Don't guess, just ask

When a visitor subscribes to my newsletter, they receive an email that asks: “Have a question about This Should Help or a topic you'd like to learn more about?”

When a subscriber replies to one of my emails, it comes straight to my inbox. (Not only do I read every email, but I respond to almost all of ‘em too.)

When a subscriber purchases a product or books a service, I remind them that they’ll enjoy priority email support for at least 60 days to have their questions answered.

When a subscriber opts-out of a promotion, I ask them a single multiple-choice question: “Why didn’t you invest in [insert product name]?”

I could keep going, but I think you get the picture.

And I promise, I’m not asking questions because I don’t have anything else to do.

It’s because I’ve realized that the minute I’m too busy to connect with my audience is the minute my business is on a fast track to self-destruction.

I’m humble enough to admit that without you or the other recovering perfectionists in it this community, I don’t have a business. Without people to read this newsletter, it’s nothing more than a personal journal entry. Without people to purchase my products and book my services, all of this is just an expensive hobby. Without people to share what I’m up to with their homies, I’d have to spend insane amounts of money on advertising.

So yeah, there’s actually a method to the madness: Anytime someone in your community does or doesn’t do something you would rather them do, it’s a teachable moment. An opportunity to request and receive feedback.

And feedback is to me what spinach was to Popeye the Sailor Man. It’s what gives my business its strength.

Because instead of guessing or making stuff up, I can actually refer to anecdotes from actual people who have engaged enough with my business to have something meaningful to say AND are willing to share it with me.

And this feedback informs EVERY aspect of my business from product development to marketing to post-purchase experience.

Ask for feedback early and often. There’s no such thing as a dumb question. (You were right, Mrs. Nelson!) Not everyone will respond, but that’s OK. The people who do will provide more than enough to make up for those who don’t. And if not, just for more feedback.

If you’re worried about “mean” feedback, then lemme direct you to the second of The Four Agreements from Don Miguel Ruiz: “Don’t take anything personally.”

It’s your big idea at the end of the day. And you shouldn’t necessarily suppress your instincts or vision or values to accommodate the opinions of the people you aren’t passionate about serving. (As you probably noticed, my questions were to a specific segment of my audience: new subscribers, new customers, unsubscribers, etc.)

You’re not compelled to internalize what people say, think or feel about you. But feedback adds context to people’s decisions. And that’s really what marketing is: Shifting beliefs, mindsets and behaviors so people are empowered to make decisions that bring them more pleasure and less agony.

How can you do that if you’re unwilling to figure out if you’re hitting the mark or identify any blind spots in your product or business that miss the mark?

(If no one’s ever told you, I’ll be the first: Getting people to pay attention to and pay for your big idea requires a smidgen of courage.)

For most of us, this feedback stuff gets easier with experience. And as time passes, you’ll establish safeguards to protect your joy (‘cause the streets aren’t always nice.) My go-to energy-protectors: Daily meditation and journaling, my weekend visits to the Union Square Greenmarket and Barnes & Noble, FaceTime calls with my niece and nephew, and volunteering my time to organizations that are as committed to creating the world I want to see.

So to sum it all up, I’ll leave you with six words: Ask graciously, listen generously and apply wisely.

Because there’s no such thing as a dumb question. Not now, not ever.

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