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What People Buy: How This One Simple Question Reveals Everything
Last Updated June 6th, 2011

You have an audience, and now you want to generate some revenue.

To do that, you know you need to sell something, but what?

Countless “experts” tell you to create surveys to “discover what your audience really wants.”

But I’ll level with you.

Surveys are WORTHLESS.

There’s a much better, and totally cool way to figure out what people buy, and now I’ll tell you all about it.

But first…

Why Surveys Suck When Looking For What People Buy

Research has shown… countless times… that people LIE on surveys.

Research also proved that surveys are HORRIBLE at predicting the future intentions of people.

But, really, Steve Jobs said it best…

“People don’t know what they want until you give it to them.”

Question is, what do you give to them?

You don’t want to spend hours creating something and watching it flop, right?


So what can you do?

The Secret to Discovering What People Buy is Conversation

You know what’s funny?

If you approach people as a human being, and ask them the right questions, they’ll tell you exactly what they’ll buy.

And they won’t lie, either.

People are okay with lying on surveys, because it’s just a survey. However, people don’t like lying to other people. That’s dishonest.

But wait, isn’t that just a more personal survey?

Well, no.

I’m telling you to open a conversation with each and every subscriber, and listen to what they have to say.

Sounds tough, but with the following tactic, it’s real easy…

“What Are You Struggling With?”

Sound familiar?

When people sign up for the Social Triggers newsletter, my welcome email asks them:

“What are you struggling with?”

And guess what?

People reply, and tell me exactly what their problems are, and what they need help with.

Think about that for a second.

People tell me their problems.

Now when I sell something, you can bet that I’ll sell the cure to those problems.

And trust me, people will buy it.

They already told me they were struggling, and they’ll want to alleviate that pain.

Why This Question is a “Double-Edged Sword”

I know you think this tactic is cool, but there’s a real problem with it, and if you don’t address it, this tactic can hurt. If you do address it, you’ll reap the rewards.

Here’s the deal:

When you ask people a personal question like “What are you struggling with,” you MUST respond to that email.

If you don’t, it will breed resentment, and may lose you a fan.

If you do, you’ll increase loyalty and customer satisfaction because people love personal attention.

What does that mean to you?

Higher open rates. Higher click through rates. Higher conversion rates.

So, if you dare use this personal approach, make sure you’re ready to answer emails.

And again, it’s worth it.

You’ll know what people want to buy, then it’s your job to sell it to them.

One More Word of Warning…

Don’t copy my question… especially if you’re in the marketing space.

Thousands of people have seen me use it, and if you copy it, people will know you’re not being genuine.

Instead, discover how you can ask the same question in your own words.

Or, why not take this to the comments, and let’s brainstorm together?

Spread the love!

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239 comments Leave a comment

Great read, something I do in 1 on 1 but never thought to do in a blog. Thanks for the insight.

Cassandra Williams

Thanks, I like find ways to connect with the people on my small list. I am great at one on one and I look forward to finding a way to ask people to tell me their biggest problem. I just found you and I am reading your eBook and so far, so great!


This opened my eyes to a lot. I’ve been trying to create an online business for a month now and was running into a lot of trouble. This read really helped and sparked an idea. Thank you


Great one. Derek! It’s so simple yet super effective. I’m going to apply this into my business and use my own words. Thanks a lot! πŸ™‚


A great read and a great question to ask in order to generate feedback. I look forward to reading more of your tips for the trade. Your research is helpful too.


Just found you yesterday and I like your methods. Just scrolling through allll these responses you have convinces me your on the right track and now so am I.
Jay Nolan


I never lie on surveys – anyway. I need your help – My subscribers (I assume) struggle with finding effective pain relief from Migraines. And struggle with the numerous impacts of long term chronic illness. I can teach coping skills as I am a qualified Counselor and can develop a pain management strategy – but I can’t find the right words – perhaps just adding the word most might work – “What are you struggling with most?” I might not be able to help them at all! What is your advice please? I’d love some options for questions here. Fabulous ideas. Thanks so much.


    As a former migraineur, I’d suggest — 1= How are your headaches ruining your life? 2= If I could help you manage ONE thing that your headache effects, what would it be? 3= When you KNOW the pain is coming, what things MUST get done? (a trainer helped me with this one – I knew I must get my kids fed which led to a “quick/easy go to mealplan” that they could help with when I was barely functioning — it was a real lifesaver!) 4= Let’s create an action plan for your worst days: What’s the hardest thing to manage? or – what can I help you manage? xoxo Good luck!!! v.


I’ve seen this a few times and think it’s a great stategy for marketing but also to gain more loyal fans and build brand loyalty.

I am currently trying to find a way to phrase that question for me. This post has bought some ideas to mind (original ones, don’t worry I won’t borrow your question!)

Thanks again!


Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t actually know what they’re struggling with.

I’ve been experimenting with offering what I think might be a problem for my customers as a “hypothesis”, then asking “does that match your experience?”.

Giving them something specific allows them to think, “well, that’s not quite my problem, it’s more like this: __”. What lies in __ has been pure gold thus far.


“What is one thing that is slowly sucking the life out of you?”


Hey Derek,

New subscriber referred to you from Amy Porterfield. Love your content.

Would this be applicable to someone who is a local service provider?

What about “What’s the worst part about hiring a service company to work on your house? Hit reply and let me know!”?


This is a great article!
I was thinking a question like this:
What area of your life would you want to improve on?


Hi Derek!
Wow, you are awesome. I am just starting up a new business and came upon social triggers, I guess through facebook? I’m not even sure. I have been slowly (very slowly, since I have a day job and a toddler) implementing changes to make my website and business something I can start doing full time to really serve others. I really like this tip and can’t wait to try it in my email newsletter (which is starting to grow readership thanks to your info about putting sign-up boxes everywhere!). As a health coach, what do you think about the email saying something like this:
“What challenges are preventing you from living the healthiest, happiest life imaginable? Reply to this email and let me know!”
What do you think?
Thanks so much!

Sara Young

My question would be, “If you have a problem at work or in your social life, and you take a step back and look at how you are handling it, are you more upset about your problem, or your reaction to your problem?”


    “If you have a problem at work or in your social life, and you take a step back and look at how you are handling it, are you more upset about your problem, or your reaction to your problem?” This is the exact question bothering me.


I would love to hear how you might adapt this approach for a small paint/wine business. We offer adult classes, all ages classes, and private parties but are having trouble converting fb fans into event attendees. Our ad budget is tiny. So far we’ve done some flyers, a volunteer event that was just covered in today’s paper, and a cross-promotion with another business in town. Any suggestions to jump start our business?


Hi Derek

Are you suggesting putting the question in your first email to your list and then responding by creating and offering a specific product? Or gearing the question to what you already offer? or for your own information as to where to go next? I donΒ΄t even have a list yet, but as an ayurvedic practitioner my question would be something like what is your greatest health priority? or What would motivate you to take care of yourself better? Any feedback gratefully received!


It’s unfortunate that you give great advice here but don’t follow it. You are certainly right that if people respond to the “what are you struggling with” question, you’ll lose credibility and trust if you don’t respond.
I myself responded to this question weeks ago right after I signed up and never heard anything from you. How do you recover from this?


    Oh me too, I replied and had no response. But to be honest I forgot all about it after two or three days. Got onto other stuff. Is this a normal thing, I would assume so!

Joe Hassick

Hi Derek,

I ended up here because of your free ebook. Your blog is great. The podcasts are even better.

I’ve been immersing myself in the online business/marketing world lately. Most of it has consisted of consuming content, but I’m also reaching out to people in hopes of finding problems that I can solve. I’ve landed a few meetings, which is makes me pretty nervous and excited. Now I just need to ask the right questions.

Thanks for producing all of this content. It really does help.

Chris Mullen

I am enjoying your content Derek! It is very helpful.

How about this question?

What aspect of your life would you like to improve and what’s holding you back?


Harrison Giannakis

Hi Derek,

I sent another comment before but I don’t know whether it sent. What I said in my last comment was that I was thinking of creating my own website in the future. At the moment I haven’t decided on what type of website it will be and what specific audience it will target, but I wanted to find some helpful advice on getting answers. The tips you have mentioned are really helpful. One of the questions I asked in my previous comment that I think didn’t send was an example of one on a personal fitness website that is concerned with helping people develop there fitness by providing dietary and fitness facts etc. The two questions that I thought of were

Why is it so hard? ( would be on the actual website)


What challenges or personal difficulties could I expect from trying to get fit?

Are they good questions. If not please advise me on what would be a good idea for this example. That would be very helpful.


Great post!

I offer an online interior design service where we custom design new interiors virtually, based on the client’s favorite furniture and room dimensions. It allows them to preview how their space will look like before buying any furniture and thus have all the tools to implement it on their own avoiding typical decorating mistakes and concerns (furniture that doesn’t fit, high decorator cost, never ending hourly fees, decorators imposing their own style, high mark ups, not knowing where to shop etc….)

