What’s your single most important question about ____?

What’s your single most important question about ____?

Last year I attended a two day event in Salt Lake City with Joshua Boswell presenting as part of a Perry Marshall sponsored event.  The first day we covered a lot of general material, but one of the most interesting to me at the time was the method both Joshua and Perry used to survey a market.  As it turns out they usually skip 80% of the responses giving preference to the 20% that they call hyper responders (Perry’s big on the 80/20 rule).  They then cater their entire product and pitch to those hyper responders.

As I asked questions and drilled deeper with them on this point, I discovered that they got the method of gathering and scoring survey results from Glenn Livingston.  In fact, you can sign up on his email list and get a scoring sheet that tells you how he mathematically calculates the value of each response to help you isolate the hyper responders that are most likely to give you the pulse on your niche.

Before I get into all the details, here’s a quick download that will help you see a birds eye view of the process:

marketing survey diagram

Critical Questions

The basics of his survey method center on the following questions

  • What’s your single most important question about ___ ?
  • What happened today in particular to make you sit down and search for ____ ?
  • How difficult was it for you to find a good answer for the above while searching today? (Not at all, somewhat, very)
  • Specifically, what would finding an answer to this problem mean to you?  How would this affect your life?

The first three “critical questions”, as he refers to them, can give you a lot of information about your niche.  Some insights include commercial intent, availability of existing solutions, triggers and events that prompt people to search for solutions.

Perhaps the most interesting is the fourth question.  When the first three responses score well, the fourth question can give you the actual sales copy.  Answers to the last question are almost sure to be loaded with emotional benefits that someone wants to get from a potential solution.

You might notice that this approach is a lot different that the typical approach.  Usually multiple choice questions are used to increase response and facilitate scoring.  The big problem with multiple choice questions, as opposed to the open ended questions mentioned above, is that you impose your best guess on the respondent and end up with their best choice from the listed options.  With open ended questions you get the raw meat of what they really want.


Let’s turn out attention to the functional details of how to survey.  There are several things you’ll need to figure out before you start directing traffic to your survey.  Here’s a short list:

  • Copy or video that will sell someone on taking the survey
  • The actual survey mechanism
  • Thank you page
  • Viral inviter and social media share

The idea here is that you want to give someone a reason to take your survey and then attempt to maximize the traffic you get by inviting them to share it with their friends.

Here’s what I used for my latest survey:

  • Video
  • Survey Gizmo
  • Thank you with direct download links
  • OpenInviter

Before starting my survey I did research and made some guesses about what my audience would want (you need a starting point).  I then created a script for my video that I thought would appeal to them and get them to take my survey.  For my survey I identified my traffic source which enabled me to draw some conclusions about them and use those in my video (e.g. they were very frugle).  I decided to make the video as a voice over with images and text.  I went through my script and recorded it about a dozen times until I felt like it flowed pretty smooth.  By the way, I recorded each time I went through it and listened to it.  This helped me to eliminate things from the script that didn’t work and to put things in that did work.  Once I felt like I had it mostly where I wanted it, I slept on it overnight.

The next day I recorded it a couple more times and ended up with the master audio track that I wanted to use.  I then moved into my video editing program (this doesn’t need to be fancy) and started to add in the images and text.  I should mention here that you could just as easily create a powerpoint/keynote presentation that would have the text and images that you wanted and use a screen recorder program, like camtasia, jing, screenflow, etc. and have the video and audio in one go.  The free video editors like Windows Movie Maker and iMovie will also work just fine for this.

I used images from the site http://www.sxc.hu and http://www.istockphoto.com throughout my video.  While I was creating the video I just downloaded the images with the watermark on them and replaced them later with the images that I decided to purchase.  I also used pretty basic fonts with simple bold to highlight what I thought were the most compelling points.

The entire process took me between six and eight hours and I ended up with just over two minutes of video.  That might sound a little crazy, but the more time you spend, the more likely you are to effectively communicate with your audience.

It’s also worth mentioning that I hosted the video file and splash image on amazon S3 to reduce the risk that a visitor to my site would have any trouble or delay watching it. This essentially reduced the risk that a traffic spike would slow down my site or the survey.  This is always good practice, especially when you go to the expense of buying traffic.  You don’t want people to leave because they couldn’t load the survey.

Survey (service or self hosted?)

As I mentioned above I used http://www.surveygizmo.com to design and capture my survey.  I have used the open source LimeSurvey software in the past, and it is powerful, but it’s not very user friendly.  Self hosting would also require my server to do more work, which might slow down the survey if I got a large bit of traffic all at once.  Since the services and self hosted options have roughly the same features, it was really a choice of which would be easier and keep the survey responsive.  I chose Survey Gizmo.

