Moving your business online should be easy in the 21st Century, yet… Not so much!
First of all, we’re not talking about simply putting up an uber-cool website and waiting for the clients to storm your virtual doors. That just doesn’t happen anymore – if it ever did!?! And, while a great website can make a huge difference in building your online reputation, you need content to fill it and products or services to offer.
And there’s the rub. What do people want/need that can’t already be found online these days – and that you have to offer?
While we would never presume to tell you how to run your business, we do have some experience with helping entrepreneurs develop and market products online. One of the things we’ve discovered is that, while you can certainly try to “walk a mile in their shoes” in an effort to understand what others are going through, your own experiences color your perceptions. This makes it almost impossible to truly grasp the pain points of the people you most want to help.
But hey, don’t take it personally. It’s just human nature to perceive the world from your own perspective. But, you can overcome that naturally built-in bias with tools that are readily available and easy to access in the virtual world.
Develop Products and Improve Marketing with Audience Feedback
Of course, we’re not the only ones with some expertise in this area. The digital forms creation service Wufoo and the email marketing platform MailChimp have put together some pointers to help you develop new products. The most important of these being surveys of your audience. (Needless to say, they both offer their services to help you get it done, too.)
Why surveys? Well, think of it like this. If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you began your business with a goal of helping others in mind. You perceived a need and sought to fill it. Unfortunately, for most, that vision goes unrealized and they struggle to survive in a highly competitive marketplace. Either your audience doesn’t see the same need you do, or you’ve somehow missed the mark with targeting and/or marketing your ideas.
In this case, what you really need is more information. You need a deeper understanding of what your ideal client is looking for, as well as broader knowledge of how to present it to them in a more compelling way.
The best way to get that information is to ask them for it. And, that is what a survey does. It gathers information that is critical to the success of your business in a structured way that enables you to process it coherently and effectively. Then, you can take that valuable data and massage your offerings to meet their needs in ways they will find hard to resist. Cha Ching!
We’ve touched on this subject a few times before, approaching it from different angles, such as: client satisfaction surveys, quarterly client profile surveys, opt-in follow-up nurture email campaigns.
Product Development Surveys
It goes without saying, but must be reinforced, that these are all important steps in a successful email marketing campaign. What we’re talking about today though is even more important – gathering product development information directly from the folks you hope will buy it from you.
Once you have the demographics of your target audience in place, thanks to your other surveys, it’s time to get serious about your product development surveys.
Here, we employ the advice of some real audience survey experts, the folks at SurveyMonkey.com. In an article titled, The best questions to ask for developing any product, they share ideas for, well… The best questions you can ask for developing any product:
- How do my target consumers currently use my product?
If you don’t already have a product, answering this question may involve discovering what problems consumers have with similar existing products on the market. Knowing these points of value can help your business focus on the qualities that are most important. If your business wants to add complicated features to the product yet your customers prefer a simplified experience, that’s valuable time and money lost.
(In other words, learn to accept a “Yes, we like it” statement and stop pushing for more.)
- What do my customers dislike about my product?
While it’s useful to find out what your customers enjoy about your product, some of the most important information you can gather is what customers dislike. Sometimes the best questions to ask for product development are the easiest to answer, too, as many customers aren’t shy about voicing their concerns.
(It may take some doing but you often have to set your ego aside and take the feedback in the spirit intended, even when it’s negative.)
- What ideas do customers have to improve my product?
Ordinary customers have plenty of great ideas to improve your product, since they’re the ones using it the most. Surveying customers regarding improvements not only provides valuable insight, but also helps them feel engaged and more invested in your product.
(Offering them the opportunity to help you improve your product shows you are genuinely interested in their opinions, which can gain you huge loyalty points with them.)
- What problems can I solve that my competition cannot?
This question is your classic competitive advantage. It’s the secret sauce in your product recipe. In our scheduling software example [from the article], the software may be faster and easier to use than a paper schedule, as well as cheaper than hiring a secretary or assistant. A paper schedule can be fragile and requires continual hand-entry, and an assistant can be expensive.
(No product is perfect, especially when offered through an impersonal medium like the internet. Use this client input to refine your product and try to make it “more perfect” than your competition.)
And then there’s this one, based on our experience…
- How can I do it better than my competitors?
This may be the most important question in your product development surveys because the answer takes you directly to the heart of the matter. That is – exactly why your target customer is looking for an alternative to your competition. Is it their presentation style? Is there a personality conflict between provider and customer? Has a once ripe offering aged beyond its “Best if used by” date?
(There could be any numbers of reasons a consumer has lost interest in a once-favored product or service. However, you simply cannot presume to know why that has happened. Instead, you need to know exactly what the issue is and find ways to make your offering better.)
The Hard Truth We All Must Accept
We mentioned this earlier but think it bears repeating. It’s a hard truth that ego is often the downfall of even the most sincerely committed, otherwise empathetic entrepreneur. After all, if you’ve devoted the time and invested cash to get training in your niche, you are entitled to some pride in your expertise. We get that, of course.
But, if you’re struggling to sign up clients; if you’re finding it hard to justify investing time, money and energy in your business; if you’re losing sleep trying to figure out what went wrong, it may be time to realize you don’t have all the answers. But, you can get them, through product development surveys of your audience.
Looking for more online marketing tips and email marketing ideas? Get in touch with the YOMT Team today