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How to Get Reader Feedback that Helps Shape Your Next Product

In our first article from the series Build Blog Products that Sell, Greg McFarlane makes an interesting point.

“Don’t be afraid to solicit feedback,” he says, “but on the other hand, don’t cede the responsibility of initiative by asking your readers, ‘So, what would you like to see?’”

I wanted to touch on this in a little more detail, because I know that for those just starting out on their first foray into building blog products, and possibly doing reader research, the distinction can be unclear.

How Copyblogger did it

A great example of someone who relied very heavily on his audience for direction in product development was Brian Clark of Copyblogger.

When we interviewed Brian for our Blog Wise ebook, he explained that he’d started the blog with no clear idea of how he’d monetize it. But all along, he knew that if he grew a strong readership, they would tell him what they wanted.

Did he ask them outright, “what do you want?” No. In our interview, Brian explains that through engaging with his readership over time, he got to know them, and what they were struggling with.

“As time went, on I realised that what I needed as a publisher and a marketer online, was what they needed,” Brian told us. So he had those products developed, and built Copyblogger Media into the successful business it is today.

Soliciting feedback

In this way, the idea of “soliciting” feedback can be a more subtle one than many first-time product developers expect.

Of course, many bloggers, having talked with their audiences and struggled with the same challenges, will come up with a product idea that they then float with the readership by asking directly for feedback. I’ve done this with my readers on Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook, and it’s always interesting and valuable.

But the point here is that you need a clear idea of what benefit or solution you’re “pitching” to your audience before you approach them. This is very important if you want the feedback to be at all representative of readers’ actual feelings or intentions with regards to your idea. We all know how easy it is to say, “Yes! I’d buy that” and then feel uninspired when we see the finished product itself.

That’s why asking for direct feedback has limited value to most bloggers. The more time you can spend, as Brian did, getting to know your readers, walking around in their shoes, fighting their fights and finding good solutions, the more closely you’ll understand the challenges they may not even realize that they face.

Once you have that deep understanding, you can devise a unique, valuable product solution that’s difficult to replicate—which is exactly what Brian’s done with his copywriting and blogging products.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. saad naeem says:

    1st one to comment here :D

    great example you gave of copy blogger , in starting its hard to find to monetize your blog , the most you can thinf of is adsense but gradually as you get deeper in to your niche you learn new things to monetise your blog.
    Later your blog starts to rank well in Google and that the time you can start writing affiliate reviews.

    “Content is the King , Traffic is the Key”

  2. Kalen Smith says:

    Thanks Darren. I am actually in the process of doing this myself, but have been reaching out to others rather than using my blog. I have joined a lot of offsite forums and called out to leading bloggers to get their feedback. I think a combination of outreach and working with your loyal readers will help you do what you need to succeed.

  3. But, Darren, I think asking our long time readers politely “what products they expect” is not a drawback. I think it will create a understanding with the reader and blogger.But asking the same in every piece of blog will be annoying.

  4. Justin Mazza says:

    I never really thought of it that way. When someone subscribes to my blog I ask them in the final “welcome” email “what areas in their life are they struggling with the most?” This helped me to create my latest eBook about Overcoming Fear.

  5. Great article Darren. I totally agree with copybloggers way. Listening to your readers seeing what problems they were having and offering a solution and monetizing it is the best way. It’s just too often we don’t take enough notice about what other people are complaining about.

    Cheers
    Lloyd

  6. When you become a master at listening you receive feedback almost automatically Darren. You see what drives traffic, and what doesn’t. You see what people respond to, what they do not respond to.

    Listeners learn quickly. Of course the question or poll here or there can help to confirm these trends, or can open your eyes up to something you didn’t see, so feel free to ask for feedback. In the same respect, you usually have a strong idea what is working, and what isn’t.

    I used a generic squeeze page for months. I generated some opt-ins, with serious effort marketing the website. Then I placed a video of me chatting about the concept behind our home based activity – with a lush, tropical beach serving as the background – and I received a ton more opt-ins, WHILE working less. That’s the key. I heard from a few prospects how a successful network marketer always had stunning backgrounds of him chatting in Hawaii. I listened, put 2 and 2 together, and realized I have many similar video backgrounds, from vids I filmed while staying in Phuket. Didn’t even need to ask a question, the answer was ready and waiting.

    We can do this for product creation, driving traffic, whatever. Poll your readers, listen, tune into what seems to be working, what doesn’t. You can become uber-successful by noting details, keeping your ear on the cyber street. I mean, your readers are going to buy your product or join your team, right? Listen in, listen up, you receive every answer you could ever need to build a successful product or opportunity. Thanks for sharing Darren.

  7. Janmejaya says:

    Reader feedback much more important fro getting any online good result. But the social sites is the best way to getting better result.

  8. soubhik says:

    yup..and most of the times the bloggers (other than the expert ones) themselves aren’t sure about what they are really looking for, they just love following others, in such cases direct feedback doesn’t help much..

  9. Great point and a Great addition to gregs post :)

  10. Tomas says:

    Darren,

    Thank you for this nuance in product creation. As a newbie, I was planning on going the more obvious route and asking my audience what they wanted. I think I should incorporate into my strategy the idea of a much deeper relationship. Have you tried both the obvious and more subtle ways of creating a product? How did they work for you?

  11. Gleb says:

    Interesting article. So basically the point is to OBSERVE your readers’ needs, to see what’s the most frequent problem they are faced with is, and then make a product which will cover their collective needs? A product which a lot of your readers will be eager to buy? That’s a good strategy, IMHO, but requires a lot of work and patience… I’m launching my own blog soon, it will be something like improveblogging.com, I’ll definitely implement all of your useful tips :) BTW, nice Hello Bar :D

  12. I heard that Darren. The more time you spend “fighting their fight, walking in their shoes and listening to them, ” the more you know them. I’m trying to do this in my blog. I still struggle to get comments, although, my readers contact me directly asking diverse questions and I feel like creating a product around it.

    But not yet, there are unseen problems that they face, but do not want to tell me plainly. I need to spend more time with them. I think that’s the key here. Thank you for making out time to Write this. Short post, Big Benefit!

  13. Taline says:

    Interesting spin on learning about what your readers need. I only really thought the direct approach would work. Maybe the combination of the two are best.

    I guess my niche is pretty specific (personal finance and real estate rental property) so I have a pretty good idea on what most of my readers are looking for. But maybe I shouldn’t assume and study them more.

  14. wade says:

    You’re right. Creating an ingrained niche with some long tailed keywords and pinpointing a specific region of a market is a good idea to start out. This application could work with many businesses as well.

  15. muddaser says:

    Yes thats the right technique, but according to me this techniques consumes a lot of time and dedication, copyblogger is a well known blog now and they proved them selves to be helpful.

  16. michael says:

    hi darren, i love the article u wrote on how to get reader feedback, i.find it very help full as am about to create a blog. pleas i would like to get newsletters from you. thank you very much.

  17. Wow this is well learning article and happy to find this .

  18. Thanks Darren. I am actually in the process of doing this myself, but have been reaching out to others rather than using my blog. I have joined a lot of offsite forums and called out to leading bloggers to get their feedback. I think a combination of outreach and working with your loyal readers will help you do what you need to succeed.