My traffic source for this survey was from another blog.  As a result I knew that I wouldn’t have any keyword data associated with each survey response and so I decided to include an initial profiling step in my survey.  I know that Ed Dale has said that each question you include can reduce your overall response rate on a survey.  The reason for the profiling step was to ensure that I ended up with enough data to classify my responses and identify other traffic sources that might be a match for the products I ended up with.

Thank you page

I offered an incentive for taking my survey in the form of free software downloads.  These were linked to directly from my thank you page.  BE CAREFUL.  The incentive that you use will affect your survey responses, for better and worse.

While it may be true that an incentive will increase your response rate, it’s important to realize that if the incentive is too good you may attract unqualified respondents or you might even skew your results with bogus data or duplicate entries.  Remember that you’re looking for the hyper responders.  These are the people that are so desperate to find a solution to their problem that they’ll fill out yoru survey just to talk about their problem.  If folks aren’t interested enough to fill out your survey without the incentive, that might be a really good indication that market demand is weak or that your traffic is lacking in commercial intent.

I know that Joshua Boswell suggested that you use the product you plan to create as the incentive.  So if you were going to produce a set of cooking videos and wanted to purchase traffic on keywords such as “how to cook for your in-laws”, you would explain that you were about to complete a set of videos that would teach you everything you needed to know about cooking for your in-laws, but before you finish it, you need a little more input.  In exchange for taking the survey you’ll give them a free copy of the finished product, up to some number of total copies that you’re willing to give away.

This appears to be a sensible approach, since the incentive will presumably motivate your target customer.  They self qualify in a sense.

Viral inviter

Oh the lure of everyone in the world sharing your stuff with their friends.  In the end, I think there’s a lot of luck to this.  Either way, you can increase your chances of people sharing the offer with their friends in two ways.  The first is to make it easy and automatic.  The second is to provide an incentive to do so.  I do think that incentives to share the survey are different than incentives to take the survey.  In the case of an incentive to share the survey, they’ve already given you their response, so you don’t really skew their results.  The negative to this would be if they invited unqualified respondents just to get the incentive, but then hopefully your survey incentive will work to help those invited self qualify.

For my latest survey I chose to both automate and provide an incentive.  I used the excellent OpenInviter software which allows someone to provide their email address and password and then choose to send the canned message to all of their friends.  Here’s an example of a canned message:


I just took a survey and entered a drawing to win a free video MP3 player.  You can still take the survey and be entered to win until midnight on Sunday, February 28th.

I hope one of us wins!

[link to take survey]

I automatically insert the link at the bottom of the email so they can’t fiddle with that, but they can customize the message above if they like.  This script doesn’t capture and store any personal information.  It only uses it to send this one email address.  In my opinion, it would be unethical (and possibly illegal) to do otherwise.

Once they check the boxes next to all of their friends and click send, then the entire survey flow is complete.  It’s also important that you are able to identify traffic that comes from the viral inviter as opposed to traffic from your primary source.  To accomplish this I created a link using Google’s URL builder and the pretty link plugin on blog.  This way the link looked normal, but my analytics kept track of how much viral traffic I got.

Embed in your blog

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how the survey runs and what to ask along the way, we can tackle the question of how to host the survey.  As it turns out, the easiest way (and the way that I do it) is to create a WordPress page and embed the components of the survey there.

The specifics of how to do this will vary slightly depending on whether your used video or copy to “sell” the survey.  If you use video this may still look different depending on whether you self host or use a service.  I prefer to self host my video, but there are times that I use YouTube too.  In the case of YouTube it’s very easy.  You just go to your video page and copy the embed code.  It’s in the little grey box to the right of, or just below your video.  If you’re using copy, just type it in.

In surveygizmo, after you finish setting up your survey you’ll need to click publish.  Scroll down about half way and you’ll find a section entitled “Advanced Publishing – Embedded Surveys”.  They give three options there and recommend the javascript method.  The javascript method may give you trouble when trying to embed into a blog page, so I suggest the iframe option.

Make sure that you switch from Visual to HTML before you paste the embed code.  Another quirk about wordpress is that when you switch from HTML back to Visual, it will often change your code.  This can break the embed.  I recommend you paste the embed code very last and publish with the editor in HTML mode.  If you ever need to edit it either edit in HTML mode or redo the embed code before updating the page.

Do your own survey

That turned out to be a really long post, but I can’t think of anything I would take out.  I could write an entire report on the specific details.  Now that you know the steps involved, go get a free surveygizmo account, create some copy or a quick video and make a survey.  If you get stuck come back and post a comment here.  Happy hunting.

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