Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Listen To Your Peeps

Hey there - how is your e-letter doing?

No, no... don’t talk to me about opens… don't you know that is a useless metric?

Don’t get me started on open rates… that’s a soapbox moment we don’t need to get into. Maybe I'll rant about it next week.

Anyway, I want to know how you, dear reader, figure out if your e-letter or your web site is working. Do you look at clicks... or conversion to sale?

Making money is great... I mean we are here to make money, right?

But what if your sales are one fourth of what they could be? AND how does a sale tell you if you’re giving the readers the content they want?

Oh sure... we can assume we're giving the reader what they want because otherwise retention would be low, clicks would be lower, and sales would be non-existent. So how do you really know?

Its simple direct mail on the web... you go to the "court of last resort" and ask your readers!

Everybody hold hands and say it with me... It's survey time!

Surveying your customers and subscribers is a great way to find out what they think about your products and services. You can find out if you're giving them what they want, or better yet, if you're giving them what they don't want so you can stop and change tack before you lose them.

An online survey is easy to do. Many commercial email providers offer it as a part of their services, but in the alternative there is always surveymonkey.com. Check them out if you aren't familiar.

You may want to offer an incentive for your customers to fill out your survey. Just like a special report in exchange for an email address... you're looking for that fair exchange.

However, I found it depends on what you are asking. If you're looking for demographics or personal info then, yes, you need that extra push to you them to give up the more private data. On the other hand, I like asking free e-letter readers to rate and comment on each issue. This is a great vehicle for testimonials and will show you the most popular themes that your editors should focus on. This makes the reader involved in the process... the editorial process. They feel they are an important piece of the community ...and of course they are. As such, there is no need to offer incentive in this case.

Don't make the survey too big... the longer they are, the more incentive readers will need to fill them out. I’d rather ask 3 or 4 pointed questions then ask my readers to answer a four pager. I’d bet the answers on page 4 aren’t taken too serious... if they are answered at all.

Ok... so you're doing a survey... what should you ask them?

I want to know how my e-letter is doing right now (today) and what direction we should take tomorrow. A general rule is only acquire data that you can act on. It's analogous to a well-known direct mail principle on testing.... you only test big things. That same principle applies here… you should only ask the “big” actionable questions.

Oh, and don’t get too intrusive. These are your readers, your customers, your friends. They are your most valuable assets... so treat them as such.

Now... stop guessing how your online business is doing and go ask your peeps!