This is a guest post from Leslie Samuel, first published in 2011. Although it is an old post, you might enjoy the thought process Leslie explains here when it comes to figuring out what his audience wanted to buy from him. — Yaro

Selling information for money – it’s such a beautiful thing. It’s what so many of us love talking (and blogging) about. It doesn’t take a huge office, lots of inventory, and once it’s done, you can almost set it and forget it – right? Well, it all depends. Allow me to explain . . .

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been working on building my Biology Website. It has been a huge undertaking. After reading Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk, I was convinced that the way to grow my website was to release videos almost every weekday (three to five times a week). Each video would teach one concept in biology.

I also decided to use YouTube as one of the main ways of getting traffic to my website. It was interesting to see what happened next – my traffic increased significantly and has been increasing every month since I started, with my videos receiving anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 views every day. I’ve also started getting people sending me testimonials and Thank You emails almost EVERY DAY (254 since January – yes, I counted), it’s such an exciting feeling.

Then I reached the stage that many internet entrepreneurs reach when they realize that their site is getting decent traffic – the stage where the site is demanding for more resources – a stage that starts to cost more and more money (upgrading servers, outsourcing more tasks, etc). It’s the stage when you know you need to start doing things to start making money.

The Great Money-Making Idea

Since I was satisfied with the level of traffic I was getting, and with the amount of value I was able to share with the world, it was time to take it to the next level – releasing a paid product.

I had many ideas about different products I could release and eventually narrowed it down to what I thought was the best idea – I could take all of my free YouTube videos and create a DVD package. After consulting with an internet marketing friend of mine, we both came to the conclusion that it was the best idea for the following reasons:

  • I didn’t have to create anything new in order to have the product. Since it was based on videos that were already made, all I needed to do was re-export the videos in a form that could go onto DVD.
  • Using a service like Kunaki, you don’t even need to purchase the DVDs in advance. They ship the DVD directly to your customer for you at a low cost of $1 per DVD. So if you charge $97 per DVD, you make a SWEET profit of $96.
  • DVDs generally have a higher perceived value than digital downloads.
  • As I made more free videos, I could release more DVDs in the future, allowing me to have multiple products.

Doesn’t that just sound like a great deal? Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense for me to develop a product like that? Yep, that’s what I thought too, until I made a quick decision to do something very simple that proved to be very valuable. What did I do? I’m glad you asked . . .

If You Want To Know – Ask!

Right before I got ready to start putting together the DVD package, I decided to send out a short survey to my audience. I wanted to know whether they would be more inclined to buying a DVD product or a Digital product. My assumption was that they would prefer to get a DVD, and boy was I wrong. The questions on the survey were the following:

  1. Do you think it would be valuable to make a DVD series available?
  2. If you had to choose between having a physical copy (DVD) or a digital copy (Download) of the Interactive Biology videos, which would you choose?
  3. If we made DVDs available (over time), would you buy a copy?
  4. How much would you pay to be able to get a full Series (approximately 40 videos): The full, mobile AND MP3 versions?
  5. If you could choose between purchasing a Set package at one set price (i.e. a Nervous System Package, Energy Package, etc.) vs a Subscription where you get immediate access to ALL Videos as soon as they are released (full, mobile and MP3), which would you choose?

This survey answered a number of questions that have helped me shape my product that I’ll be releasing over the next few weeks. Allow me to share some of those important answers with you:

When I saw these results, I was very happy. No, it didn’t tell me that 88% of my audience would actually buy, but at least I had a good idea that they thought the idea was worth looking into.

I’m not sure why these results surprised me, but I was indeed surprised. I was thinking that most people would find more value in a physical product, but the results indicated something different – only 9% was in favor of just a DVD. Everyone else were in favor of either all digital or a combination of both. This showed me that if I were to choose one to start with, digital would be the way to go.

When it really comes down to it, knowing that my audience thinks that having a product is a good idea doesn’t paint a full picture. What really matters is whether or not they would actually buy. This told me that 62 of the people that took the survey would at least consider spending money.

This was a very important question for me. I was struggling to decide on a price point. Seriously, I was. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted discussing this question with one of my Internet Marketing buddies over the phone. Now, I know that 74% of the people who took the survey would at least think about paying anywhere between $47 and $197 to get a product relating to my content.

The results to this question really amazed me. I’d always thought about adding a paid membership component to my website. However, I always told myself that it wouldn’t work for this non-internet-marketing crowd. Now I know that 55% of the people who completed this survey would at least think about paying a subscription fee to access the resources I could easily make available.

Why Was The Survey Such A Good Idea?

  • It gave me actionable data. I no longer have to guess at what is more likely to work. I can take action based on actual data as opposed to my thoughts and feelings.
  • It saved me a lot of time. Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I can suffer from analysis paralysis – where I try to analyze every aspect of what I’m trying to do, so I waste time not taking action. Now, the decision-making process took a much shorter time and I can spend time building the product.
  • My audience gets to be a part of the decision-making process. My site is not all about me providing information. The goal is to build a strong community, with active participants. By allowing them to take part, it encourages them to take ownership of the community, and that’s exactly what I want.

Tips For Running A Successful Survey

There are certain things you can do to enhance the likelihood that you will get a decent response to your survey. Here are some very useful tips:

  1. Keep it Simple. Don’t try to answer every question you might have in one survey. In my survey, I did five questions. That’s the most I would do in any survey. Long surveys can be intimidating.
  2. Use a service like Survey Monkey or Polldaddy. They both give you pretty detailed results and stats. I chose to go with Polldaddy because they have a plugin for wordpress that easily allows you to embed your poll into a blog post. With their free service, you can analyze up to 100 responses to each survey.
  3. Promote it in various ways for maximal response. I posted a blog post, sent it to my list, shared it on my Facebook Fan Page and made a YouTube Video about it (I’ve taken down the blog post because the poll is now closed).
  4. Be Human. In creating your surveys, let people know the real deal and ask them for their opinion. I straight up told them that we need money to grow the site, but wanted to make sure to do it in a way that is most beneficial to everyone.

So What Did I Decide To Do?

I decided to set up a membership site that will provide video downloads in two formats (for computer and mobile device), in addition to an MP3 that they can take along with them and listen to even while they are driving in their cars. It will be a paid membership of $47 for six months. Yes, I know it’s a low price point, but I want as many people to benefit from it as possible without having a high barrier of entry. Plus, I know that a significant amount of my audience is at least willing to consider paying that price.

I will also produce DVDs, but not right now. The plan is to eventually make them and offer them at a discounted rate to upgraded members.

Do I know that it will be very successful? No, I don’t. The fact is – a Paying customer is only a paying customer when they’ve actually paid for something. Filling out a free survey saying that you will spend money is much easier than actually spending the money. But you know what – that’s what the “Entrepreneur’s Journey” is all about.

What I do know is that I will gain experience from what I’m attempting to do, and I will report back to you in as much detail as I did in this post. Why? Because I want us to learn together. It’s much more fun that way 😉

Your Comments

So what do you think? Do you think doing a survey was a good idea? Did I make the right decision based on the survey? Have you used surveys to help you decide what to do in your online business? How did it work for you? If you haven’t used them, how do you think it would help you to start? Let me know in the comments below.