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We’ve all heard of doing business using the shotgun approach, which means throwing a bunch of stuff at a wall to see what sticks. It’s a method that many businesses have used in the past to test new products and services.

Unfortunately, it’s also a very expensive and ineffective way to test new ideas. Before you pony up the dough for your next business venture, wouldn’t it be far better if you had a reasonable idea of your probability of success? Here are some tried and true approaches to get you more sales.

Survey Your Demographic

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It is important to do some preliminary research. To create an effective survey, you want it to be as targeted as possible. Let’s say your target market consists mainly of teenagers. What you need to do is find a way to get a survey in front of their eyeballs to ask them about the specifics of their current challenges and problems.

Everyone has issues to resolve, or questions that need answers. What you need to do is find out what they are, and then provide some solutions. A cleverly put together survey can help you easily ferret out peoples’ deepest desires, needs, fears and motivations. Using this information, all you need to do is design a product to address their needs, and then take it to market. Just because you’re doing a survey, it doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated.

If you’re asking open-ended questions, you can get people to tell you exactly what’s on their mind and what they’re craving. For example, you could ask teenagers, “What’s your biggest fear in life right now as a teen?” On the other hand, you could ask, “Name one thing about your school that you’d like to change.” Other questions for teens include, “What would make it easier to pay attention in class?” and “What issues do you worry about the most?”

The answers may surprise you, and then you’ll be inundated with ideas that you can transform into marketable products and services. For best results, keep your survey brief, between five and 10 questions. Life is busy nowadays, so people don’t have a lot of free time, so if you hit them with dozens of rapid-fire questions, your survey completion numbers will drop significantly.

Give Away Free Samples

Giving away free product samples or a sample of what your service provides is an effective way to kick start a new business. In fact, it’s one of the best small business ideas you could implement to test a new product before the full rollout. However, if you decide to offer an incentive, you’ll need to think through how you’ll distribute it to responders. Sending incentives to participants can be time consuming, so you may want to try using a survey program like SurveyMonkey that lets you automate the survey creation, distribution and follow-up process.

Explain to people that you’re willing to give away your product free if they will take a few moments to give you their feedback. Most people will comply with your request, because they are honest. After all, most of us grow up learning to avoid taking something free without paying for it, so many people will respond with valuable information that you can use to improve and market your product or service. It’s not going to take many free giveaways to get a clear idea of what the marketplace likes and dislikes about your product. If you want to attract local business, spend a day giving out free products along with a questionnaire printed on a small postage paid postcard.

If you conduct online sales, create a few social media accounts, and offer free samples in exchange for a completed survey. Most online businesses do quite well using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. You can mail samples, or even provide a smartphone code for customers to use on site. If you provide a service, you can offer a small fraction of that, too.

For example, if you run a computer shop, you could offer a free computer tune up, or a free 30 minutes of service. This is also a good opportunity for you to create a customer mailing list, for both email and postal mail customers. You can provide updates on upcoming sales and promotions, or even produce a short newsletter to keep your sales flow going strong.

Take Feedback Seriously

Excellent on customer survey

One of the grossest violations of consumer trust happens in corporate America every day. Companies ask customers what they think about the company’s products, and then consumers answer them. Then, companies do something truly insane: they ignore their customers. If some companies don’t hear what they want to hear, they ignore survey results. They’re only concerned about validating their own preconceived ideas.

Don’t do this. If you make every other mistake in the book, make sure you avoid this one. Paying attention to your customers’ feedback does one thing that no amount of advertising can ever do. It builds trust with your market, and that will virtually guarantee your long-term success, so respond to every survey or questionnaire respondent promptly, and with respect. Thank them for their input, and look objectively at their answers. Don’t take it personally; instead, use the information you have in front of you to make improvements and changes for positive results.

One Step Further

Remember, word of mouth advertising is the best marketing tool you could possess. Interacting with customers builds long-term relationships that lead to brand evangelization and steady sales. So, keep in touch with them. Create a blog, and then link it to your social media. Offer discounts and free white papers to new customers, as well as to those who refer your business to others. Give people advice they can use, both online and via a postal newsletter.

Be human, but be authoritative and clear. Give people the answers and solutions they need to solve their problems. This is where you can provide information to help them understand why they need your product or service. You will reap the rewards in ways you never thought possible. Jack Bishop is a small business guru. His trials and tribulations have been translated into writings to help entrepreneurs gain strong footing in business industries.

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Posted by Jack Bishop

Jack Bishop is a small business guru. His trials and tribulations have been translated into writings to help entrepreneurs gain strong footing in business industries.

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