Remember to bring it back to them and remind them that creating valuable products will actually benefit them in the future.
2. Develop more interesting content by getting an idea of who your readers are and what they find valuable.
Content (read: blog posts, videos, etc.) is an incredibly powerful tool for growing your audience AND for creating connections with your audience by delivering value to them on a regular basis. However, to keep those people coming back, you want to make sure that what you're writing about is valuable to them. "Valuable" could mean that it's entertaining, funny, informational, instructional, inspirational, thoughtful, etc.
One way to get feedback on what content is resonating is simply by looking at your analytics: What posts/pages are people visiting most? What posts are they spending their time on? Do you see any patterns developing in the types of content people interact with more?
Another way to get feedback on content is to again send out a simple survey on your blog or to your email subscribers. Ask what kind of posts are their favorite and what they'd love to see more of. I'd also recommend asking some basic demographic/psychographic information on your survey just so you can get an even clearer picture as to who your audience is. Are they entrepreneurs, freelancers, or do they have corporate jobs? Are they designers? Photographers? Do they spend a lot of time reading blogs or no? Find out what you want to know about them and then write questions to clarify those questions.
I always think it's a good idea to take the temperature of your audience once every six months to a year. I also ask new subscribers to Self-Made Society what their biggest challenge is in that moment, and if I see patterns develop in their responses, I use that feedback to come up with future newsletter ideas.
3. Develop killer product offerings based on 1-on-1 sessions with your ideal audience.
When it comes to feedback, while surveys and emails can be great, there is simply no substitute for having a one-on-one conversation with an ideal audience member. You get to know someone on a deeper level as they explain to you their fears, their needs, and what they would love for you to help them with.
Before I ever created the Better Branding Course, I did one-hour Brand Coaching sessions with people who I identified as a potential target audience for my course. It was only by doing several of those calls that I was able to fully understand what content would be most helpful and how to best teach branding to creative business owners that weren't designers. If you are thinking about building a course, writing an e-book or selling a product, try setting up Skype calls or phone calls with your potential customers and interview them about the challenges and pain points they face so that you can develop a product or service offering that is tailor-made to their wants.
4. Let your audience help you decide which of your ideas is worth pursuing.
I have ideas for products all the time, but building a course, writing a book, or developing a resource is hours and hours of work. How do you know which idea has the chance to make your business substantial revenue? Well, I ask! (Kind of.)
When I have a product idea, I come up with a blog post that explores an idea I would teach in that product. Then I offer a pre-launch sign up, usually with a price range of what the product would cost. If enough people start signing up for the list, that's my feedback cue that lets me know some of them will likely buy it and there's a big enough opportunity to warrant the time investment. Otherwise, I scrap the idea and I move on. This product validation system allows me to focus my time on what my audience tells me they are interested in, not what I assume they're interested in.
5. Improve your products using feedback surveys after purchase.
This one might be a no-brainer, but I'm always surprised at how few people I see doing it! At the end of each of my courses or products, I typically have a link to a Typeform survey that asks three short questions about the product, the quality of information and any improvements customers would make. Not only does this give me a clear picture of how people are liking my products and perceiving their value, but it also gives me a wealth of improvements to pull from.
This actually became especially useful in the Better Lettering Course when the feedback survey students filled out once the course was complete revealed that they'd like more video footage of me actually drawing letters (rather than teaching about theory and process.) As a result, I filmed 6 bonus videos and customer satisfaction has increased by 20%.
Understanding what your audience is thinking is the key to developing products and services that are highly valuable. By seeking out opportunities to ask for real feedback, you can continue to serve your ideal audience members and deliver value that will keep them engaged and coming back time and time again.
Are there any other ways that you ask your audience for feedback? Has it proved helpful for you in your business? I love to hear about your experience in the comments!