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Let Your Survey Write Your Business Plan

Most entrepreneurs first write their business plan and then develop their services or products. This causes them to generate and fulfill a marketing plan that requires them to swim upstream using the backstroke. To save the stress, consider placing the business plan on hold until first completing a few customer surveys. Okay, some of you are saying, "Catherine, how can you do a survey before you know who your market is?" Yes, this is one challenging double edge sword, that is, if you're mindset is set there.

Over the years, I've found that everyone I've worked with generally knew what he or she wanted to sell. I don't believe you are any different. This is the perfect place to start. You have a clean slate to write on. You might be at a place of seeing it in nonspecific terms with measurable doubts as well. That is okay, doubts will always be there, thus, allow them to be your friend instead of a foe. It's easy to start with a gender preference -- choosing either women or men as having a higher purchasing balance for what you are selling. If you don't have a majority gender in mind, choose the one you feel most comfortable talking with or asking questions to.

Let's dive in a little deeper, its time to start thinking about your surveys and what to ask. Okay, don't fade out on me now. Generally, when people think of surveys, they visualize or experience the sensations of long drawn out processes that cost more money then they can afford or time that they don't have the patience for. Boy, do I remember those days of thinking.

Let's play together on this concept of taking surveys before writing your business plan. At least, allow the old perceptions to sit outside your door until you've finished reading this article and learning of a new possible alternative perspective. The perspective that surveys come first and don't need to be time-consuming, money-hungry, must be done by professionals, mongrels.

Take the area you want to focus on, combine with your gender preference, and begin there. For instance, if your area is life coaching and you feel more comfortable with working with women you have a starting point. This doesn't mean you will never coach men, set those thoughts aside; they will block your progress and keep you stuck.

From knowing just this basic information, you can now create a few simple surveys in no time at all that don't require any money. Even if you know more specifics about your buyers, you might want to back it up to this point if you are stuck in generating questions. To generate this survey plan you don't need to know whether your focus is for a product or service, or even if its for electronic, telephone, or in-person delivery, at this time.

The first question you want to generate and ask is what your gender wants to buy next. If asked in narrow terms, they will answer. If asked too broadly, they will respond with "don't know." If the latter, rewrite the question more specifically, then ask again. Whenever I start, I sometimes have to revamp my questions five or six times. Just an FYI, to help you understand that even the experts refine as they go. Surveying is an evolutionary process.

A second survey question is for people who have purchased from you in the past. What are looking for next? What do they want to accomplish in the next few months or whatever future terms they desire to talk about?

If you don't have any customer history, then substitute. Open the scope to what is the gender buying? What is the cross between what you offer and what they want? What do they want to do next (short-term) that falls within your scope?

Continuing with the life coach illustration, what type of women, what age areas, what type of self-development or improvement topics are they purchasing now? What is the regular step past this? What "new" hot topics in the marketplace that meshes with your area? If you attend a workshop, conference or seminar, examine the topic, and take notes on the type of women attending. Record or ask their age group. Ask a few to complete a survey while they are there.

Ask one way, then another, and create a list of no more than six multiple choice, yes or no, questions to ask. Then continue to ask with whomever you meet, wherever you go. Talk with the workshop leader or conference marketing people and find out who they were targeting and why. If the event is a match for you, collect copies of all their marketing materials for language learning.

Ask friends, family members, or colleagues. Even if they don't think these groups fit within your current focus. Just remember not to stay off focus when doing so. If you attend a coaching school, ask other coaches that do what you want to do. What are their clients into, what are they selling them or what ideas have their clients told them that they are looking for?

Your survey method you use is up to you. To ease into it, you will want to ask in the form most comfortable for you at the time. However, caution, most everyone chooses written form first in order to avoid any negative responses. In a B2B survey, negative responses never occur. Everyone knows why a survey is important. In B2C (business to consumers) be careful not to cross the line of interrogation or too personal. Ask politely, with respect, and share why you want to know.

The number one rule of getting survey responses -- is KISSing the questions -- "keep them short, simple and as specific as you can at the time." Special note: Don't use the contraction and in your sentences. The contraction "and" creates a multiple question, stacks questions, which confuses readers and listeners on what you really asking.

As you go through the experience of completing your surveys, new clarity will flower. The gender equation gets more specific, the age group narrows, and the rest unfold. One industry category might begin to show you where there is greater revenue generation. Allow the data to drive you towards the right direction. Don't try to control or drive it yourself. That struggle will cost you dearly.

If you're survey request is in the form of writing, you can offer something in return for an exchange of their time. Usually saved for longer surveys, you can create a reward for short surveys too. It's its too early in your survey process to know what prospects want, offer something generic. Match the gift with the amount of time it takes them to complete the survey. If this is the case, offer something generic. Offer a $5 gift certificate from Amazon.com. If local, ask you're favorite restaurant if you can offer a discount coupon that they will honor. There is some fr*ee portion to the amount donated on the restaurant's part because it increases their clientele list.

It's time to survey. Allow patience, time, and you will want to schedule this as a regular routine in your business. Next, plan your services and products to meet those needs and then generate your business plan around them.

To read other articles by Survey Galaxy's guest authors or for more information or to discuss how online surveys can help you please contact surveys@surveygalaxy.com or visit www.surveygalaxy.com - the quick, easy and cost effective way to do online surveys.

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About the Author

Catherine Franz, a Professional Marketing & Writing Coach, specializes in product development, Internet writing and marketing, nonfiction, training. Newsletters and articles available at: http://www.abundancecenter.com
blog: http://abundance.blogs.com
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This article is (c) Copyright 2004, Catherine Franz. All rights reserved. Permission is not required for the article to be published electronically or in print as long as the article is credited to Catherine Franz and the bylines are included.
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