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Let Your Survey Write Your Business Plan

 By Catherine Franz | Jan 2006

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. Itís
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.

Letís 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.

Letís 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

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

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. Itís 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 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 restaurantís
part because it increases their clientele list.

Itís 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.

(c) Copyright 2004, Catherine Franz. All rights reserved.

Catherine Franz, a Business Coach, specializes in writing,
marketing and product development. Newsletters and
additional articles:

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