How My 5 Question Survey Saved Me Time And Resources In Product Development

Selling information for money – it’s such a beautiful thing. It’s what so many of us love talking (and blogging) about. It doesn’t take a huge office, lots of inventory, and once it’s done, you can almost set it and forget it – right? Well, it all depends. Allow me to explain . . .

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been working on building my Biology Website. It has been a huge undertaking. After reading Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk, I was convinced that the way to grow my website was to release videos almost every weekday (three to five times a week). Each video would teach one concept in biology.

I also decided to use YouTube as one of the main ways of getting traffic to my website. It was interesting to see what happened next – my traffic increased significantly and has been increasing every month since I started, with my videos receiving anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 views every day. I’ve also started getting people sending me testimonials and Thank You emails almost EVERY DAY (254 since January – yes, I counted), it’s such an exciting feeling.

Then I reached the stage that many internet entrepreneurs reach when they realize that their site is getting decent traffic – the stage where the site is demanding for more resources – a stage that starts to cost more and more money (upgrading servers, outsourcing more tasks, etc). It’s the stage when you know you need to start doing things to start making money.

The Great Money-Making Idea

Since I was satisfied with the level of traffic I was getting, and with the amount of value I was able to share with the world, it was time to take it to the next level – releasing a paid product.

I had many ideas about different products I could release and eventually narrowed it down to what I thought was the best idea – I could take all of my free YouTube videos and create a DVD package. After consulting with an internet marketing friend of mine, we both came to the conclusion that it was the best idea for the following reasons:

  • I didn’t have to create anything new in order to have the product. Since it was based on videos that were already made, all I needed to do was re-export the videos in a form that could go onto DVD.
  • Using a service like Kunaki, you don’t even need to purchase the DVDs in advance. They ship the DVD directly to your customer for you at a low cost of $1 per DVD. So if you charge $97 per DVD, you make a SWEET profit of $96.
  • DVDs generally have a higher perceived value than digital downloads.
  • As I made more free videos, I could release more DVDs in the future, allowing me to have multiple products.

Doesn’t that just sound like a great deal? Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense for me to develop a product like that? Yep, that’s what I thought too, until I made a quick decision to do something very simple that proved to be very valuable. What did I do? I’m glad you asked . . .

If You Want To Know – Ask!

Right before I got ready to start putting together the DVD package, I decided to send out a short survey to my audience. I wanted to know whether they would be more inclined to buying a DVD product or a Digital product. My assumption was that they would prefer to get a DVD, and boy was I wrong. The questions on the survey were the following:

  1. Do you think it would be valuable to make a DVD series available?
  2. If you had to choose between having a physical copy (DVD) or a digital copy (Download) of the Interactive Biology videos, which would you choose?
  3. If we made DVDs available (over time), would you buy a copy?
  4. How much would you pay to be able to get a full Series (approximately 40 videos): The full, mobile AND MP3 versions?
  5. If you could choose between purchasing a Set package at one set price (i.e. a Nervous System Package, Energy Package, etc.) vs a Subscription where you get immediate access to ALL Videos as soon as they are released (full, mobile and MP3), which would you choose?

This survey answered a number of questions that have helped me shape my product that I’ll be releasing over the next few weeks. Allow me to share some of those important answers with you:

When I saw these results, I was very happy. No, it didn’t tell me that 88% of my audience would actually buy, but at least I had a good idea that they thought the idea was worth looking into.

I’m not sure why these results surprised me, but I was indeed surprised. I was thinking that most people would find more value in a physical product, but the results indicated something different – only 9% was in favor of just a DVD. Everyone else were in favor of either all digital or a combination of both. This showed me that if I were to choose one to start with, digital would be the way to go.

When it really comes down to it, knowing that my audience thinks that having a product is a good idea doesn’t paint a full picture. What really matters is whether or not they would actually buy. This told me that 62 of the people that took the survey would at least consider spending money.

This was a very important question for me. I was struggling to decide on a price point. Seriously, I was. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted discussing this question with one of my Internet Marketing buddies over the phone. Now, I know that 74% of the people who took the survey would at least think about paying anywhere between $47 and $197 to get a product relating to my content.