My question options are:
* What is holding you back living in a home that is designed to your lifestyle?
* What is holding you back to live your lifestyle?
* What is your greatest challenge when designing your interior?
* What is holding you back to come home to a place you love?

Because the design of someone’s home is so personal, I was also considering to offer a free 30 minutes online consultation where they’d take us through their home and talk about the challenges they face. I think that be a good way to create a connection and thus have a better understanding of what their problems really are. Later on I may charge for the online consultations.

As part of the website, we have a freebie page that has 100’s of links to popular furniture shops so that they have direct access to retailers. I was wondering if it be a good idea to request users to bring in their email on this page.

There are some really great comments on here. I would love to get your thoughts.

Connie Habash

Derek, your tips are so clear and helpful. I really appreciate it!

I’d like to try my question (s) on for size with you:
“What are the obstacles within you to Being who you really want to Be? If they were gone, who would you BE? How would that feel?”

Do you think it’s too many questions? I just wanted to carry them forward into the results of Being their authentic self. Wondered if I should put something about being their true authentic self in there, but was worried about being too wordy.

Is is, of course, a different kind of question that what you are asking. You are asking them to seek your specific advice about something. I am asking them to think deeply about what they truly want and who they truly are. Am I asking the wrong kind of question? Or is this a good question because of the fact that I am a psychotherapist that teaches spiritual and personal growth courses?


I think I might be struggling with how you are able to answer all your emails–and still get other stuff done!
My struggles in doing that are:
I often give long responses–and sometimes the people messaging me write long messages.
So I need to learn to shorten my responses.

I have this fear that if I respond a few times to someone, they will abuse that and keep messaging me without purchasing my coaching services. But then, that is an unfounded fear because even those who email me a few times respect my time–so what am I so worried about!!!

Tim Moon

Yeah, I’ve seen a few bloggers use that question. One that comes to mind is Sean Ogle. I think he asks that in his first email after signing up.

As always, Derek, great information.

Allan Collins

E-books that address specific areas of interest (e.g. creating wealth, improving education, etc) in a unique and practical way should always draw the attention of a thinking audience.

Stacy Altiery

Hello Derek:

This advice about asking your subscribers a question to start a conversation could not have come at a better time for me. I’ve had my own online stationery, invitations and personalized gift business for 5 years and I’m at a growing point (both internally and externally) and want to work smarter not harder. I also believe surveys are not all they are cracked up to be and want to dig into my subscriber base and find out what makes both my customers and subscribers tick.

I’m struggling with what type of open ended question to pose? If I ask something like… how can I make your personalized gift giving easier? this sounds salesy? Likewise if I ask ..how can I help you with your party planning needs? not only does this sound salesy, but it may turn off my customers who do not buy invitations, as if I’m speaking to someone other than them?

Help? for the life of me I can’t think of a good broad brushed question that could help me open lines of communication and start to create products and content that my customers are truly interested in.


    Hey Stacy!

    What strikes me about those questions is that they start with “How can I…”

    In my opinion, this immediately makes it about you, not the customer, even though you direct it to being about them later.

    I think there’s also the aspect of them thinking that if they answer a question like that, they’ll be obliged to buy something from you or talked into it since it was about how you can help them, not directly what they’re struggling with, which is something that’s not necessarily directly connected to you.

    If you rephrased it slightly, perhaps “What do you find you need the most when planning a party?” or maybe “What one thing would make personalising your gifts easier for you?” would work better?

    Hope that helps πŸ™‚

Mary Catherine George

Hello Derek
Great information – I am doing the research and your informaiton is assisting me in a huge way!! I am planning my launch for May 2013. My question for my target audience is – How can I help you find the door to your imagination? or increase opportunities to play in your day?


    Debra Russell

    Hey Mary Catherine,
    I hope you don’t mind if I jump in. One thing to be careful of is to use language that your target market will connect with. I may not be your target market, but when I read your question, my response was, “Huh?”

    I recommend using questions that point you to your target market’s problems and obstacles (so you can use their answer as an opportunity to provide the solutions!).

    So you might ask – “How do you use your imagination?” or “What stops you from using your imagination?”

    For the second question – “How do you enjoy yourself every day?” or “What stops you from playing or enjoying yourself on a daily basis?”

    Hope that helps.

Timothy Haney

Derek – just bought your “Build A Blog” course…gonna have to completely scrap what I was planning on a blog idea. Thanks! But…it’s gonna be a good if not fantastic thing. In this article you said not to steal your “What Are You Struggling With” question. I believe this would be a great way to converse with my potiential customers in the weight loss market. How about “What Struggles( or “Issues”) Are Keeping You From Reaching Your Weight Loss Goal?”

Leah Little

I’m just starting to build a business teaching women about money, so I’d ask:
What one financial habit keeps you from being rich?
Name one money skill you want to learn or improve this year.


I am laughing about this one because I was 1 step ahead of what I have read of your content. I have on my introduction for people to post what they are struggling with (with horses) and to let me know so I can do my best to have an answer for them through the videos I post. Then, I read this post of yours and had to laugh. I guess I am on the right track after all. Thank you;)

Andy Bell

Hi Derek

I believe my service covers most of the things you mentioned earlier.

We save people money , and save people time. We basically search for scholarships on the internet for people directing them to money opportunities for their education or their childs.

Do you think people would pay for something they could do themselves? how would you sell that?



I don’t have anything intelligent or helpful to say except that this post and the comments are friggin GOLD. And Derek H is a LEGEND in my eyes. Will be re-reading and implementing. Hot dog, I love the internet.


derek i love your idea about a more personal approach to the people because the truth is that surveys are really crap. but have you considered this. ok so you ask somebody the question and they answer, so next you make that product and sell it but there is another solution to this and its called sharing the benefits. instead of making the product and selling it to them make a prototype but at the same time sell the idea to them and see what they do by working together with them so they can make it either to the letter so to speak or take a different approach and keep the fundamentals but put their own spin on it and when this product sells (if it does) make a contract with them and divide the profit. its a simple yet effective so think about it and let me know what you think.


I just took a survey sent out to about 30 people after an event. The FIRST thing they asked was for your name & email — and it was REQUIRED. Hmmm… guess how honest people were on that one!


I think I would ask, What prevents you from doing what you actually want?


I have completed surveys with effort in the past, but I will admit to my friends here ;), I rarely do. I think it has to do with the receipt of the survey. If that came across as another step in the process being passed off, I saw that as laziness on the part of the other party in the relationship. So, why would the content of what i think, be relevant in ink, if it isn’t verbally?


This question has nothing to do with the subject matter, but I’ll ask it anyway. How do I set my pic up on my replies? Anyone?


This is one of the BEST articles I’ve ever read on creating an email list. My site is still “under construction” as I’ve been too afraid to show it to the world (I’m getting there).

Q for you though: When you respond to their personal question – do you try to sell something or just sympathize….maybe point them at a link to a post you’ve already writeen or ???

Do people tend to take advantage of that personal email connection?

Bigg Six

Would if you don’t have an audience or an email list? For my company, but I work for a bridal company and I’ve been trying to get bites on those… I have not made one sale. What would you recommend for either situation? In one hand I have a mailing list but MAYBE a weak email I send out… And I don’t know how to get my other (inspired) some traffic?

Bigg Six

Richard Hennessy

Here’s mine: “If you could change just one aspect of how you think, feel or act what would it be?”

As always, you really got me thinking deeper about my business Derek! Good work fella!


Well they do all the technique matters and pr-thing…

Okay but remember you are what you do.
That makes me loser each day.


Thanks for this great post. Most of time people ignore the most basic things in our life. You reminded me of such things.


Hey Derek You have such a great work ethic I really love how you keep tabs on everyone and have taken the time to reply to most comments.

Do you have an article somewhere about your low unsubscribe rates? I’d love to know about that.
I sent out an email a couple of weeks ago personally to everyon e on my list (small list) asking how they were going and offering them a free 20 minute coaching call and got no responses. I just wondered what was up with that and what I could of done differently if you have any tips.

My Question to ask my list this week is going to be:
Where are you feeling stuck and passionless at the moment? Where do you wish you had unstoppable momentum in your life?

Thanks Derek


I agree that beginning a personal dialogue with readers is a great step to take to connect. I am going to try it on my young blog.

Professor Roberts

With all of the Internet crimes taking place no one is trusting free offers. Would you visit a the site “Has my Credit Card Been Stolen.com” to see if your credit card has been stolen? Hope not.
It’s easy to infect MP3 with malware to steal PI from people Apple, Windows, Linux doesn’t matter.

