Nov 21 22:00 2001 Bob McElwain Print This Article

Chances are you do not get as much input from your ... ... as you would like. When people write and saynice things, it makes you feel great, but it does not ... ... Thos

Chances are you do not get as much input from your visitors
and subscribers as you would like. When people write and say
nice things,Guest Posting it makes you feel great, but it does not provide
grand insights. Those who have bad thoughts usually just
unsubscribe or leave your site for good. If you have clearly
defined a narrow niche, obtaining sufficient feedback is even
more difficult, for much of what you receive will be off-target.
Below are some ideas that help increase feedback, along with
suggestions about evaluating the input.

Polls Are Fun

The key to obtaining great results from a poll is a question
everybody has an opinion about, one they want to share. I goofed
in this regard with a poll running on my site. I asked visitors
their opinion about using HTML in business email. Response has
been so low, it's clear not many are concerned about it.

Still, even these limited results tell me something of my
visitors. That few are interested in this question is part of
what I learned. While this may seem a trivial point, it does
apply. I will be hesitant to say more on this subject, for I
want to produce content readers and visitors want.

If you are interested in this notion, check out
The scrip I'm using
is free. And even though handling scripts is tough for me,
I found it easy to install.

Surveys Can Produce Powerful Results

The only surveys I've tried on the Web have been offered via
"STAT News." It's difficult to get a significant response in
this format. For one thing, we're all quite busy and it takes
time to figure answers to questions. Additionally the survey
taker must reply via email; many are hesitant to do so for fear
of their address being misused.

One way to obtain anonymous response is to put a survey up on
your site. SurveyMonkey.Com makes
this easy to do. While I haven't tried it yet, I will. Again,
the more interesting the topic, the more input you'll get. And
the quality is likely to be correspondingly better.

About Those Responding

An honest poll or survey seeks a random sample, a small part
of the whole. It's tough to obtain. And few get it right. With
a survey or poll in your newsletter or on your site, the sample
you get will *not* be random. Why?

Those responding may be more aggressive types, not
representative of the whole. Or you may have phrased your
questions in such a way as to turn off readers and visitors
of one sort or another. Composing questions which all or even
most will understand as you meant them, is a real challenge.

Evaluating Results

If you get a relatively large response, results can be taken
more seriously. This is not the usual case, however. The mode
is to get a few responses, but not nearly enough to consider
results representative of the whole.

I personally am willing to extrapolate and say that any one
response represents that of nine others, had they taken the time
to participate. But I won't go further. Thus given say 4000
subscribers and a response of 100 to a survey, you may be able
to draw some reasonable conclusions about 1000 subscribers, but
nothing much about the other 3000.

How To Screw Up Results

If you require an email address, you will turn off those
unwilling to give one. Input will come only from those who will,
and those who give a phony address. Either way, any randomness
in the sample is gone. And results are likely to be meaningless.

Offering a freebie will almost always kick back on you. At
least some will participate just to get the freebie. Some will
even try to twist results, just for the fun of it. The greater
the perceived value of the freebie, the muddier the results are
likely to be.

Other Ways To Gather Input

Forums, bulletin boards, and chats are terrific. But they
don't work well without sufficient traffic. On the Web, image is
everything, at least initially. Nothing I can think of at this
writing can destroy an image quicker than a "dead" forum in which
the last message was posted a month back. (And don't think for a
moment you can fake it; the only luck in trying this is all bad.)

Further, it takes time to manage the input. To even consider
letting stuff flow without a moderator is foolish. One solution
is to find a volunteer to moderate, someone interested in the
topic who can benefit from the exposure. It's easy enough,
then, to drop in now and then and add a comment of your own.

Let Nothing Be Overlooked

Anything you can do to obtain input from your readers and
visitors is worth the effort. Even little things can make a
difference. Elsewhere I've mentioned AtomZ.Com.
This great little site search engine offers
a neat spinoff. By examining the terms searched on, you can
gain a good deal of insight about searchers. You can often
separate out beginners from more experience searchers, simply
from the search term used. But again conclusions are limited,
for you have only input from those who search, not a random
sample of visitors.

Email Is King

Email is the most effective tool I have found for building
demographics. On my site and throughout my newsletter, I invite
comments and questions. In fact I beg for them. In answering,
I have an opportunity to generate further feedback. More
important, it allows me to demonstrate expertise and make the
first connection in what may grow to be a significant
relationship. And from every message, I gain a better view of
my readers and visitors.

Even frivolous questions get an answer. Serious questions
are answered as completely as possible. The path for dollars
to my pocket begins with a site visitor who subscribes to "STAT
News." Once they decide I know a couple of things, and come to
believe I can be trusted with their feelings, they may step
forward and ask a question. A good reply generally creates
a supporter, one who may also be a potential client. Paths
to profits on your site may be quite different. But figure
what they are, and enhance each step along the way as possible.

Evaluating Input

It's tough to do. About when you decide your visitors know
nothing about the Web, a steady flow of them begin to point out
authoritatively where you are screwing up.

What it comes down to is hunches and guestimates. But try
to answer such questions as how old your average visitor is.
Something of their economic status. And so forth. As mentioned,
I take one input as representative of nine others not received.

Also try to answer questions relative to your business.
Where are your visitors and subscribers on the Web cycle? What
percentages are novices? Have a site? Want a better one? Your
questions will be different than mine, but take the time to state
them clearly. Then seek the best possible answers.

Your Target

Behind all this, you have already defined your niche and
target market. Disregard any input that is off target. Answer
email, of course, but discount this input from your view of your
visitors and subscribers. The objective is to continue to narrow
your focus even further. Thus you are looking for input that
will help you do so. In short, you are seeking a better
definition of your perfect customer.

The Bottom Line

Write your newsletter and site pages targeted as closely as
possible to your view of your typical reader and visitor. Write
for the needs of your perfect customer. In time those who do not
fit within your tight focus will unsubscribe and stop visiting
your site. You will in fact have created an audience who for the
most part are interested in your niche or focus.

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About Article Author

Bob McElwain
Bob McElwain

Bob McElwain
Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already
have? Fix one that's busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe
to "STAT News" now!
Web marketing and consulting since 1993
Phone: 209-742-6349

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