The results to this question really amazed me. I’d always thought about adding a paid membership component to my website. However, I always told myself that it wouldn’t work for this non-internet-marketing crowd. Now I know that 55% of the people who completed this survey would at least think about paying a subscription fee to access the resources I could easily make available.

Why Was The Survey Such A Good Idea?

  • It gave me actionable data. I no longer have to guess at what is more likely to work. I can take action based on actual data as opposed to my thoughts and feelings.
  • It saved me a lot of time. Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I can suffer from analysis paralysis – where I try to analyze every aspect of what I’m trying to do, so I waste time not taking action. Now, the decision-making process took a much shorter time and I can spend time building the product.
  • My audience gets to be a part of the decision-making process. My site is not all about me providing information. The goal is to build a strong community, with active participants. By allowing them to take part, it encourages them to take ownership of the community, and that’s exactly what I want.

Tips For Running A Successful Survey

There are certain things you can do to enhance the likelihood that you will get a decent response to your survey. Here are some very useful tips:

  1. Keep it Simple. Don’t try to answer every question you might have in one survey. In my survey, I did five questions. That’s the most I would do in any survey. Long surveys can be intimidating.
  2. Use a service like Survey Monkey or Polldaddy. They both give you pretty detailed results and stats. I chose to go with Polldaddy because they have a plugin for wordpress that easily allows you to embed your poll into a blog post. With their free service, you can analyze up to 100 responses to each survey.
  3. Promote it in various ways for maximal response. I posted a blog post, sent it to my list, shared it on my Facebook Fan Page and made a YouTube Video about it (I’ve taken down the blog post because the poll is now closed).
  4. Be Human. In creating your surveys, let people know the real deal and ask them for their opinion. I straight up told them that we need money to grow the site, but wanted to make sure to do it in a way that is most beneficial to everyone.

So What Did I Decide To Do?

I decided to set up a membership site that will provide video downloads in two formats (for computer and mobile device), in addition to an MP3 that they can take along with them and listen to even while they are driving in their cars. It will be a paid membership of $47 for six months. Yes, I know it’s a low price point, but I want as many people to benefit from it as possible without having a high barrier of entry. Plus, I know that a significant amount of my audience is at least willing to consider paying that price.

I will also produce DVDs, but not right now. The plan is to eventually make them and offer them at a discounted rate to upgraded members.

Do I know that it will be very successful? No, I don’t. The fact is – a Paying customer is only a paying customer when they’ve actually paid for something. Filling out a free survey saying that you will spend money is much easier than actually spending the money. But you know what – that’s what the “Entrepreneur’s Journey” is all about.

What I do know is that I will gain experience from what I’m attempting to do, and I will report back to you in as much detail as I did in this post. Why? Because I want us to learn together. It’s much more fun that way 😉

Your Comments

So what do you think? Do you think doing a survey was a good idea? Did I make the right decision based on the survey? Have you used surveys to help you decide what to do in your online business? How did it work for you? If you haven’t used them, how do you think it would help you to start? Let me know in the comments below.

About Leslie Samuel

Leslie Samuel is a blogger who believes that the internet can change the world. He runs an Interactive Biology website that Makes Biology Fun and teaches people how to grow their online business in his Learning With Leslie podcast. He also runs a Become A Blogger - A blog dedicated to helping people Change The World with their blogs. Follow Leslie Samuel on Twitter.

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  • All the data pointed in that direction so you was right to go with it. Very useful stats as I am considering this product creation step for my business at the moment.

    I find it so funny when my assumptions are proven wrong by the data it has happened so many times so now I do not even make assumptions I just test and analyse the data numbers never lie but my assumptions do. Thanks for sharing I will be using this post to position my product release correctly and I am happy that digital is the way to go.

    • Keep in mind that digital was probably the way to go for my particular situation. Your survey MIGHT show something different. I’m guessing it would show the same, but you never really know until you actually do it in your situation.

  • This is a real lesson. I wonder if the fact that you have given videos for free for a certain period did not influence your audience in preferring to have a downloadable product rather than a physical one.