People don’t lie on surveys thye don’t read the questions but they still answer the questions. That way they receive the insensitive for turning in a filled in survey.

As for personal contact surveys – the trend now is to lie to the person asking the survey questions. Americans want privacy and the best way to keep that privacy is not to tell the truth. Marketers have been lying to customers so why shouldn’t consumers lie to marketeers? It’s only fair.


How do you get an email list from your twitter follower?

    Debra Russell

    You offer them incentive to go to your website and sign up for your email list – a free report, a free mp3 – a little taste of what you do. Don’t grab people’s emails either from facebook or twitter and add them to your list – it’s illegal.


Hello Derek (Great name by the way! haha)

Nice article. I enjoyed reading it and understanding your point of view. There was one thing though that I disagreed with though. You stated that surveys are “worthless”. When you say that people “lie” on surveys is a far too generalized sentiment. Yes, people will have biases towards one thing over another, or would answer in a certain way because of their ideologies or beliefs. But not all surveys are worthless. On the contrary, scientific surveys provide wonderful context about the tendencies and inherent inclinations of a particular sect of people. For example, the pew research center releases the most empirically accurate survey conduction and provides professional analyses of results and trends which could prove very helpful in understanding your demographic, or in this case, customer. This could range from “the amount of money tourists are willing to spend in (any given city/town/area)” to “what is the most visually pleasing color”. These things could prove to be very insightful when asking yourself “WHAT ARE PEOPLE BUYING?”!

-Again, Great article


Hey Derek,
you’re right! As many blogs’ subscriber, when people sent me an email to take a survey, I did not care or lied sometimes because I found that surveys was bored.
Thanks for this article πŸ™‚

Craig Cooper

There is an excellent book called Consumerology by Philip Graves that deals with just this subject. He includes references to all the studies he cites and explains why certain methods of market research are almost completely worthless.

Sergio Felix

Hey Derek,

Already sent you an e-mail for that first welcome mail and got your reply just a few hours later, damn you’re good, thanks!



Man..you rank all over the internet for these great posts…

I found this post a while ago and tried it (without copying) and of course you already know that you are so right!

I run a few anxiety based sites and so I ask people what is the one major thing about anxiety that is the worst for them.

They write me their life story. I have a handful of people that now write me many times per week…it’s amazing.

I haven’t really figured out how to monetize that yet, because these are people who have been burned a LOT and they don’t buy the same as someone looking for a golf club…you really have to treat them different.

Anyway, as always a fantastic post!


Thanks Derek. I am really loving all your posts. It’s very informative and provide insights how to go with the subject. I still need to start something as blog or business website but i can see how these tips going to be helpfull.


What is going to be the most fun is creating different ways to ask the question? Following up the email definitely is essential. No relationship if you do not connect. I saw this work for myself as you ask “The Question”. I talked about what I was struggling with without thinking. You have a perfect way of teaching by showing. Thank YOU!


I’m a bit unclear about your suggestion. So if we already have a list, are you suggesting we write each person individually and ask them our version of “what are you struggling with?” Or put it out in our newsletter? Or just use with new subscriptions? I was thinking of taking my smaller targeted local list and asking them. Should I send the question to the list or to each individual?



Thanks. Tried it and it worked so far. I have like 17 signups per day and 3 per day replied. This can probably be improved, but I’m glad that people already reply.

One even said that she found it very nice of me to ask her, why she signed up for the service – usually people don’t ask that and she was really helpful with her answer.

Chandler Turner

Classic transactional analysis as applied to the sales world by David Sandler and many others. I have heard many times in seminars for many years that the most important thing you can do with a client is to listen to them. Ever heard it? It is not the most important thing. Asking the right questions is the most important thing, because if you are not asking the right questions, you are never going to hear the most important answers.

Just saw a survey last week from a group that is trying to form in Virginia. The survey was so poorly constructed as to render the answers almost useless. OMG!


On rereading this, I see that I submitted it without completing my thought.

People buy to stop or avoid PAIN. So the purpose of any question you ask a prospective customer is to discover their pain. And people do love to talk about their pain. That’s why Derek’s “struggle” question produces so many responses. Struggle is a great word for pain.

No pain, no sale.


Great post, Derek.

I learned many years ago that surveys are worthless. As an ad agency account executive, I had a client who once introduced a new product with a radio-only campaign that produced results beyond objectives. In a follow-up survey, over 60% of respondents said they’d heard about the product on TV.

I’m helping a friend launch her bridal boutique web marketing, and your advice comes just in time to remind me that QUESTIONS ARE THE ANSWER.

Questions that come to mind for her email welcome letter:

β€’ What’s the hardest thing you’ve found about choosing a wedding dress?
β€’ What do you wish bridal store salespeople would do that you haven’t seen? (hmm… or WOULDN’T do?)

One of the best examples of an opening question that I ever learned was in the housing industry. Greet every prospect with the question, “What brings you into the housing market?”

Thanks for Social Triggers!

Ruan | Ebook Tutorials

I am currently still learning to find the balance as to when and when not to use automation in my communication.

There are times like the the welcoming letter that some people like myself will want to do it personally.

Then there are other times that after you have asked your subscribers personally what THEY need help with personally, some will respond with something “automated” that covers the majority of interest.

What happens to those that perhaps didn’t get answered? There you might lose yourself a fan?

So the solution would be to do most things on a personal level, as anyone of us feels truly helped only when it came from a human heart or mind. But when the numbers grow, and it starts to get really hard to get by each one individually every single time, is that where automation should be used but not abused?

How about:

“If you could choose your favourite eBook format, what would it be?”

Enjoyed the post Derek! (as always)

How to Learn From Your Competition (without Copying or Stealing)

[…] If you want to know what frustrates people, you’ve got to see it first hand. Plus, you can also implement my famous “what are you struggling with question?” […]


I’ve used “What is your biggest challenge” and gotten quite a few responses which have started conversations. Going to fine tune it a bit and spread it to all my sign-ups.

Dee @ SmallHouseLife


I’m a home builder.. LOVE building, designing.. simplifying life with ‘less is more’.. Hence SmallHouseLife.com plus I’m getting lots of interest. This week my newsletter had 93% open rate with 52% click thru! I am not kidding!

Challenge: Figuring out where to take it. Are pp only interested in the pretty pictures or do they want more of the lifestyle part that includes finance, building specifics, etc.

For newsletter this Sunday, I have the question going out:
“If you could have one question answered about β€˜right sizing’ to a small house, what would it be?”

It’s not really getting to the heart of what I need to know but couldn’t come up with better one.

Do you have better question for me??

thx, Dee

    Debra Russell

    Well, my initial response is that the question is passive – rather than direct:
    What’s your biggest question about “right sizing” to a small house?

    You could also ask:
    What are your biggest obstacles, considerations or fears about right sizing to a small house?
    This will not only give you what their questions are, but also their problems – and then you position yourself as the solution to their problems πŸ™‚

      Dee@ Small House Life

      OK, yeah.. good idea Debra!

      Thanks for your input.. I like it. Dee

        Debra Russell

        YW πŸ™‚

Jeff Herrmann

Derek, after reading your blog for about 3 months I have found that all the comments are written in the same style from all the same people.

Social Triggers conspiracy!!!


Just playin; even if it is a scam your views are always helpful, and that’s all that matters.

How, in your opinion, do I use your advice for MY small business?

    Professor Roberts

    That’s how reddit got started. Two guys wrote all of the thousands of posts and replies using different names. They duped people into believing the site was popular when it wasn’t.

    Derek Halpern


    You think I go out of my way to get fake comments on my blog?

    What a waste of time.

    That’s no way to build a business.

    As a matter of fact, I’ve even considered disabling comments πŸ˜›

      Ronja Venus Andersson

      Please don’t diable comments. I learn a ton from the article, and then another few tons from reading the comments below. Great conversations and engament there…

        Ronja Venus Andersson

        disable (i mean) πŸ™‚

      Will Kriski

      Hi this is Derek…er um I mean Will. Derek is the most wonderful person in the world and I…I mean he would never fake comments to my…ahem…i mean his blog.


Derek, how do you answer every email? When I got your email, I thought, “Wow, what a great tactic – how the heck is he going to follow through on this?!” I get 50 subscribers a day – you probably get 500! How do you answer everyone?!



Todd & Johana


Bob Batson

Omigod – he answers every post!
Well I had friends in Garden City, grew up in Hempstead, now in Selma, AL. Business and marketing consultant for 45 years, that’s 45. Best thing I ever heard a client say was, “You make sales by making friends.” I majored in psychology and sociology. He had a 9th grade education. Common self-taught web type, having fun. So, you use Aweber?

Mee Mafnas

I should say, youve got 1 of the greatest blogs Ive seen in a long time. What I wouldnt give to be capable of develop a weblog thats as interesting as this. I guess Ill just have to keep reading yours and hope that one day I can write on a subject with as a lot information as youve got on this 1!

