Ask. How to understand what customers really want, create a crowd of rabid fans, and take any business to the next level

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Author: Ryan Levesque

Ask: The Counterintuitive Online Method to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level Ryan Levesque 2015

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The sales method that will change the world (Ask)

Ask: The survey method, developed by Ryan Levesque, has brought in more than $100 million to businessmen operating in 23 industry markets. Over 3 million leads were received and about 200 thousand deals were closed thanks to the use of the “survey funnel” method developed with mathematical precision. In the Ask book, a well-known consulting specialist reveals his method thoroughly and in detail, and when asked why he shares what makes him money, he answers: “To change the world.”

Ryan Levesque is a guy from an ordinary, not very wealthy family. As a schoolboy, he worked three jobs to attend college and, through his perseverance, entered the prestigious Brown University. Having become fluent in Chinese, after graduating he worked for a large financial company in Shanghai, but after a few years, he decided to give up a five-figure salary in US dollars to work for himself. He built a lot of online businesses, but, faced with a serious illness, he decided to narrow his focus – he began to teach entrepreneurs how to get an online shopper to take out their wallet and make a purchase during the first visit to the site.

Levesque is a real digger in the field of new knowledge: he studied copywriting from the works of the “Print Prince” Gary Halbert and took the method of working with website visitors from Glenn Livingston, famous for his campaigns for American Express, Burger King, Colgate-Palmolive, MasterCard, Panasonic, and many others. Having honed it and brought it to perfection, Levesque created this book. And Livingston wrote a preface to it, in which he calls the survey method “the most powerful marketing tool in the world that will help you dramatically increase the profitability of your business.”

That’s all well and good, you say, but how can a sales method change the world? Quite simply, replies Levesque. The method of surveys is aimed at describing the needs of the client as accurately as possible and offering him a solution to his problem. If all sellers start doing just that, the world will be full of happy buyers who find their products, and successful sellers who bring joy to people and make a profit. This is a real win-win method, and Ryan Levesque is sure that the time for such wonderful harmony will definitely come, and pretty soon. He encourages everyone to use the survey method, adapt it to their business, earn money and make the world a little better. 

And one more important note before you dive into the essence of the survey method. The process is important. You cannot implement one part of the method and wait for the result – success will come only with the consistent implementation of all the steps outlined. Do not strive for perfection right away – the main thing is to start acting. 

The book is mainly about online business, but will be useful in any area of ​​​​sales – the principles of the survey method can be easily applied to every situation of contact between the seller and the buyer.

Ask and answer 

People don’t know what they want. So questions like “What are you looking for?” and “How can I help?” make so little profit.

A successful sale begins when the seller first gets as much information as possible, and then, demonstrating his understanding of the problem, interest, and competence, offers a solution. The buyer should feel that you know his problem as well as he does, but, unlike him, you see the solution – then he will give you his money.

Everything is simple. However, to achieve this, you need to apply a coherent and logical method and lead the potential buyer through the “survey funnel”, taking into account a number of important nuances. By doing this, you will not only get online sales, but also a working method of communication with consumers that will help you continuously improve your marketing and profit from repeat sales.

“Funnel of Polls”

Similar to the classic “sales funnel”, the “survey funnel” is a series of steps that turn a person into a customer. The process uses four types of surveys:

  • Deep – survey with open answers; aims to collect information and create or expand your contact list.
  • Questionnaire – a survey consisting of clarifying, more private and personal questions with options to choose from; aims to accurately segment your audience in order to fine-tune your marketing.
  • “Hate Poll” – with one open question; aims to find out what keeps those who signed up for your newsletter but never bought anything from buying.
  • Pivot – a survey that allows you to continue working with those who do not unsubscribe, but also do not respond to any of your offers and do not become your client.

I stage. Training. Deep Poll

Many entrepreneurs think they know their customers well, but that’s not true. Seemingly small inaccuracies cause huge losses: incorrect targeting in advertising campaigns, incorrect messages in mailings, and the use of inappropriate visualization lead to the fact that up to 90% of marketing efforts are wasted.

An accurate—and real—portrait of an audience can only be drawn up after careful study. And the best way to do this is with an in-depth survey that provides basic information about your potential buyers and the issues they care about.

Deep Poll Mechanics: 

  1. Mailing with an offer to participate in a survey or buying traffic leads to a landing page specially created for the survey (if you do not have a mailing list).
  2. The actual poll.
  3. Data analysis (allocation of the proportion of the audience on which your marketing will be further focused). 

