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Episode 37: Asking Your Audience: The Power of Surveys, Polls, and Co-Creation for Creative Entrepreneurs

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I survey my audience, meaning I ask them questions anytime I am developing a new product or class or service or offer of any type. I am Bonnie Christine, and this is where all things, creativity, design, business, and marketing unite. I'm a mama living in a tiny town, tucked right inside the Smokey Mountains, running a multi seven figure business,

doing the most creative and impactful work of my life. When I first set out to become an entrepreneur, I was struggling to make ends meet and wrestling with how to accomplish my biggest dream of becoming a fabric designer. Fast forward to today, I'm not only licensing my artwork all over the world, but also teaching others how to design their creative life and experience the same success.

I'm here to help you spend your life doing something that lights you up. I'll help you build a creative business that also creates an impact, changes people's lives, gives you all of the freedom you want and is wildly profitable. Welcome to the Professional Creative podcast. If you are like me, it's likely that you're always wondering what to do next and how best we can talk to and serve our audience.

Well, instead of wondering, I wanna offer another solution, simply ask, surveying our audience and polling them and asking them questions is the best way to make sure that what you are creating is in alignment with what they are actually needing. And now this works with any audience size. Even if you have a small email list of let's say 25 people or just a couple of hundred people on Instagram following you,

or if you are serving thousands and thousands of people, this is key to making sure that you stay on point with what you offer. So we're gonna dive into all of the different ways that you can survey, poll, and ask your audience questions as well as invite them to be co-creators for you. In this episode, I've also got a ton of resources on how we actually do this that I think you'll enjoy as well.

And I wanna tell you about the free download for today's episode. It's called the Ultimate Survey Template for creative entrepreneurs. And so we've brought together a giant list of all of the questions that we've asked our audience over the the past several years so that you can just get your gears turning and pull which questions from that list that you think might serve your audience as well.

And so you can get that download over at the show notes. That's professional creative.com/blog/ 37. So before we dive in, let me tell you a story. This is actually how I began teaching. Now you likely know my early beginnings of teaching, I had an opportunity to teach for Creative Live, and this was in 2013 and I couldn't say no to this incredible opportunity.

And so I went to teach and really got home and thought, whew, so glad that's over. Even though it was amazing, it was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. And so I went back to being a full-time surface pattern designer and it was just slowly but surely every time I started to ask my audience what they wanted next for me,

it had to do with teaching around surface design. And I actually spent a couple of years really dodging this, kind of like denying it, and it just wasn't exactly how I thought my career would go and what I really wanted to do next, mainly just because I got nervous speaking in front of, you know, crowds, which is so funny that now I have this podcast.

But I remember just finally feeling like every time we talk to the audience and ask them questions and ask them about what they want next, they choose this. And so why don't I just go all in, let me just give them what they want. And that was a real kind of identity shift for me. I'm gonna shift from doing this full-time to really giving my people what they want.

And it has, you know, unfolded so many incredible things in my life ever since. And so it's really powerful. I'll share a bunch of examples of how I've actually used this in my business, but almost every time I think I know what my audience wants. Well, I remember to survey them and actually ask them, and almost all the time I'm wrong.

They choose. They choose something other than what I guessed they would choose, which just goes to show it's always important to ask. One of the reasons that this is so important is that getting feedback from your audience is gonna help you develop successful products and services, meaning you'll really have feedback from your ideal clients and audience on exactly what they want from you.

The things you offer are going to resonate with your audience more deeply. You'll also identify some unmet needs and potential opportunities by reading through responses. Maybe you'll discover things that you could do that you had never even thought of before. It's also a great way to build trust and loyalty among your customers or students. You know, we as consumers just wanna feel like our voice,

our opinion is heard and it matters. And it can be quite fun to go into co-creation mode with them, which I'll explain a little bit more in detail soon. It's also an incredible way to make sure that you understand the language that your ideal audience is using. Now, let me talk about this a little bit, because as you develop your career and get more advanced in your industry,

oftentimes we end up using language that you know, a beginner isn't really familiar with. And it's really difficult to pull these out because it's become common language for you. But we end up using more advanced language around what we're doing because that's just part of our day-to-day life. But there's a disconnect between where we've gotten in our business and the person who we were when we were just starting out.

And so it's always really important for me to just survey everyone and then really sit with their responses and remember how I was feeling and what I was struggling with when I was starting out as well, and make sure that I'm not using any lingo or language from my industry that people just don't understand. A great example of this is that in one of my free classes,

I talk about scanning in your artwork. And Lisa, my integrator, read it and she said, just so you know, I was really excited about this. Your, you know, invitation page got me really excited, but the moment that I read scan in your artwork, I was out because I don't have a scanner, I don't know anything about scanners and that intimidated me.