Expert List Building Tips – How to Build a Responsive and Lucrative List | Denise Wakeman - Online Visibility Expert

[…] I call the "What Are You Struggling With?" question.    I wrote about it here, but here's the short summary: when people sign up for your list, inside your welcome email, […]

liz scully

Excellent post Derek – and very timely for me as I’m beavering away writing content for my websites. I already ask a lot of questions on the main site to pique interest (would you like to make better decisions? being my main tag line).

But now I feel inspired to add it to the mail sign ups as well.


I’ve only been subscribed for a few weeks and already I’ve recieved such great tips and insight from you. Double thanks!

Keith Bulatao

Great content, Derek – always find something of value in everything you write. My favorite class as an undergrad was Decision Sciences and your writings remind me of it!

My question would boil down to, “What is your biggest challenge in running a successful fundraiser?”

Helena Bianchi

I love this!! I would say this is such a refreshing blog. Different than most others where it feels like I am always reading the same stale advice over and over again.
I must say, I also love that you actually respond to people– makes me think like you really care.

Great job and thank you for adding so much value πŸ™‚

Marlene Hielema

LOL! I just finished a too-long survey for Adobe. I had to lie on some of the questions because my answer was not listed. If I didn’t answer that question I couldn’t continue the survey. Bad design IMHO.

I lie on surveys because people don’t ask the right questions or have the right answers. I have to make up answers in order to complete the survey.

Camilo Rodriguez

Hey Darren how are you?

Take a look of my question.

What is the most difficult thing and youΒ΄d like to master when you want to seduce a woman

It is about how to seduce women.


Camilo R

The Email Marketing “Myth” Debunked

[…] Follow-up emails nurture those leads. […]

Chandler Turner

I have read a lot of the replies to this string. It made me think of one more item and I am passing this along for those of you who may get into more detailed “sales” situations with your more complex clients and sales where cost of acquisition of the next client is a lot higher than a few clicks – not that they are not important as well. It involves answers people give you to questions that are a little more complex and difficult that are often lies.. . . but you still want to know where they really stand. I use a questioning technique called “laddering”. There is an excellent white paper on it written by Thomas J. Reynolds and Jonathan Gutman published in the Journal of Advertising Research, Feb/ Mar of 1988. Do not let the date fool you into thinking that this is no longer valid. I warn you that this is a white paper explaining research. One study cited was done on consumer preference for wine coolers vs beer. They even go so far as to include parts of Q and A sessions. It is a bit dry, but brilliantly written. Many top flight sales professionals use the techniques in this white paper every day both at work and at home. Honestly, if you master this, you will live a better life. I Googled it. You should be able to find it that way too.

Josh Sarz

Wonderful content. I was led to your site by Martyn Chamberlain and I can see why. Your “What are you struggling with?” email got me. I replied to it not expecting you to reply back, but you did, and it felt great. You’ve made another loyal fan out of me.

Raychel B

I am a historian. I tell stories through tangible imagery. (I don’t shoot weddings, I am strictly a portrait photographer) I’m still working through these but here are the two that I thought of first:

1. What event/ time in your life do you wish you had photos of, but don’t?

2. What is preventing you from experiencing custom photography as often as you would like?


    I agree the second seems to much like a sales question.

    The first referrs back to a time that has already passed, wouldn’t it be better to create a forward looking question, where there is a possiblity of photographing it. For example, “If you could create one memory this summer, what would it be?”

    Debra Russell

    This is just one person’s opinion – The second question feels too much like a sales question. The first question, I’m not sure how that leads you to know more about what your customer/client wants and needs (or clarifies if this person is a good prospect for you).

    I would think in terms of open ended questions that invite engagement. I would think something more like – What is your biggest concern/fear/question when hiring a photographer? Or – What is your favorite style of photography and why?

    If you know the outcome you want, it will help you design the question – do you want to get to know your market better? Do you want to establish yourself as an expert? Are you looking to create and deepen your relationship with this individual? (Just a few of the possible things you might want.)


      Chandler Turner

      I agree with Debra. The second question sounds like a sales question asked in an amateurish and pushy manner. (Sales training is a secondary or ancillary part of my business in addition to the primary custom Website content development. When handled properly, both are based on an understanding of human psychology, including interpersonal communications as well as the unconscious mind). You can ask the second question in a different manner and get the answer you are seeking. What you are (should be) trying to learn is how the prospect’s perceptual (motivational) orientation is linked to their motivation which drives choices. Slightly less direct questioning is less confrontational. If you ask what is stopping them, it puts them in a defensive position. It is actually quite confrontational. One tactic is to ask them how they feel about not having some of those photos. did it have an impact on other members of the family. Would you have felt better if you had had them? In other words, lead them to the conclusion you want. Connect the lack of pictures with the personal emotional feeling. When you get personal, people tend to close off. It is a defense mechanism. One last example – say you asked the first question and got an answer. What event do you wish you had photos of. And you get an answer – “my children’s baseball games.” Without another word from them, all you do is use one word – a one word question. “And . . . ?” Get them to tell you what you want to hear without asking a specific question. You want them talking and you need to listen. Sorry this was so long. Good luck.



You can’t possibly respond personally to everyone forever…what happens when there are too many?

    Debra Russell

    Hahahaha – that’s what I call a happy problem! I’d worry about that particular bridge when I come to it!


Hi Derick,

Your article is profoundly written! Such quality content certainly impact people favorably. You are right on target. Ask people exactly what they want and they will tell you. I concur with you. Very Logical argument. This truly is associated with personal development by learning to accept the facts and reality.

Melanie Kissell

Exemplary post, Derek!

Wish I had the time to read all the comments. Whew! But I’d have to spend half a day here. πŸ™‚

I find it easy to wrap my brain and my heart around your approach and philosophy. I see it as an unadulterated relationship-building lesson. Communicating with people one-on-one is always better than any responses you get in a survey. However, I do think there’s a place and sometimes a need for surveys in the realm of online marketing.

Let’s see. What would my question be?

Truthfully, I could probably come up with a myriad of questions for my target audience since so many of the mompreneurs I meet are newbies. But for the sake of this exercise, here’s something I would ask …

“If you haven’t crafted a freebie opt-in offer yet, what’s holding you back? And if you do have one and no one is opting in, do you want to know why?”

Love your writing style,


Thanks Chandler and Debra, I can see that an editor is the way to go. I see your point that an editor would be more objective and honest than friends and visitors to my website. Honest feedback is my main goal at this point.

Norie Wah Day

Thank you very much for the great comments Chandler, Debra and Rawad. It is definitely something for me to think about.


Fantastic article!

So if people lie so readily, I am wondering how to get honest feedback about my writing. I have been working on a book, and my plan was to put stand-alone portions of it on a website geared to my audience (as opposed to a writer’s group).Then I was planning to ask for some feedback on whether people liked it or not, and what changes to make, before seeking publication. I can’t count downloads, because someone may download it & then think it stinks! So how can I get good honest feedback? If it needs improvement, I want to know!

Thanks for all your great articles and tips!

    Debra Russell

    I think working with an editor who is experienced within your genre is better than posting it up for the “public’s” feedback. Once you’ve built an audience, you may want to create a community site (very common in the Sci-Fi genre) and get feedback that way. But if you’re a first time writer, I wouldn’t start there. Get expert advice.

    Chandler Turner

    The key is what setting you are in and without understanding more, I could not offer advice. In a live sales setting, of which I have been part for over 35 years, we expect the answer to the first question of almost any weight to be a lie. Why? Because their guard is still up. It is nearly like not wanting to hurt a blind date’s feelings by not telling him or her that you really do not want this to go much further than one date. With buyers of a seller’s products, they may want to work the price down, they may not be sure of quality or commitment, or they may not have the authority to make a decision at all. A friend might not want to hurt your feelings. Even a stranger might not want to hurt your feelings. Surveys, many times, are terribly limited in scope and accuracy because most people who put them together do not know how to do so properly for their own field and the answers they want.

    I am not an editor, but I would think that an editor familiar with your field might be a good place to start. Of course, they typically want a fee, and there could be non-disclosure problems.

    Bot overall, I think if you get help in crafting the questions, you may well have a good idea.

    Good luck.

Rawad J. Bou Malhab

From a personal experience, when I started marketing the products for the company I used to work for, my main focus was the products and how great they were, indeed they were of a high quality with story behind each item.

After a while, there wasn’t anymore enough words to describe the greatness of these products and it became less appealing to our clients. I realised I suffered marketing myopia.

Then I turned my attention to our loyal clients and that was a hit! There was no other way to it and I think clients are THE CLUE for a guided success. Shifting the company’s focus from product to client was one of the best decision ever taken.