The analysis of the data obtained during the in-depth survey cannot be trusted by a machine: to capture subtle but important patterns, a flexible human mind is needed. This is all the more important because this survey uses open-ended questions that users answer in a free form. 

Newsletter. The letter should be written naturally and simply as if you were addressing it to a friend (and not to a colleague, and even more so to a boss). The letter should mention that participation will take a little time, that the main topic is the issue that most concerns the addressee today, and that the answers are important to you and will allow you to prepare better proposals for this person in the future.

It is very important that the invitation does not offer any valuable prizes or rewards for participating in the survey – the reward will be the solution to the problem that worries your addressee. If you absolutely want to give your survey participants some extra incentive, offer them a discount on a future solution to their problem, as a thank you for the feedback and the opportunity to improve your services.

An in-depth survey is conducted on an existing mailing list. If you are just starting a business and do not have such a list, there are two ways: buy a mailing list from a company operating in this segment, or create a landing page and drive cold paid traffic to it. The first way is faster and cheaper, but it may not give you a complete picture of the market, because you will be dealing with someone else’s sample. A deep poll on a landing page with paid traffic is a more expensive and time-consuming method, which, however, will show a more accurate picture.

Landing for an in-depth survey. This is a simple design page with text and videos that briefly introduce your product and offer rewards for completing a survey. Here are the required elements:

  • product presentation (video and text – for fans of different presentation formats);
  • an invitation to take a survey; 
  • button or link to the survey page;
  • the promise of an indirect reward (see above) for participating in it. 

Make sure your landing page meets the requirements of the major search engines and ad networks so you don’t run into traffic issues. 

Poll. If you sell multiple products and respondents come to your survey site from different sources, you need to create a coding system that marks the referral source for each respondent.

  • The first question is an open one: “What is the biggest problem you are currently struggling with?”. The respondent answers freely.

Levesque insists that the question “What are you fighting today?” combines two types of questions that people answer sincerely and accurately – “What do you not want?” and “What have you been up to lately?”. This is the best way to find out what a person really cares about. This is the most important question you should ask your potential client.

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  • The second question is personal and very simple, with a choice of two answers. For example: “Internet business is your only source of income?”. The respondent should answer without hesitation.
  • The third question is a closed-ended (multiple choice) question that you ask for more accurate segmentation: “Which of these definitions best describes you?” (a respondent whose only source of income is the Internet can be the head of a company, a consultant, a copywriter, an employee, etc.).
  • The fourth question is the level of income, broken down into intervals that seem reasonable to you from the point of view of your business.
  • Fifth question: “Specify in which segment do you work?”. Needed so that you can offer this person relevant success stories in the future.

Please note that in each survey, the number of responses gradually decreases because people get tired and stop responding. Therefore, you should first ask the most important questions for you, and leave the clarifying questions for later. 

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  • The final question is an offer to leave contacts (email, name, phone). A mandatory element is a promise not to sell anything! It goes something like this: “I would like to think about your situation and discuss it with colleagues in the field. If you don’t mind talking on the phone for a few minutes (I promise not to sell you anything!), please leave your number.” The more respondents who leave their contacts, the more successful your survey.

Levesque does not face multiple rejections at this stage, because respondents know that his advice costs a lot of money and perceive this offer as a gift. 

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How to do data analysis

  • Download the survey data from the service you conducted it on.
  • Hide all columns with technical information.
  • Add a column on the left for codes corresponding to referral sources (where the respondent came from).
  • To the column where the answers to the very first open question fell into, add a column in which you will indicate the length of the answer in characters (this is the most accurate criterion for readiness to make a purchase, Ryan Leveque is sure).
  • In addition to the columns in which users have provided their names and emails, add technical columns in which you can indicate whether the information was provided (yes – 1, no – 0). 
  • To the column in which people indicated their phone numbers, add a column in which you can substitute values ​​using the formula: 1 – if there is no phone and 1.5 – if there is a phone. This field will be the coefficient by which you multiply the number of characters from the open answer – and thus get the share of a potential buyer (if a person gave a detailed answer and also left a phone number, the probability that he will become your client is as high as possible).
  • Enter a column in which the received product of numbers will be added (length of the answer in characters and the presence/absence of a phone number). Sort the data in descending order by the value in that column. 
  • Your marketing efforts should be focused on the top 20% of the resulting list. If that 20% have less than 100 responses, you can include the next 20% on the list as well, so you have more data to analyze. 

By analyzing the data, you can find some other interesting patterns that will come in handy later in communicating with your respondents. You may find that all people with a certain income level work full-time, and a business of a certain size is more likely to sell its own product.

