Never Ask Your Customers This Question

Ever tried to console a sobbing 2-year-old?

I’ve been through this stage three times now with my boys.

With my youngest, a typical conversation might go something like this:

Him: WHAAAA!!!!

Me: What’s wrong?

Him: YEAH.

Me: Are you hungry?

Him: YEAH.

Me: Did you get hurt?

Him: YEAH.

Me: Did you lose your toy?

Him: YEAH.

Other times, the only answer I’ll get is “No.”

Bottom line though:

He really doesn’t know what he wants.

Or if he does, he can’t communicate it clearly.

This image came to mind after a conversation I had with an entrepreneur named Bartek.

He’s built a solid email list of around 2,000 software developers, and he’s starting to think about what products he might sell to them.

He told me:

Basically, I did a lot of articles about the upcoming standard of C++, so I’ve asked if it’s a good idea to wrap those articles into one PDF/ebook.

A lot of people said yes, and around 30% that clicked in that little survey mentioned that they could pay a few $ for such ebook.

Now, surveys are great—you can get a lot of useful data to help you shape your products and your marketing.

However there’s one thing I *never* ask in a survey, and that is:

“Would you buy X?”

When you ask that question, your customer will look you square in the eye, cross their heart and say:


Then almost without fail, when it’s time to take out their wallet, they’ll bail on you.

It’s not that they’re out and out lying to you, although some probably are.

It’s just that customers on the whole are not very good at understanding their own desires and motivation levels.

So when you survey, skip the “would you buy it” question.

Ask open-ended questions that will help you understand your audience better, especially their goals, pain points and frustrations—and especially the language they use to describe them.

Then use what they tell you to craft a product and marketing message that’s so spot on, even a 2-year-old would know that’s exactly what he wants.