And, as mentioned above, certain clients love personal attention, the others not! We need to get et to know who we are dealing with, first.

Now, there are plenty of questions to be asked for clients but I am not sure if specifics works better than generals or vice versa.

And technically would I be able to change the question every now and then on a regular basis? Strategically, I think it serves the biggest picture of being in touch with clients as their needs, wants & demands change or evolves depending on so many layered reasons: seasonal, religious, economical, mental, etc. (I think I will be posting this on my blog).

Thank you in advance.


    Chandler Turner

    I have not read a word about anything that you might be selling, but it is not unusual for someone to talk about the quality of their products, especially high quality products in a given field. But quality is a feature and is not really a part of a value proposition and they do not take you very far.. Benefits, however, are the basis of a value proposition, especially those that are properly segmented. When used properly, this will tend to engage readers. I work with and through designers and other marketing people to fine-tune their messages and it works. Typically, it is all about understanding h9w to use the periphery of changing a message, not the message itself.


What if I offer a free PDF for their email, should I ask the question first and send the PDF later (if so when), or send the PDF as well as the question?

    Debra Russell

    Send the PDF, and then wait a few days and send the question. The idea is to deepen your relationship with them. The PDF is just the beginning of a long friendship πŸ˜‰

Norie Wah Day

Love the article!
I do really want to ask the people who like my stuff a question but what? I sell what I call message birds which is an art piece combined with a card. I have a shop on Etsy called funkytwiztedthings and have just started to set up my website. My struggle is getting them to buy. I am just about to design wedding invites and table numbers and place names using my birds and other paper origami styles. What sort of email marketing should I use?

I am starting to doubt myself and have been asking myself when do abandon what you thought was a good idea because people started buying at first.

Everyone I show my birds to, thinks they are very cute and says, “Oh Wow!!’ – but I want people to buy them.

    Debra Russell

    I think the mistake that many people make when marketing their products is that their focus is on the product rather than on the market. Of the people who first started buying – who are they? What do they want/need? What was the need/desire that your product was already solving for them? Who else wants/needs that? Can you identify them specifically? Are they self-identifying in that way? How do you get in front of them?

    See – THAT’s what asking this question tells you. If it’s a gift – you could ask, “When you buy a gift, what do you struggle with most?”

    Those answers will really tell you the best way to position and package your product to fulfill what they want/need.


    Chandler Turner

    By the way, there isn’t always a good market for the ideas we come up with. I have seen people with a “cute” product (I saw yours and it is very cute) that a few people really like, but it fails to appeal to a wide enough market to make a go of it. Perhaps you should talk to a marketing expert in depth about your ideas. You may find that this is not the most robust of items to try to sell to a large market.

    If it isn’t, do not quit. Sometimes it takes only a very small subtle change to make a product sell at “epidemic” levels. Here in the US. one of the most famous of all childrens’ TV shows, Sesame Street, nearly failed to make it to air. The prevailing thoughts about children at the time was that children would have trouble understanding messages when ‘characters” interacted directly with real people. So originally, the segments with people were completely sepatated from segments with characters – like Elmo, Big Bird, Kermet, etc. But the children tested did not pay attention to either segment. Attention ratings were around 15 or 20%.One producer demanded that they shoot segments with both on camera at the same time. The attention measurement went up to over 80%, and the show became one of the most successful in American TV history.

    Subtle, almost seemingly unimportant changes can make all the difference. Talk to a marketing expert. And yes, it is difficult to find one who till tell you the plain truth – that you have a good idea worth persuing, or a bad one that should be abandoned.

    Chandler Turner

    There are many ways to formulate on-line surveys and questionaires that will help marketing. Some are quite good, while others are quite poor. I have seen comments in that regard from highly profesional people on this bolg who know a reat deal about email marketing, surveys, and so forth.

    Rather tham the internet or technical side, I come from the sales communications side. More specifically, the psychological communications side – informatoin design that tends to cause people to 1. answer questions and give yoiu the information you want or 2. to pay attention to yoru corporate message.

    You want to know what you should ask people. Before I would answer that, I would want to know what you wanted to accomplish by asking the question. Do you want to know why they like your work? Do you want to know what else they like? Do you want to know why they purcuased your item? These are all good questions to ask in relation to finding out the triggers that make your clients or prospects make their purchase.

    If they think your work is cute, then that is at least one of the emotional buy-ins for what you do. All purchases of all products and services are bought for some readily-apparent or hidden emotional reason – 100% of the time. This is something that most people who have a product or service to sell fail to grasp. There are very distinct ways to take advantage of it with well crafted Website content designed to fit your company culture and dynamic living brand.

    These things are critical enough that you can win or lose a prospect in 5 to 10 seconds of any first meeting, whether it is in person or on the Web.

    Please contact me directly if you would like to know more.

Bethany Gilbert

I laughed when I read that question in your first email. I almost didn’t respond but I actually felt bad for leaving you waiting. So funny.

I can figure this out easily on my marketing site but I am also a professional wedding photographer. I’ve been trying to figure out how to use email marketing with my photography business but I am just not sure where to go. I wouldn’t know where to begin with this question either.

This website is blowing my mind and I am subscribed to a TON so that is saying something.

    Debra Russell

    Unless you’re looking to expand to other events (such as children’s parties), your clients are mostly one-off clients, email marketing to them is going to perhaps be less effective.

    You may want to think about building your email list with your fellow wedding service businesses (e.g. flowers, venues, wedding bands, etc.). And look for ways to be of service to them. Building a circle of people who refer their clients to you when asked can be even more effective than direct marketing to end customers. Because they have the benefit of being “experts” in the wedding planning field – and they’re recommending you – carries a lot of weight.

Juuso Palander

I just added an autoresponder to ask this question 16 days after people have downloaded my freebie workbook. Let’s see what it brings to light πŸ™‚

Thanks for a wonderful post once again Derek, Social Triggers and DIYthemes blog has both became my number one sources for information in the Internet.

Matthew Karsten

I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this. Thanks for a great idea!

After sending out a broadcast asking what my subscribers were looking for, I received an incredible amount of feedback and “thank you” responses.

Now all I have to do is try and keep up with all of them flooding my inbox!

Dustin Miles


Awesome blog! I remember when you started this up. I’m really impressed by the quality and amount of feedback you receive.

Personally, I don’t always lie on surveys. It depends on the questions and who’s asking.

It’s funny that the correct answer is typically the easiest. Sure you can look at click through stats, etc., but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Michael Chibuzor

Wow Deren, this triggers are priceless. Finding out what people want to buy with personal questions is cute. I love your blog style, writing style and the way you desire to help others. I’m lifted today. Thanks for sharing


Good idea about the “ask your subscriber” thing. I think it makes a better survey and a good excuse to sell someone something – if you have it. Something like that is about the 2nd and 3rd message in my autoresponder series.

Good post Derek!

Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion

So, if you dare use this personal approach, make sure you’re ready to answer emails.

This statement gave me quite the smile Derek. People often times tell me how much they wish they got as many comments on their blog as I do on mine. Then I ask them if they’re willing to spend 5-10 hours a week just answering the comments that come in, all individually, and not just a ‘thanks’…..funny how all the sudden many folks don’t want all those comments πŸ˜‰

Good stuff brother, be well–


Chris Whittington | The Study Gurus

Such fantastic advice! Thank you so much Derek!

We sent out an update to our readers that literally just said “Hey, what are you having trouble with” and within an hour made 5 sales (up from our usual 1/week).

This is, by far, the most helpful and instantly gratifying internet-marketing advice we’ve ever had.

Love your work!

The Study Gurus

Debra Russell

Hey Derek – I’ve been using this method for about 3 years, and yes it’s incredibly effective.

Can I give you a bit of feedback? When I responded to your question – I asked a very specific question – and you gave me what felt like a canned response. Almost as bad as no response at all.

When people respond to my question – I always take 5 minutes to give them specific feedback and suggestions that they can try – some of which may include listening to a particular class at my Membership (paid), but may just be some coaching (free of charge).

And people have told me later what that meant to them. That I specifically answered their question and personally responded created instant rapport.

So, my feedback for you – be even MORE personal in your replies.

    Derek Halpern

    I tend to respond with general answers when I hear general questions.

    Yes, you gave me a specific response, but didn’t mention what site it was referring to, and what types of changes went on during the design.


      I agree that a reply that’s as personal as possible is the best deal around! πŸ™‚ When I am given an opportunity to ask someone a question about Internet Marketing related stuff, I always do it…and with a questions that are as specific as possible.

      There a few people who do this in their e-mail marketing and some answers have been very general in nature and not very helpful, despite my question being articulate.

      Giving general answers can give the illusion of a marketer not knowing the Marketing arena very well.