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With In-Depth Survey, you will be able to:

  • segment your audience into subgroups;
  • understand what they aspire to and what they fear;
  • find out where their button is.

The main tool for dividing into groups is the analysis of the answer to the open question “What are you currently struggling with?”. They need to be studied and reduced to 3-5 typical queries that you will offer to solve using your product. 

You need to set up your marketing so that it covers about 80% of the market. To save effort, this target segment needs to be broken down into subgroups, each of which will be targeted with key messages, suggestions, thanks, and success stories. There should not be too many subgroups – look for important indicators and combine respondents based on their answers into different groups until you get the right numbers: your sample covers 80% of the market and is divided into 3-5 subgroups. 

For example, 85% of owners of their own business have an income of less than $500 thousand per year, 68% – less than $100 thousand. The author concludes that he can offer services to the top 15% of the highest price level, another 20% will be interested in programs for large businesses and the rest can be offered an introductory basic course on the implementation of his methods in online business.

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For a marketer, demographics (age and gender) are not as important as knowing the problems people face.

II stage. Segmentation. Questionnaire

This survey consists of simple multiple-choice questions, and in order to get the result (“diagnosis and prescription”), the visitor will leave their email and name at the end.

From your experience in business, you already know that usually, problems of potential customers fall into some classes. For example, as an online sales consultant, Ryan Levesque knows that his clients typically want to:

  • learn how to sell different products to different customer segments;
  • increase the conversion of paid traffic;
  • improve the “sales funnel” or create a “sales funnel” from scratch.

Based on this experience, he develops questions for a segmented, questionnaire survey. Here are his questions:

1. “Full-time or part-time?” 

It is very important that the first question is simple and the person answers it without thinking. In no case do not immediately demand contact details, your task now is to create an atmosphere of trust, and not to scare.

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2. Personal question: “Do you sell your own product / are you a consultant?” (The most typical personal question is the age group, but the results of the in-depth survey will allow you to find the most interesting categories that you want to know more about).

3. “What is your traffic situation?” Answer options: “It’s OK, I have thousands of hosts / I’m trying to increase traffic.” 

When composing questions, you should demonstrate that you have taken into account the results of the first survey – this will strengthen your credibility (and also allow you to create branching sequences of questions for different audience segments).

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4. “Describe the situation with your mailing.” Answer options: large sheet / small sheet / not yet.

5. “Estimated size of your internet business/consulting practice?”: Less than $100K/$100K to 499K/More than $500K/More than $1M.

6. “My clients who are fully occupied with their internet business, sell their own product, want to increase their traffic and mailing list, and have an income of up to $100,000 per year, usually face these main tasks (tick the option that suits you best) ): learn how to sell different products to different segments of buyers / increase the conversion of paid traffic / improve the “ sales funnel  / create a  sales funnel  from scratch. 

This question, as you can see, has the answers to the previous ones embedded in it. 

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There is a little trick you can use to check the accuracy of your options. Suggest an “other” option here – if more than 10% of respondents select this option, you might want to work on the survey again. 

The point of this survey is to create the effect of a personal conversation so that the site visitor feels like they are in a personal consultation with you. So keep your questions simple and use technology tools to include answers in the discussion box. 

At the end of the questionnaire, you can either immediately direct the visitor to a page that sells a product for his group, or first ask him to leave contact information (email, name). The second option is much better because it helps you communicate with the respondent later on.

Landing for a questionnaire survey. This page encourages the visitor to delve a little deeper into his problem and tell about it to a specialist who can find the best solution.

Key elements of this landing page:

  • The most important thing is presentation and positioning. To do this ideally, imagine yourself as a doctor clarifying the diagnosis and prescribing treatment for the disease that torments the patient. You offer a solution to a problem that a person is struggling with – it’s the same thing.
  • Video with a product story – as a rule, a video presentation brings a better response than a text one. It can be a video, or maybe an animated presentation, the main thing is that the picture moves. Below you will find scripting tips for your video.
  • A small hider! The most common mistake is the top part of the page with the logo and the name of the company is too large, due to which the user does not see the main content right away. Will he scroll to see the product presentation? Not necessary. And you will lose a client because of a large logo. At the same time, the header should always contain the name and logo, any pictures and buttons that prove that the visitor has a legal and respected business in front of him, links to non-paid publications about you, as well as (already optional) your branded navigation elements that resonate with the design of the company’s main website. If you use media logos in your header, make them translucent to reduce distraction. 
  • Title – placed directly above the product presentation video. Build it in the form of a question to get the visitor’s brain to “engage in a dialogue.”
  • The block under the video is information “for readers”, that is, those who do not like to watch videos on sites. It should be brief, in two or three paragraphs, the benefits that the buyer of your product receives; It is also good to post reviews and publications.
  • The background of the page is white. All attention should be directed to the content, not to the design.