And I was like, that is such good information to have because you actually don't have to have a scanner, right? Like you can use your phone or take a picture of it, which is what I also teach. But I realized that I was using some language that was just a bit more advanced than potentially a beginner would be. And so that's an example of why it's so important to always keep your mind wrapped around the language of the person you're trying to reach.

So let me share with you a couple of examples of how we do this. I survey my audience, meaning I ask them questions. Anytime I am developing a new product or class or service or offer of any type, I let them perhaps vote on a couple of different ideas that I have to see which one they're interested in most. If it's a product,

I let them vote on S, you know, anything that they could have control over. For instance, my flourish planner, I had my audience vote on the pattern that we used on the inside cover and the linen color and the color of linen that we used on the outside cover, which was just such a fun way to bring them into the process and help them feel like co-creators.

I also always survey my students and so we survey them at the end of a course so that I can get feedback and ideas on how to improve it and also collect things like stories and testimonials as well. We also survey the membership on an annual basis and we ask really strategic questions so that we can use the results to help form all of our content and the upcoming year.

So this is a great example of sitting down if you have a membership sitting down and trying to come up with an entire year's worth of lessons, right? Or you could just ask what they're trying to learn, what they're struggling with, where they wanna go next, and use their feedback to completely map out the syllabus for the next year. So we don't have to wonder so much,

we just need to ask. The answers are right there. We also always survey immersion live attendees. So this is our online conference and I always ask for feedback and ways that we could improve it, but also what did they enjoy most? And one question that I typically ask is, who would you love to see at next year's conference? What speakers would you love to learn from?

And this is just such a great way for us to dive into the results and get ideas for who to ask about joining us the next year. One of the ways that I've used this most recently is that last year after my signature course, the immersion course was over. We surveyed everyone who had come through and asked a bunch of specific questions, but I wanted some feedback on the flow of the course.

And I remembered that so much of the feedback was around needing some extra time at the beginning of the course to wrap their mind around what they wanted to do with their artwork. So if you're not familiar with this, our very first module, module one and module two is on Adobe Illustrator. And then module three is on repeating patterns. And so some of the feedback was,

you know, if I had known that we were going straight into repeating patterns, I would have developed different artwork and module one and two. And so the way that we implemented that feedback was that this year we added something called orientation week at the beginning of the course. And this has been one of our favorite decisions of all time. This orientation week just gave everyone a collective like deep breath before we began,

helped them get oriented in the course. It helped them get their student box experience before we began it, placed them in their study groups ahead of time. But I created a brand new mini module called the Inspiration Lab. So they got this during this orientation week and it really just called everyone to pause and think about where they wanted to go in this course.

And it called them to go out into the world and gather inspiration to use as they began developing artwork and module one and module two. So that's a great example of how we've been able to take feedback and implement it in one of our products. This episode is sponsored by my very own guide called Start Simple in Surface Pattern Design. Have you ever wanted to see your artwork on products or work for yourself and use your creativity to build a career that you love?

If so, I made this guide just for you. I created it as a way to help creatives take the overwhelm out of getting started in surface pattern design and begin learning how to design their own fabric and wallpaper gift wrap and stationary. Inside this 44 page guide, you'll learn how to gather inspiration and create collections, how to promote your work and pitch like a pro,

how to create income from your artwork and get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to design a fabric collection. Whether you want to add an extra income stream from licensing or craft an entire breathtaking career, the start simple and surface pattern design guide has you covered and it's entirely free. So hop on over to bonnie christine.com/guide to download your copy today.

Again, that's bonnie christine.com/guide. I'll meet you there. So choosing the right format for surveys and polls is really important and the questions that you ask are really important as well. So I've already told you that I'm going to give you a list of of questions that we have asked our audience, but I also want you to be really, really thoughtful about the questions that you want to ask your audience because the questions that I ask my audience may not be the same information that you need from your audience.

In other words, don't just ask them a question for the sake of asking them a question. Ask them the exact question that you need the answer to in order to move forward in your business. So really sit down and brainstorm or heart storm craft clear and concise questions that are going to help you build out whatever it is that you're wondering about. Now,

I don't know about you, you, but anytime someone wants me to take a survey, I'm always more enticed and extra appreciative if there's an incentive for me to participate. So I always try to build in some kind of incentive when I'm asking people for feedback. Now some people will always give you feedback just because of the kindness in their heart, but I think that you'll get way more responses if you offer an incentive.

