There’s less than two months before the new year, so you’re in full-on planning mode. You have your goals laid out and you know exactly what what you want to do in your business next year. You’re ready to start planning out your content so you can hit all your goals and then some!
Okay, so maybe you’re not quite that planned out. You’re still figuring out your goals and what new products and services (if any) you want to roll out next year. That’s okay! I think we’re always in a state of growth and change.
Wherever you are on the planning scale, now is the perfect time to start pre-planning your content. By doing some work before you start solidifying your content strategy and calendar, you’ll set yourself up to better target your ideal audience so you really can reach your business and revenue goals. Because you can’t create content with blinders on and expect your audience to rave over it and flock to your “buy now” page. Instead, you need to do your homework.
[bctt tweet=”Don’t create content with blinders on. Find out what your audience wants and needs first!” username=”AbbyMHerman”]
It’s important to talk to your audience about where they are in business and what they need from you. I often get the best response for myself and my clients when I curate a very specific list of recipients based on the feedback I’m looking for. That is where surveying your audience comes in. Here’s how to do this.
1. Know what information you’re looking for.
Think about what’s planned in your business in the coming months. Are you building out a course? Are you launching a new product or service? Are you trying to direct attention to something that hasn’t been selling well? You need to start creating content around these ideas so your audience is ready to buy when you’re ready to sell.
So first, you need to know what your audience already knows and what questions and challenges they have. And, most importantly, you need to know who you’re targeting.
When researching for content ideas, identify a narrow group to formally survey. I recommend creating a list of about 15 people (more if your business grosses more than $100k each year), comprised of both ideal clients who you’ve already worked with and people who you have a relationship with and would be a perfect fit for what you’re marketing. (But be careful not to look at your survey as a way to recruit new clients. That’s not the goal here.)
2. Draft your survey.
Your survey should be no more than six to eight questions, with only four of those being open-ended. Anything longer than that and you’re simply asking too much of your recipients.
Some question ideas include:
- What’s one challenge you have with [your topic or industry]?
- What pressing questions do you have about [your topic or industry]?
- What piece of my content did you find exceptionally valuable?
- Where do you follow me? (Offer a checklist of platforms where you create content.)
- What is your favorite way to consume content? (Offer a checklist of all the platforms where you currently create content or would consider creating content in the future.)
[bctt tweet=”Grab my Content Research Survey template and get content feedback from your audience!” username=”AbbyMHerman”]
Need more ideas for your survey? Grab my Content Research Survey template below and use what works for you!
3. Don’t force identification.
Because I typically survey people I know and want to know, I like to find out how each person responded to my survey. It makes a big difference in how I interpret the results of the survey. For example, if I know that one person hates video content I can determine if she is truly an ideal client or if I should consider that answer (and her other answers) as outliers. But when I ask respondents to identify themselves, it’s never a required question.
Point of note: Because usually only survey small groups of people at a time, I can usually tell who has said what based on their open-ended responses. But that shouldn’t scare you off from responding!
4. Offer an incentive.
You’re asking a favor of your audience, so offer them a reason to take the time to fill out your survey. I like to offer the opportunity to win a $25 gift card to Amazon to those who respond by a deadline about five days in the future. That puts a time limit on responses while giving them something in return.
Whatever the incentive is, make sure it’s something that’s valuable to the people you’re surveying and it’s easy to deliver. A free session with you or a discount on a product or service aren’t ideal incentives. They may not need the free session at the moment, and a discount requires them to purchase something (which isn’t an incentive at all!).
5. Send your survey.
If you’re surveying people who already know you, there’s really no reason to vet them ahead of time. Simply send out the survey via email to each recipient, with a note attached explaining what you’re doing and why. (You can see a sample email in the Content Research Survey template above.)
Point of note: It’s perfectly fine to send the survey email to all 15 recipients at the same time, but be sure to blind copy everyone!
6. Thank your respondents.
I like to send personal messages based on their responses, if I have something fun (or profound) to say. But I also send a thank you to everyone after the deadline and offer my support if they need help with something in their business. You can do this via email or with a handwritten note to each recipient if you have their addresses already.
7. Don’t sit on the data.
Now that you’ve surveyed your audience and gathered new content ideas, it’s time to actually do something with the information. Here’s what I recommend:
- Export the data to an Excel spreadsheet so you can look at all the responses in one place.
- Determine which questions offer you the content ideas you were looking for and note any new ideas you hadn’t thought of.
- If you find a response that seems a bit “off” from what you were expecting, note who that response came from.
- As I mentioned before, the respondent may be an outlier for you–someone who you might decide isn’t your target audience after all. Or maybe this person hit on a pain point that you hadn’t thought of, warranting a follow-up conversation or an additional survey.
I typically take survey results and add them to my growing list of content ideas, marking the new ideas as having come from a survey (so I know later that it’s something I definitely want to cover). I also use the results to create my strategy for upcoming launches and services.
[bctt tweet=”Survey your audience for content ideas, but be sure to do something with the data!” username=”AbbyMHerman”]
Point to note: Just because someone gave you a content ideas does not mean you have to create content about it. If it doesn’t fit with your ideal audience and your business goals, don’t use it.
8. When you don’t send a formal survey.
Of course, you don’t have to send a formal survey to your audience; you can use Facebook groups and informal conversations to achieve the same goal. Just be warned: It takes a lot longer to get results this way. Here’s what to do:
- Find a Facebook group where your audience hangs out, preferably one where you’ve spent some time as well (so you’re already familiar with the members).
- Using the search function on the left side of the group’s main page, search key terms that relate to the information you’re looking for.
- The search results will show you posts and comments that include the key terms you searched. Here is where you can grab content ideas from the questions people ask.
You can also survey your list informally, in your regular nurturing emails. Ask a question and give readers two to four possible answers that they click on. Clicking on their answer redirects them to a page on your website and tags them for future marketing. To find out the results, simply take a look at your email system’s analytics for that email!
I recommend curating information informally like this from time to time, but it’s much more efficient to survey select members of your audience more formally.
At the end of the day, don’t stress about what your content should look like. It’s truly your business goals and your audience that should be leading the charge. Don’t be afraid to ask members of your audience, because if they can’t get their information from you they will get it from somewhere else!
If you’re ready to survey your audience, grab my Content Research Survey here!