    • Good point. I guess the fact that they are watching videos online does say something about the fact that the prefer digital. It makes sense!

  • Leslie, great article! I like your website too. I subscribe to love forums and periodically I would ask questions regarding a topic I was thinking of writing about. It’s a great resource for me because I don’t have to physically ask questions in the real world, and that makes it a time saver. Sometimes I get lot’s of comments within minutes. So for me, polls are a great resource for ideas and knowing what people want to know.

    I think your videos are a great idea, people like that personal touch, or at least something they can connect with. I am in the process of doing that myself, so thanks for the inspiration.

    I noticed you don’t have any advertisements on your site, Would that not be a good idea for some income?


    • Yes, it would be a great idea for some income, and I do plan on testing that out in the future. I’ve had a few inquires recently about that.

      At first, I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to distract myself from producing good content often, and I wasn’t really in NEED of the money. I’m satisfied with the amount of content I have now and can spend a little more time on monetization.

  • This is great info. I have been thinking about doing a survey. This really helps with the planning.

  • what a great post man

  • Market research is very important for any launch of product because it helps you avoid important mistakes or add something that you thought i doesn’t matter but actually it can make a huge difference in sales!

  • You really do know what you’re talking about. I like step 3, keep it simple, because it really is a crucial part for a survey to work.

    • Hey, simple is the best way. That way, I don’t get confused, LOL.

  • You are right most people that took the survey are probably not even paying customers. I pay for products online and mostly prefer to download them but some things I need the cd for so it might not just vary by person but by product also.

  • Wow! Much like you, I also believe social media, specifically surveys, are a great way to gain information.

    As a side not, it is well-known that blogs can be a unique way to gain various perspectives and insights not normally found in mainstream media. I want to invite you to my Business Blog which has various topics that include “Cost Vs Price, Explained”, “The Business of Free Stuff”, and “The Importance of Strategy in Business”. They are short and thought-provoking articles on business-related topics.

    Please visit “” and provide comments
    on any of the numerous blogs I have posted.

    I am hoping you might take a minute and “follow” my Blog by clicking
    on the button on the right side of the home page.

    I promise you some entertaining reading!


  • You did a really good thing with offering your audience the ability to offer there insight on the product creation. I have used survey monkey before and it assisted me very well with the projects that I was trying to create at that specific moment.

  • Nice post Leslie, very interesting data.
    A couple of points:
    1. Maybe “your crowd” prefers the video’s online (instead of DVD’s) because they are already watching a lot of videos on-line – as you said you were targeting traffic from You Tube.
    2. As Tony eluded to, whack the advertising onto your site, you are giving out great content and getting good traffic so why not monetize? I’m sure your viewers realize you deserve income for all effort you put in.
    Nice work

    • Don’t worry too much about my monetization. It’s coming 😉 I intentionally stayed away from monetizing because I didn’t want to focus on that as yet. It was more of a personal decision. But it’s coming though. I start my monetization efforts on Tuesday, and will be reporting on it, so stay tuned . . .

  • Leslie, I agree with the monetization strategy, about not worrying about it too much in the beginning. It’s SO hard not to think about that when you are building something online, but in the end if you focus on the problem(s) you are solving, it will be much better for the customer/consumer and eventually be much easier to monetize anyway.

    Great post :)….and I loved “Crush It” too. Rework is another great book for those starting on a tiny budget.


    • We’re on the same page where that’s concerned. I don’t think I would ever start a blog trying to monetize from the beginning. There’s something about money that seems to distract us humans, lol.

      I always recommend for people to start off focusing SOLELY on value. How much value can you provide your target audience. Keep pushing that out there and eventually you will earn trust. Once you have trust, you will definitely get support.

      Of course, that’s just one way of doing it, but I definitely like that way 😉

  • yes…
    to achieve a targeted market, we must throw our survey first…
    so that we can decide the price, the products, and so on..
    thanks for sharing it…

  • What an excellently laid-out plan of action, Leslie. I can see how you succeeded using such a methodical approach. It highlights the importance of market research clearly. Well done!