How to make a video for a survey landing page. The author does not give technical advice, except for one thing: to use the most modern technical tools at the time of creating the landing page. It always justifies itself.

The psychology of sales videos remains the same: your video must first of all have a hook – an intriguing idea that makes the visitor think “how cool – I want to know more about this – I want this product.” It is a great art to come up with a hook, but the image of a doctor who refines the diagnosis can help you again. 

  • Start with a promise to solve the main problem that the visitor told you about during the in-depth survey. Then say that only a few (three or five) things usually get in the way of solving this problem (at this point, the visitor will be relieved that there are only a few of these things, which means that the problem is solvable).
  • Now convince people that they are in the right place where this problem will be solved. Build phrases using those 3-5 key typical problems that you identified during the analysis of the in-depth survey: “If you are just starting your business and do not know how to get traffic to the site…”, “If you want to improve your “sales funnel” …”, “If you want to lose weight for the holidays…” – “then this may be the most important video for you”, or “then you might be interested to know what we came up with…”, or “here is the reason why We made this video for you.”
  • Having hinted that the solution is known, go back a little and pose another problem – there is no universal solution! People willingly buy from those who believe in their uniqueness and individuality.
  • Go to the questionnaire. “Therefore, we invite you to take a short survey that will help clarify your situation and choose the best solution for your particular case” – so beautifully you move on to the questionnaire, which is so named because of its simplicity and the ability to answer most of its questions without hesitation.
  • Then tell a little about yourself – you need to convince people that they will not waste time answering your questions and will actually find a solution to their problem.
  • Reinforce confidence by sharing how you designed this questionnaire and how it helped other people solve their problems (don’t read reviews, just show before and after pictures on the screen and describe customer success in your own words).
  • Explain why you choose to offer your product online even though you are making good money doing it (for example, you decided to make your service more accessible to more people because you want to help them).
  • Then give a simple instruction: “Click on the button below this video and take the survey.”
  • Now say that your offer is valid only for a limited time – and by leaving the site now, the visitor will lose the unique component of your offer. By the way, this must be true, because people can come back and check. 
  • Finally, close with a second call to action: “Take the survey now by clicking the button below the video.”

III stage. “Immediately Selling” Landing Page

The purpose of this page is to make the person who first came to the site immediately become your buyer. This is not easy, because the visitor will have to get up from the sofa, find a wallet with a card, and enter its data … Not easy, but possible. Because you have already prepared and know where your buyer has a “button”. Continuing to play the role of a doctor, on this page you:

  • explain typical symptoms that have been identified through previous interviews;
  • prescribe treatment.

In other words, you partially give valuable knowledge for free, but immediately after that offer paid options at a more advanced level. Visitors feel that the surveys were not in vain, are grateful and enthusiastic, and are ready to pay for more.

Requirements for an “immediately selling” landing page:

  • White background;
  • small header;
  • a video with tips for those who completed the surveys and a product presentation (script tips below);
  • price information, buy buttons and other selling mechanics are located below the video and are not visible at first sight. This is important: the atmosphere of trust and strengthening of communication with the client is at the forefront here, and everything should work for this;
  • mini-landing for those who are trying to leave the site (does not want to watch the video, are in a hurry, etc.) – when you click on the back button in the browser, try to close the tab or move the mouse outside the frame, a page should pop up with a brief text and graphic presentation of the benefits product, price, urgency arguments (“only now!” etc.) and guarantees, as well as a “buy” button. 

How to make a video for an “immediate selling” landing page. In this video, you describe a problem that your prospective clients are having, escalate the tension, and finally offer a solution.

This video should include several key elements:

  • expressing gratitude for participating in the survey;
  • description of the “diagnosis” and – ideally – giving it the original name; this will awaken the client’s fantasy and allow him to say something like: “Ah, so that’s what it’s called, it turns out I have cold traffic syndrome – and what does it mean?”;
  • a more detailed description of the problems of a particular “diagnosis”, emphasizing that you understand the essence of the problem, realize its significance and urgency, and really want to help solve it;
  • a proposal for a solution – necessarily along with a rationale for why this particular solution should be chosen from all that are available to your client;
  • a description of the benefits of the purchase;
  • a detailed story about what exactly the client will receive for their money;
  • description of bonuses, price justification, guarantees, and urgency arguments (why the purchase should be made right now).

