One of my favorite uses for surveys is to help guide product development.
There's no better way to figure out what products to build, create, or sell than to ask your customers directly. The logic here should be apparent — find out what your customers want, and then give it to them.
They're much more likely to buy that way. But let's take that a little bit further.
* The Wrong Way to Develop a Product
The traditional way to develop a product is to say something like "I love birdhouses. In fact, I love to build birdhouses, and I'm pretty darn good at it, too. I think I'll start a birdhouse company and sell them on the main road around the corner from my house."
And then you go do that.
You invest all your time, your money, and your passion into birdhouses. You design these beautiful finch birdhouses, and some other ones special for canaries, and a few more for doves and pigeons. Everything seems great as the first ones are coming off of the garage-based production line.
So you pack up your car with all your birdhouses before dawn and drive around the corner and set up shop along the side of the road. You put up a sign "Hand-Made Birdhouses On Sale Now!"
And then day breaks and the traffic increases. With high hopes you wait . . . but no one stops. They whiz right by you.
Day after day it's the same thing.
Whiz. Whiz. Whiz.
Maybe you need a bigger sign? Maybe you need more signs? Maybe you should have a sale! Maybe you should set up on the other side of the road next time. . . but. . .
Nothing seems to work. And it doesn't occur to you until just now that maybe the highway traffic on the road in the California Desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas isn't really interested in buying birdhouses.
They want water, gas, and a bathroom.
This story is not as uncommon as you might think. Every day, people start businesses and develop products based on all of the wrong reasons. Passion is great. Trends are terrific.
But if you aren't giving your traffic what it wants, you aren't going to have a business for very long.
I had a private consultation this week with a very gentle man who was still trying to make a go of his first online business. He wanted to sell cuckoo clocks online.
We had a long talk about that, because believe it or not, there are thousands of kinds of cuckoo clocks. The problem with this man starting an online cuckoo clock business is that he is going to have to work very hard to find the right kind of traffic in any fast, reasonable way so that he can get some good, quick, and satisfactory results.
So I'll share some of the advice that I gave him, and expand that into a better way to select or design a product.
*The Right Way to Run a Business
Rather than developing a product and then going out looking for the traffic, how about you first start with the traffic, and then figure out what products it wants to buy? Once you figure that out, you get that product and throw it in front of the traffic.
I know, it seems backwards, but it works FAR better and is far cheaper than doing it the other way. In fact, you'll be able to go into this new business with much greater confidence because you already know what the traffic wants to buy.
* The Reasoning
So here's an outline of how you can use surveys for product development.
Let's say you've got an existing business selling gardening-related products, and a small list of subscribers. You've got a small but steady stream of traffic coming to your website, and a few people buy your existing products now and then.
You've got to do something to increase sales, or your spouse is going to make you get a job. (Oh, the Horror!)
Here's what you're going to do.
1) Build a survey page
2) Build a Thank You page
3) Drive traffic to your Survey
Once we do that, we're going to add one more element to it to really make it powerful.
* The Question
The most important part of any survey is the question you ask. In the case of product development, you can ask a question in any of these three forms:
– Problem Oriented: What's the biggest problem you have with X?
– Solution Oriented: What's the one thing you need to know the most with X?
– Question Oriented: What's the single most important question you have about X?
Depending on your own goals, you can choose any one of the three, or come up with something different. The idea here, though, is not to ask a multiple choice question where you pick the answers ahead of time. What you want is the free thinking of your potential customers.
Now, there is a time and place for multiple choice questions, but in general, you'd want the answer to be a lengthy stream of consciousness from your respondent.
Here's the important part: You now have a clear cut path to use surveys in creating a product you KNOW has a better chance of selling. But you must take action. If you can follow the instructions I just laid out you will save hours of time and money in the product creation process.