  • Amazing survey Leslie! The results were fantastic. For me, a survey is one of the best and effective tools in planning out a business. It gives us a sharp and straightforward way to map things out to know where to start and what to do with the business we are planning. It’s a very big step to a successful business. Thanks so much for sharing this Leslie and congratulations on your successful survey.

    • I like those two words – “Sharp” and “Straightforward”. That’s exactly what it does. The more focused you can be, the less time you waste. Good stuff!

  • that is really great that your site took off like that. Youtube is a great place for driving traffic. We recently had to upgrade some of our services as well, because of traffic. I didn’t realize that there was a service that would send out DVDs. That is really something cool. DVDs to me are better than digital media, it can get lost in the mix or whatever, and its gone never to be seen again. But with a DVD you never lose the info.

    • I hear you, but DVDs are definitely on their way out and digital is becoming the norm. Also, if my audience prefers digital, I think that digital is the way to go. They are who I’m catering too. One more thing, I’m starting to not like DVDs because they are a bit too fragile. One little scratch and that can be the end of it. With digital files, especially with cloud storage becoming increasingly available, it’s becoming easier to back them up and have access from anywhere.

  • Great post Leslie! I believe that the survey was definitely a great idea. Although risk-taking is necessary when starting a business, surveys help identify the wants of your customers and then you can shape your product to them. Allowing customers partake in the decision-making process is a great marketing tool and establishes an immediate connection with a business. One of my favorite business teachers at school referred to his teaching style as customer service. He would always present the class with two or more options regarding an action he would like to take, and then allowed the class to be a part of the decision-making process. Good luck with your website!

  • Hey Leslie!

    Thanks for the information. I never thought of doing a survey for my site and business, and i do agree with everyone above, that these information can really help develop business further with better understanding etc.

    Great website btw! its very impressive.

    • Thanks, glad you like the website. It’s one of the loves in my life 😉

  • Hey leslie, great post. I know your hard work paid off when you start receiving 1,000 – 1,500 views per day and when you start receiving good traffic. A great decision to ask first a survey before launching a product. Imagine if you launched the product without getting the opinions of your readers. The DVD copy you think that will hit, seems to be wrong. The survey was a good idea because you make the readers part of the decision making process which also means that you value them well.

  • Hi Leslie,

    That was really a detailed article. The ideas you shared are really great. I was a little confused with one part. You told that you will use your Youtube videos on the DVD and create your product at first, but after the survey you created your membership site. I wanted to know if you used the same Youtube videos on the membership site or did you create fresh content for your membership site?

    Prajwal Shinde

    • Hi Prajwal,

      Actually, I’m using the same videos that are on youtube for the membership site. The different is that they get to download the videos in HD, a mobile version, and an MP3 version. I’m launching today, and will report on how it goes (good or bad). Should be interesting. I did things a little different than I said I would in this post (in terms of the payment), but I’ll give the details on that in a future post.

      • That is a great idea Leslie. Looking forward for your future posts and all the best on your new project 🙂

  • Brilliant post Leslie!

    I love the way you took us on a journey and laid the story out first.
    Kudos on your growth and success so far Leslie, this is not only an excellent post full of tangible ideas for anyone looking to launch a product, it is also a great story of success and motivation.

    Thanks for sharing and again, well done mate.
    It’s been a while since I read such a refreshingly honest and straight forward post mate.

    • Hi Alex,

      Glad to know you resonated so well with the post. It’s always good to share experiences with other like minded individuals. There’s a lot we can all learn from each other.

  • Often times we think that we know the marketplace what people want and need but then simple survey like this shows that we don’t know heck 🙂 If you want to know – ask! 100% agree with that. I guilty myself thinking that I know what my list want but to my surprise it is not always the case.

  • Great post Leslie. I can honestly say that 99% of the time I have been wrong about what I thought my market wanted. Surveys are so valuable for making business decisions… and if done properly people have no problem completing them.

    Ian McConnell

  • Hey Leslie,

    For that last couple days I’ve been mulling over what how to write the questions for a survey I wanted to send out to my list, in order to get ideas for a product to create for them. None of the survey monkey templates seemed to fit. I was stuck… and boom after reading this had my questions done in about 20 min.

    Really appreciate this post…thanks mate!

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