So examples of ways that I've done this are a giveaway. I have done a survey before where, you know, during the survey you put in your name and email, and then after the survey is over, I use a random generator to pull a winner and they get a free year to the membership or free enrollment maybe in the course, which is a really,

you know, that's a really big incentive or a hundred dollars gift card to Amazon or something that's in your studio. Maybe you give away a product that you sell or something like that. But always really, really nice to offer an incentive. Maybe everyone gets 10% off their next order if they fill it out or the, you know, draw maybe three winners to receive something,

but it will highly increase the likelihood of people taking the time to fill out your survey. And then of course you have to analyze and interpret the results. Now there is something so delicious to me about sitting down with a bunch of responses and I just, it is like this brainstorming heart storming session unlike any other. I feel like the pressure's off because I've got a copilot,

I've got all of these responses and requests from our audience that I can use to riff off of, right? Like really go deep with ideas. It is so fun. So one of the ways that I've also implemented this is with this very podcast, when I was in the heart storming phase, I emailed my list and asked them to help me come up with ideas on what they would love to hear about,

what they would love to learn about. I walked away with over a thousand responses and about 250 episode ideas from sitting down with that survey. It was incredible. So obviously, make sure to clear your plate and schedule in time to sit down with the results and really dive in. Now, if you remember my episode on boundaries, that was episode number 35.

If you are asking some tough questions, like for instance, is there anything that you feel like we could improve or was there anything that you didn't like about our course or product or conference? Then I suggest handing those over to someone else that's a little less emotionally involved as you and having them summarize the results for you. So the feedback is 100% needed and you need to hear it,

but someone else can summarize it for you and say something like, you know, I think we had someone complain once because they needed more bathroom breaks, but they were really rude in the way that they provided that feedback. And so this is just a funny example, but my program manager at the time went through all of the feedback and summarized it for me,

and that request turns into three people requested more frequent restroom breaks or breaks, you know, so that they could go take care of business, right? That kind of feedback is way more helpful than than hearing like the disgruntledness and someone's response if you're like me and really take everything to heart. If you don't have a problem reading that kind of feedback, then you know,

get after it. Gaining insight like this from your audience is going to help you refine your existing products and services based on the feedback from the people who matter most, the people who are already experiencing what you have to offer. It's also going to help you develop new offerings and have new ideas and also address perhaps some unmet needs. Likely you will discover some unmet needs that you could fulfill that you've never even thought of before.

Now, another reason that I love surveying my audience is that it also helps inform all of the free offers that we do. So I can take feedback and then start to develop, write new podcast ideas or new small class offers or new workbooks or anything that could be like a new little offer for my audience based on exactly what they wanted to begin with.

It also lets your audience know that you value their feedback, and this is such an important part of just letting your community feel like family. Now I mentioned the concept of co-creators, and the survey that I did about this very podcast is a great example of inviting your audience to come alongside you and become a co-creator. This really just helps to foster a sense of ownership and investment among your audience in what you are developing.

So I've done this before with products. I've let people vote on, you know, different ideas or colors or patterns. And this podcast I've also come up with maybe three or four different new class ideas and let my audience vote on the one that they wanted to see most. So let's talk about different very practical ways to do this. And the way that you choose to move forward will probably depend on the type of survey and also your audience size.

So the first one works best for smaller audiences, and it's simply to email your list and say, hit reply, hit reply and tell me X, Y, Z. Tell me what you'd love to learn next, or tell me what you think about this idea. Right? And so this is a great way to start building connection with your audience. And I would say it works best with smaller email lists,

let's say under 10,000. But I used it just recently to my list, which is at around 135,000 people. And we were honestly wanting them to hit reply and tell us what they wanted to learn in a workshop. And so it was very busy in the inbox, but such a fun way to really hear from everyone. Now the next way is more casual.

This is through social media. So if you're on Instagram, you can have people respond via comments on a post or you could do it in your stories. They have a way for you to survey in your stories or like submit a reply, or you could ask a question and open up a reply box in your story as well. A voting contest is always a really fun,

again, I've used this one before for products and for online classes and just let your people vote on what they want most from you. Next, a great way to incentivize this is if they vote, maybe they get early access to ordering it before anyone else, right? So that would be a really cool way to invite your audience to be co-creators with you.

And then of course you can do like a proper survey. And so lots of different platforms offer this. My top three favorites are simple Google forms. We use so many Google forms in my business. Survey Monkey is another great option as well as Typeform. So I also use Typeform for different surveys from time to time because they do a great job of offering tons of different types of questions that you can ask.

So my friends head on over to the show notes of this episode to download the ultimate survey template for creative entrepreneurs to get my list of the most common ask questions that we ask our audience. I think that it will really help you wrap your mind around different ways that you can use this in your own business. And the next time that you find yourself wondering what to do next,

just start surveying your audience. Asking them is incredibly powerful and you'll never have to think so hard again in your life once you just harness the power of bringing them in to helping you create what you want in your business. This is going to help you create the beauty that you want to see come alive in the world. And remember, there's room for you.

I'll see you next time.



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