      One time, I had a coaching session with someone and the information was worthless. When she launched a product that revolved around the coaching information she gave me, I did not buy. If she couldn’t help me then, why pay money for a product that may not be helpful also. And can I really trust that she knows what she’s talking about?

      Anyhow, I have learned that when I tell anyone on my list that I will answer a question for them, I do the best I can at helping them with a solution. If their question is too general or they ask for more clarification, I will do my best to serve them. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for your post!

Suzi Sandoval

Derek, great article as usual. Rich content.
I ask: What area in your life is a tug of war?
Your suggestions regarding my question are greatly appreciated.

Mitchell Allen

Derek, you ain’t lying! LOL

I got your welcome message, and your answer was so awesome, I knew I was getting to know “The Real Deal” πŸ™‚

In fact, I was struggling with my email marketing. Your response was right along the lines of this post. The reason it was so awesome is that I immediately realized that the difference between my emails to clients and my emails to anonymous subscribers was engagement!

I’m still working on the marketing aspect, but at least I know how to interact with my subscribers.

Since I write productivity software, it is a no-brainer what question I asked prospects who became clients:

“What one thing would you like to have automated?”



    Derek Halpern

    Good stuff Mitchell.

    Glad you liked the email.


Nice post Dereck! Was it inspired in our email conversation?? I’m sure you get this question a lot. Awesome way to give an answer to all of us. I’ve used it right away and I’m receiving feedback. I’ll see if it works better than surveying when I launch my new product πŸ˜‰

Crystal Allen

I’ve been struggling with how to find out what my customers would want for awhile now and this is a really good suggestion.

But I’m still confused as to what I would ask. I sell amigurumi (crocheted stuffed toys). All I can come up with is, “What kind of characters would you like to see next?” Or is that question too direct?

    Chandler Turner

    BTW – like it or not, when you own a company, you are its best or worst salesperson, and like it or not, you must not only step into that role, but if you hire someone else to do it for you, you still have to understand it. In an economy as tight as this one, you need these skills more than ever just to survive.

      Gareth Sear

      Hey Chandler – like the coments – will check out those books.

      Some great info in there – if it is your business you are THE salesperson, so learn about it and find out what your barriers are to you winning the sale or even asking for it or even planning for it… there can be barriers at every stage. Sales isn’t for everyone. Learn as much as you can and if it still isn’t you, find someone who it is for and reward them for creating sales for you. No sales = no business.

        Chandler Turner

        Attended a seminar this morning put on by a friend. The subject was strategic planning. His points reminded me of what I see as the main failure points of small and even medium sized businesses that have been around for several years. They do not understand what their real brand is and they do not know how to communicate what they have to their prospects. And typically, it is not the big things, but the little subtle changes that are the most important. It is not what the message is all about many times, but how it is presented that matters. I just finished Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. There is some amazing real world examples of what small changes can do.

        Debra Russell

        Actually Gareth – you are always THE salesperson – in your life. Whether you’re selling your ideas to your boss or getting your kids to clean up their room – you’re always selling something!

        So, sales is for everyone – the better you get at communicating your ideas in a way that has people wanting what you offer, the more successful you’ll be in life.

    Chandler Turner

    Hello Crystal. Derek has a wonderful blog going here and a lot of people are interested in the things that trigger people to take action. It is within my field also, though my focus is different.

    Besides my current practice, I am a highly trained sales professional. No, not the plaid-coated greasy-haired used car salesman who says “I have this sweet deal for you and you would look great driving down the road in this used Yugo”. I have sold everything from toilet paper and tampons (no joke – I was a rep for two Fortune 100 paper manufacturers, Scott Paper Company and Kimberly Clark) to integrated computer systems.

    You can almost never be too direct when asking a prospective client what they want. Large consumer products companies (I have worked for them) ask direct questions of what people want all the time in trying to understand what the broad market wants. Think of it this way: how w0uld you feel if a yarn manufacturer called you and asked if a new type of yarn would help your business and asked you your opinion. Would you be offended in ANY way at all? I doubt it.

    But do now get fooled by using yourself as a lab rabbit for deciding if all questions are appropriate. We have cultural biases that keep us from understanding what we might ask because we are not comfortable in asking. A GREAT example is asking someone who is going to thousands of dollars for a new software product what their budget is. First, many of us were taught never to ask others about money when we were kids. It would be rude. And, if you are the buyer with a budget, and you think you can get me to sell my product to you for $12,000, you are not likely to tell me that you have a budget of $15,000 for fear that I would raise my price to meet your budget.

    I understand that you are dealing with a far less expensive item, but the reasoning is very similar.

    By the way, most small companies fail because of the lack of understanding of sales and marketing, not their craft. I strongly suggest that you spend a little money and time reading a couple of books on the art and psychology of sales. Not marketing – sales. Here are two that have sold millions: Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling and David Sandler’s The Sandler Rules – 49 questions. Read them in the order I just gave them to you. If you will learn even the rudimentary concepts in these books, your business is going to fare much better. and it does not make any difference if you are conducting 100% online sales, online and retail, wholesale, or any combination of them.

    Good luck.

      Crystal Allen

      Wow…Thanks for all the great info Chandler! I’ll definitely check out those books you suggested.

      Luckily I’m pretty interested in being my own marketer and sales rep, so I think I’m on the right track so far. πŸ˜‰

Michael R. Murphy

Hey Derek,

Awesome post and great point! When I signed up for your newsletter, I did answer your question (honestly too). And I must admit, I didn’t really expect a reply. So I was pleasantly surprised to get one. It’s too bad that conditioning by other companies has me trained to have low expectations πŸ™

As the provider of several services (web development, design, seo and social media consulting) one of the things I struggle with is framing that question so it applies and is capable of being answered by any potential client.

How about something like, what is the one thing you wish your website could do for you?

    Derek Halpern

    That’s a good question. It gets people to focus on their goals, and then you can sell them something that takes them there.


@Derek I totally agree with you: it’s easier. So how would you do sell all that stuff, if not asking them by email, nor survey? (Especially if you don’t know exactly what they want).

PS. I noticed a couple of gramar mistakes in my last comment. Ooops!

    Brandon Cordoba

    Sandra maybe u should just hire Derek to help you?


      Thanks for your suggestion, I was just following his invitation at the end of the post. (“Instead, discover how you can ask the same question in your own words. Or, why not take this to the comments, and let’s brainstorm together?”)

        Derek Halpern

        You did perfectly okay Sandra :-D.

        I’m actually not available for hire, Brandon πŸ˜›

    Derek Halpern

    You target what they want… People always want the same things. They want to save money, they want to save time, and they want to be entertained.

    If you’re going to sell them anything, show them how to do that, and they should be into it πŸ™‚


      Me, again, your content fascinates me.

      I am thrilled to hear that people want to save time and money because my new Microjobs and Life Optimization websiteling saves people time, money or BOTH. πŸ™‚ Because I have a burning desire to help people optimize their lives by saving them time, money or both, I have worked on my website for 40+ days until 2 am and woke up at 7, to get my 10-year-old sweetie-pie off to school. (Yawn!)

      I am a mom of 4 gremlins (aka kiddos) and have limited time resources. Have been blogging Microjob Magic on my site but … if I only have time to either blog or write a newsletter which is best? (I am an award-winning journalist with 200+ published articles, so yeah, I’m a website newbie but I know how to write.) I must use my time wisely. Thanks for your info — I am your newest sponge.


      Thanks Derek, I appreciate your help.


My website is related to the travel industry and is about Seville, a city located in the south of Spain. My aim is to become an expert in the subject and offer to my readers the best advice that can be found online while preparing their trip.

I would like to know if they would be willing to buy one or several ebooks on the subject (e.g. guidebooks) or any other product they could find useful.

I designed a survey to include in my future autoresponder series so I guess I’d have to think twice before including it πŸ™‚

Since English is my 3rd language I tend to have trouble verbalizing thoughts. How would you write a couple of introductory paragraphs for my first newsletter that would entice enough my readers as to let me know what they would be willing to buy?


    Derek Halpern

    Travel is an interesting niche. You can’t really “be an authority” on traveling to one country. Mainly because, once people go there, they won’t go back, or they won’t go back for a few years.

    So, you might not want to build a newsletter off the bat. Instead, you might want to focus on converting them into a guidebook style sale, for anyone who is already traveling to Seville. (creating interest in traveling in seville is tough. you should try to find people who already want to go there)

      Chandler Turner

      It is me again – disagreeable as usual – but then again, two reasoned sides of any argument just might make for informative reading. You tee it up, and I will take a swing at it.

      I think you missed something. She is discussing being known as an “authority” on one city. That is entirely plausible because it is narrow enough – Seville.

      I could quite easily hold myself out to be an expert in my home city of 100,000 people, even though it is in a metro area of nearly 2 million. I have lived here all my life – only 57 short years. Yep, I am an old dude – better said to be “experienced”. I know the city government, players, problems, restaurants, shops, big box stores, bed and breakfasts, charities, Chamber of Commerce (on their board), neighborhoods, history – I could write a book.