Acknowledgments and reviews should take up minimal time and space in this video, they should be mentioned in passing and in general terms.

IV stage. Increasing profit. Working with clients after the sale

The real profit comes not from the first sale in which you invest the maximum budget, but from subsequent ones. Therefore, after the client has made a purchase, work with him continues. We also continue to work with those who have moved up the “funnel” to a decisive milestone but have not made a purchase.

A person who has just made a purchase is in the right mood to immediately buy something else. Therefore, offer to complement his purchase, emphasizing that for this he will not have to make a new purchase: enter payment data, address, etc., or pay for shipping. 

Suggest:

  • even more consumer goods (food supplements for three months to those who have already bought one); 
  • another valuable item as a gift (bought for mom – buy for sister);
  • a more advanced training option (individual training – for those who bought a standard online course); 
  • solving a future, “good” problem (investment advice for someone who bought the course “How to get a pay rise” – when the salary becomes higher, the money will need to be invested).

If the user refuses to complete his order, offer him “almost as good a solution” (not three packages of nutritional supplements, but just one; not a full course with a coach, but just one consultation). Because perhaps the problem is the price of the add-on that you have already suggested.

Finally, offer another “promotion item” that is only going on today and only now (remember: this should actually be a limited-time offer!). 

End of the funnel. Mailing Lists, Hate Poll, and Turn Poll

The final part of the “survey funnel” is mailings, which, according to the author’s experience, bring from 25 to 75% of purchases made as a result of using the survey method. Depending on the industry you’re in, a good sales rate from cold traffic is usually between 1% and 10% – but you can achieve much more with newsletters. By abandoning them, you will throw into the trash all the efforts that you made in the first two stages of the “survey funnel”.

Ryan Levesque offers 2 series of 12 letters – for those who have already purchased your product, and for those who have not bought anything. 

General tips for mailing lists

  • cut off the title (to intrigue the recipient);
  • write in short, energetic sentences;
  • use colloquial speech;
  • Every email should have an active link!

12 letters for those who didn’t buy

By sending these letters in sequence, you will be able to get the most out of your work. Email subject lines are designed to appeal to buyers with different decision-making scenarios.

“Why do you hate me?” is a separate survey consisting of only one open-ended question. “I offer you X and Y, installments and discounts, share my experience with the product and tell you how it can help solve your problem – but you still haven’t bought anything. Seems like you hate me. For what?”

As a rule, the response to it is very good: it is unpleasant for people to think that they are suspected of hating anyone. If they still haven’t unsubscribed from your mailing list, then there’s a good chance they’ll answer what’s holding them back from buying. 

The turnaround survey is so-called because it gives you the opportunity to “unfold” communication with a potential buyer in a new way. In this letter, you first acknowledge that you failed to get the respondent interested in your proposals, and of course, this is normal, because there are no solutions that are equally good for everyone. And then you offer several options to choose from – what to offer to satisfy your request? There may be an open response form or several links to other products and offers. 

A pivot survey starts a new cycle of “survey funnel”: by analyzing the answers to it, you build a new “funnel”, starting with the offer that became the most popular with your respondents.

10 main thoughts

1. Customers don’t know what they really want.

2. Once you figure out what your customers want, you can position the product (or change it) so that it sells.

3. The buyer takes out his wallet when he gets the feeling that the seller knows his problem better than himself and understands how to solve it. This is especially difficult to achieve in online sales. Consistently conducted surveys provide the necessary level of understanding of the client’s problem. 

4. Polls can be conducted without even having a mailing list: buy a database from another company (it’s cheaper, faster, but can give a distorted picture) or buy traffic and direct it to a specially created landing page.

5. Open-ended questions provide an opportunity to draw new ideas. Their length is an indicator of customer engagement. The left phone number signals the highest readiness to buy your product.

6. Analyzing survey data should be done by a human, not a machine. This requires a creative and very flexible approach.

7. According to the results of surveys, it is necessary to group 80% of your customers into 3-4 groups. Best of all – on the problems and situations in which they are (and not on formal grounds such as gender, age, and place of residence).

8. Video presentations work better than texts, but there are always customers who don’t like or don’t want to watch videos now – so a textual description of the benefits of the offer should always be available.

9. Landing page design mistakes are very common and lead to a churn of potential buyers. But they are easy to avoid. 

10. Every person who left you his email address is a potential buyer. To raise the level of sales, you must continue to communicate with customers through the mailing list. The survey funnel cycle involves sending out 12 emails to both buyers and non-buyers, and then another round.

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