By Tom Garry
If you want people to read what you write, write what they want to read.
Makes sense and sounds simple, right? And since you keep your finger firmly on the pulse of your audience, you’re probably able to rattle off a dozen or more ideas for blog posts, newsletter articles, and YouTube videos right now, aren’t you?
If you aren’t, don’t be concerned. Coming up with topics and angles for your editorial calendar is harder than it seems. And if you are able to, congratulations; but make sure there’s not another cause for concern lurking within your abundance of ideas. Take a good, hard look at your list, and assess how many of the subjects you’ve identified primarily serve your interests rather than those of your readers. Those are the posts and articles that won’t be read, but that will make audience members that much less likely to open your next email, peruse another post, or consider you a source of valuable information.
There has to be a better way – and there is.
Survey a sample of your key audience
When it comes to learning what current clients, prospective customers, association members or others want to know, nothing beats going straight to the source. By surveying a representative sample of your key audience, you can obtain a breadth of insights quickly and at relatively low – sometimes even no – cost.
Web-based programs such as SurveyMonkey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/) and others allow you to conduct simple surveys for free, and offer more-sophisticated functionality and reporting for modest monthly or annual fees. You also can mail printed surveys with an enclosed stamped, self-addressed envelope or ask people to participate in a brief, live survey while at your place of business or an event, but whenever possible, I prefer the web-based approach for several reasons.
First, it’s easier for the participant to, well, participate. He or she can answer questions on his own schedule at his own computer, rather than being sidelined in a store or at an event by someone with a clipboard and a plaintive expression on their face. Also, once he has answered the survey questions, all that’s required is hitting “Submit.” No finding the stamped envelope and dropping it in a mailbox.
As a rule, the easier you make it for someone to do something, the more likely they are to do it. So the convenience of web-based surveys benefits you, as well, and those benefits extend beyond the likelihood of higher response rates. You also receive the responses quickly and in a way that allows results to be presented in various formats.
The key to making audience-interest surveys count
My next blog post will enumerate five tips for constructing an effective audience-interest survey, but rather than keep you in suspense, I’ll share the most important one now: Commit to acting on the results.
Too often, businesses and associations survey their target audiences because they view it as a “best practice” or a way to “demonstrate our commitment to being responsive” to customers or members. The process unfolds with much fanfare and self-congratulation . . . but the results are ignored because at some level, whether of hierarchy or consciousness, the survey process was an end in itself. This is the worst type of hollow exercise that wastes your audience members’ time, your time and resources, and – most importantly – a great opportunity to really identify and address what’s most important to the people who are most important to you.
So whatever survey methodology you choose, whatever decisions you make about whom to survey and what to ask, commit now to make their answers count by acting on what you learn.
Next Post: 5 tips for constructing an effective audience-interest survey
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