      One of the most important questions she could/should consider before sending a survey is to define her target in demographic – especially culturally biased – terms, and then write the survey questions slanted to that audience.

        Lance Nelson

        Hi Sandra,

        I have been interested to read your question and Derek’s reply. (thank you Derek for a superb article, implementing today)

        I set up a very niche site on one relatively unknown ski resort here in Bulgaria, called Bansko (the site is BanskoBlog.com). I realised that I would have to use the traffic for a business (agency for ski hire / lessons etc) to make money and this works well.

        But Derek is right folks will not pay for a guide (although i give an ebook away for subscribers to newsletter). However, i am finding that many people do return and rebook and that google rankings through the huge content do count fo a lot. Probably 20% of subscribers are property owners from overseas mainly English and Irish — so the dynamics a little different from Seville (but not that much so as there is a lot of property owned by overseas nationals nearby there)

        I think ou can be considered an expert on a place or be a source of regular info (I do snow and weather reports in the ski season). Things usually change fast (apart from the historical tourist attractions, of which these are very limited in Bansko!)

        My site will evolve and as new restaurants and hotels are opening up all the time, there is always something to write about.
        That said, I am very much interested on ways and ideas to monetise travel destination websites. I do find that the aweber auto responder is appreciated and the feedback i get is really good as people sign up before they travel and seem to mainly stay subscribed as i provide info of general interest (e.g ski gear and ski fashion).

        Hope this helps a little, Lance

        Derek Halpern

        I agree, that she wants to be an authority on one city. And that’s a great idea.

        How will she make money? Her target market are people considering going to Seville. And since people tend to go places once, there’s no need to worry about email lists, in my opinion.

        The point of an email list is to get people, and continue to help them, and sell them stuff along the way.

        But look at it like this. Once peopel go to Seville, they probably won’t go back, and thus won’t want to hear from her any longer.

        That’s why I’d focus on closing the sale right away instead of worrying about email lists and surveys.

        But back to her main question. What should she sell? And what should she write about to build herself as an authority?

        She should sell anything that helps people going to seville, have an easier time going to seville.

        This can be guidebooks. This can be guides to picking the right hotel. It can be anything like that.

        Then, with content, she should give away similar content.

          Chandler Turner

          I cannot find part of the string so I am replying here. There is a new study out in sales figures. (I believe from Cornell, thought I may be mistaken). You said something that is very good, and that is that it is better (easier) to sell one more thing to someone who you know wants it. You may have also heard that it is far cheaper to sell one more item to a client than it is go go out and find a new client – about 7 times as much in time and money to find a new one. But here is the new finding. That description is short-term. Long term, for better growth, the sustaining item is new clients – period.

          Chandler Turner

          Now you have gotten me to agree with you 100% on a post. How’d you do that? Though it is not the focus of my field (Website content) I am also a sales trainer – from another lifetime.

          Too many people add unnecessary steps and make selling their wares much more complicated than they have to. They would be better off using the KISS method. And they would fare much better with the psychological reasons (triggers) that make people buy things – products or services.

          What they generally lack is initiative. Take a look at Seth Godin’s latest rant – Poke the Box. They stay in a comfortable place doing surveys and making sure they are perfectly created. They would be better off making sure they were creating “activities” that engage people quickly and positively.

          Derek Halpern

          Also again, this is my opinion here. You know your niche better than I do.

          But I know selling, and I know it’s easier to sell something to people who already want that something, than selling something to people who don’t want it.

          Derek Halpern

          You’re right, there are a lot of presumptions.

          Yes, you can create a newsletter to keep people abreast of what’s going on, and potentially “create demand” for people visiting seville, once, twice, or more than that.

          However, wouldn’t you agree that it’s easier to sell people products who are already dead set on going to Seville?


          @Derek, thanks for your reply.

          I assume that, since traffic to my site comes mostly from search engines, people are already interested and willing to go to Seville. So I don’t really worry about that. Besides, I am aware that the travel industry is extremely tough, that’s why I focused on a small niche (Seville).

          I’d like to point out a couple of things:
          1. You assume people don’t return to a destination they’ve already been to. So, accordingly, I should create a newsletter at all. Could you prove your argument? I mean, I’ve been myself many many times to Paris, Rome or NY for example and I am susbcribed to newsletters about these cities because I am interested in what’s going on there.

          2. You presume that my readers would buy “anything that helps people going to seville, have an easier time going to seville”. That’s the most obvious conclusion. But what if I’m missing something and they’re looking for something else? (By something else I mean that I would like them to be more specific on what kind of product they would buy without a doubt). If I don’t ask them I’ll never know, that’s why I was looking for your advice on what question I should ask them.

          @Chandler, thanks for your ideas and clarifying my comment. I’ve been running my website for 15 months now and I’ve received emails from so many different people that it would be hard to include them into a certain “cultural demographic” group. Anyway, I’ll think about it.

          Again, thanks to both.


I enjoyed your article. Its really very useful to me keep posting

Thank you…

Lise Halskov

Ha, funny! I did a survey, consisting of two parts – in the first one the majority answered that they worked efficiently and didn’t spend too much time on e-mails, but in the second part, the majority wanted to learn how to work more efficiently, etc. So you are probably right, nobody wants to project themselves badly even in a survey. I will consider the personal approach you suggest. Thanks!

Best regards Lise

    Derek Halpern

    Glad you dig it, and yes, that often does happen on surveys. That’s why there are personality profile tests, where they ask the same question 10 times in different ways, to see if people remain consistent or not.

      Lise Halskov

      Hi Derek,
      Just wanted to share, that I implemented your approach for the last couple of days. I do consulting on how to do better project management, and my question to subscribers is (translated from Danish): What is your biggest challenge when you work with projects? I already got a few interesting answers back and a lot of goodwill for doing it. Great advice – thanks! Best regards Lise

Yasel Polo

Hi Derek,
This blog es amazing! My english is not good enough to speak, but Im pretty good reading. Believe me, the content you’re giving away is a golden mine. I have to thank Pat Flynn, I knew about you on his blog.

Yasel Polo


This works and has shock value…I know since Derek used it on me when I signed up a couple days ago.

Question Derek…on a different tack: is there a reason you give all the info in the email as opposed to providing a snippet and asking people to go to your blog for the full story?

    Derek Halpern

    I always test stuff.

    Sometimes I’ll split test broadcasts and see the difference.

    For this one, I just published the whole thing.


I tried that today in a different way. I asked this question
If you could change one thing about your business what would it be?
Here was the response:
Being able to more easily educate prospective clients on the investment they are making in their family/business photography. To often, because of the economy, people are trusting that ‘good enough’ is just good enough. There are many level…s of photography and price points, but just because it is less expensive doesn’t mean the message intended is going to be expressed. There’s a place for experience and quality and that is often being driven to a back corner by budget.

Then I presented the solution I suppose we’ll see hwat happens.

    Derek Halpern

    Great stuff, Mike.

    That’s also a very great question because it probes into what people don’t like, and then you can sell them the solution to that.


      Hey Derek,

      That’s kinda what I was getting at but didn’t realize it when I asked the question. I had been trying to bounce back and forth between pages etc… Then read over this and realized what going on. The person I spoke with i think all together the responses ended up being 5 emails and I presented the solution in the 3rd conversation. I have challenged myself to try and approach Social media on a different perspective, guess we’ll see how that turns out as well. Funny thing is my entire shift in thinking came from a mishap, a very educational & beneficial mishap to say the least.

        Derek Halpern

        What was the exact mishap?


          Hey Derek,

          The mishap I had recently esperienced was a code. I do all the ad insertions and design on my site. So, I had unknowingly knocked out a code that threw the entire site out of proportion, basically leaving a blank page, 3000 of them to be exact. So I thought about how to handle the issue and best I could figure since i couln’t get the code i needed back, was to simply re do it. Only I thought deeper on the re-develpment and found a way to make my services even better. I want my ads now to become beneficial to both business owners that are marketing but I also want them to be beneficial to their potential customers as well. So what I done was I decided instead of categorizing everything, createa full page ad for those I do have, and include the who you are what you offer and how the consumer benfits. I guess in one sense I turned it into a personalized and more indepth optimized service. The mishap was a great excperience I was able to broaden my horizons for clients both old and forthcoming. The response haa people are taking a second look and understanding what i offer now.

Chandler Turner

I gotta tell you that if nothing else, you have a penchant for making bold statements that are prone to creating controversy. Very nicely done! At least I know when I see something from you I know it is going to be thought-provoking. Again, well done!

Surveys suck! For the most part, yep. Most of them are just mailed (got one from a local state senator recently), emailed, etc. Accuracy frequently depends on the subject, sender, and recipient. They are far more powerful and accurate when done live or over the phone with a small number of respondents with the surveyor having the ability to listen to how answers are given. Far more importantly in small surveys is the ability to read body language of the respondent. It is like a professional poker player reading a bluff and I can tell you that for the trained person, it is a gold mine.

But you are wrong about one thing. People lie all the time to your face and have no qualms about it at all, especially when you are asking them a tough business question that they are not prepared to answer or open up to – especially if you have not yet earned trust. For instance, one of my clients is a foreign trade regulations expert. She helps companies not to run afoul of federal trade regulations. If she goes into an office for the first time and asks if they have any problems following federal guidelines, and the person responsible for the knowledge is the person she is talking to, what do you think their answer is going to be the first time? “No, we have all of that covered.” In a sales situation, you have to assume that the first answer is a deliberate lie or a misdirection while they contemplate the real answer and whether or not they are willing to give it to you.

Ask an attorney if they accept the first answer out of an opposing witness or a a CPA if they ask if your business is struggling financially. Ask any experienced business consultant if they get the big picture the first time in the door. Not a chance!

But you really do come back with a great question. “What are you struggling with”. Now you are phat! Ding, ding, ding, ding. Winner winner chicken dinner. That is how to ask probative questions that get much farther than the superficial stuff. What keeps you up at night about your business? If you could change one thing about your company for the good, what would it be? What is the most trying issue that you face today?

And here is something far more important. Never let the answer to the question lie as-is. If someone gives you the answer, what are you going to do with it? Pounce on it, especially if it might have anything to do with the solution you are providing. In addition, if it is personal, they are going to like the fact that you are centering in on their problems. So, if someone says, “I am having a terrible time with customer service”, then ask them another question. Can you explain that? That is interesting – what about it? I have seen this before – what issues are you having specifically?

You said that people love personal attention. Bingo again. If you ask them to share their issues with you, they likely will, and you will separate yourself from others who do what you do because most people never bother to ask, and more often than that, never respond to the answers. Do it, and you win customers for life that will tell other people about the good experience.

    Derek Halpern

    Oh, and, I did read that comment, and you hit the nail on the head. Surveys done wrong suck, and most surveys are done wrong. I give people this new method because it’s easier to do right than a survey.

    Derek Halpern

    I think you’re catching on to my secrets of promotion :-P.

      Chandler Turner

      One of the best ways to get attention is to pick a fight with someone or some idea, make it as public as possible. then let the press In this case your readers) run with it. It is a great schtick.

        Derek Halpern

        I never pick fights for the sake of picking fights though. I simply say what’s true, and back it up πŸ™‚


I love the idea of asking and responding to a question in your email campaign. How would this work with an autoresponder programme or do you not use this type of emailing marketing?


    Derek Halpern

    You make this your first follow up message, you’re welcome email.


      So if your welcome message/email asks the question,
      would your second email respond to that queston
      and the third email onwards be the rest of the emails you have already queued up?

      Thanks again.

        Brandon Cordoba

        Si Tiptop


Nice man. So this means you’ll be monetizing Social Triggers before too long?

I like how you’ve added a subscribe box in the footer. That’s pretty nifty. Now I’m thinking about doing it myself haha. You mentioned it last time but I didn’t take you seriously.

    Derek Halpern

    Duh? πŸ˜›


      I’m fascinated with the irreverent amount of margin you put between the signup inputs. I’m sure that was deliberate. Maybe I should mimic this?

        Derek Halpern

        I’d say stop copying people, and start testing stuff πŸ˜€


          “Testing stuff” – I love that… ’cause my endeavor is one big fat petri dish! πŸ˜€

          Seriously tho… My biz is super personal. I develop long lasting relationships with my clients that show results and includes trust and authenticity. It’s been mostly word of mouth and very part time because my other job is mom. πŸ™‚

          I’ve joined the twitter conversation, started a couple of facebook pages, and even began blogging just to check out the scene and see what the heck I’m doing! Nothing was gelling, but my focus on the web was minimal. I’m ready now, because message is becoming more clear. The sun is coming out!

          So Derek, How does this sound? Is this what you’re talking about?

          “Are you struggling with staying focused on and sticking to your new meditation practice? Hit reply and tell me one thing that’s agitating you about it?”

          So so SO glad I found you! You’re awesome! squeeze ((hug))

          thank you

          Derek Halpern

          You’re right. I just give Martyn a hard time.


          but the student’s test starts copying the teacher and adjusting later. Otherwise, why would you be “teaching” the strategies that work? πŸ˜‰


Sal Greco - Surfer Lifestyle Design

I love this dude… This is exactly what I am lacking from my free email series… I tell people to reply to me and share their stories or how they are doing with something, but that is WAY not focused enough…

I should DEFINITELY ask something like, “what is holding you back from surfing anytime you want” or “what is holding you back from exploring remote surf destinations”.

With a re-design and re-launch in the works, I am LOVING the advice I am getting here. Big help man, thanks.

Surfs up,

    Derek Halpern

    What’s up Sal? You doing this stuff full time now?

      Sal Greco - Surfer Lifestyle Design

      Somewhat… Definitely on my way. Still a mix of client work, but the goal obviously is for my own projects to take the reigns and not “need” client work. I am more interested in living a lifestyle I enjoy anyway, so a good portion of my income still comes from doing surf lessons right now, which to me is fine and dandy and definitely not a “real” job.

      I would LOVE to include you on an upcoming social media project my company is working on. Think you have time for a short skype session to tell you about it? We are looking for experts in certain topics (yours obviously being driving sales from social media interactions) I think your know-how is SUPER valuable and I would really love to help spread your world and knowledge.

      No rush though, lots of time.

      p.s. I will be in NYC the 16-20, definitely going to see Nick, will you be in town?

        Derek Halpern

        Yes, I should be here. Will definitely hang out.

Denise O'Berry

Derek — Asking what your readers want right out of the gate at the beginning of the relationship is a really good approach. I’ve been doing this with subs in one of my niches for a couple of years. It’s a great way to start the dialogue and ultimately build products / services to solve their problems. It’s worked very well for me.

    Derek Halpern

    I would tell you I agree with you, but you already know that, since I do it too :-).

Kelly Lester

Derek, You answered my question a couple of weeks ago, responding with your thoughts in not one but 2 emails πŸ™‚ and I am SO appreciative of your feedback! Based on your simple recommendation, I am currently redesigning my home page. You are who you say you are, and do what you say you do. BRAVO!!!!!!!

    Derek Halpern

    Funny how that works, right?

    Is the bar really that low these days?

    Do what you say you’re going to do, and people will be happy.

    What’s that say about most people and companies these days? Heh.


      People doing what they say they will do is not exactly setting the bar low. It is difficult to always follow through consistently especially when one is dependent upon others for services to make that happen. The more complex a business is the more difficult it becomes to manage all of the parts to consistently deliver products and services. I greatly enjoy your blog and am working to apply many of your ideas to my site:) Thank you.


Lat Friday I signed to your list, answered your “struggle” question, & bam, you replied within 30 min or so, & it must have been almost midnight where you are.

Though I appreciated the reply, & applaud you for your timeliness, that’s quite a commitment, and I’m not sure I could emulate that.

My wife tells me I have my nose in the PC too much now!


    Derek Halpern

    I usually tell people that I’ll reply within a few days… I do it faster than that, but again, a few days and you’ll be golden.

      Nina Cross

      Where and when do you tell them you’ll reply in a few days?

        Derek Halpern

        Well, only way to get on my email list is by private links, and usually in the video — like on smart passive income — i mention it in the video.

Brandon Cordoba

Derek I love reading your emails, it’s like opening a Christmas present, knowing it’s going to help me help more.

Would love some feedback on my 2nd (Products) welcome newsletter:

{!firstname}, 1st watch the video then follow the 3 steps below: Help me Help You.

3 Steps:
1. Close your eyes
2. What are you most painful ADHD struggles?
3. What survival guide, app or service do you want me to provide to relieve that pain? Just hit reply to respond, I read every email personally.

Thank you {!firstname} for helping me do what makes my heart come alive, helping you my fellow ADHDers! πŸ™‚
(my signature)

    Derek Halpern

    That sounds like a great Welcome email, but you don’t prepare people for whatever it is that you do.

    Not only do you need to engage people, you should also take the opportunity to tell people what to expect from your newsletter.

    I do that on my newsletter when I say this:

    “What’s up {!firstname}?

    Thank you for signing up. Every week, you’ll receive valuable advice that shows you how to turn web traffic into leads and sales.

    And if you’re not getting traffic, I have advice for that too.

    In the mean time, I want you to do two things. ”

    See what I mean?

    Also, I noticed you unsubscribed today! Was that an accident? I’ve been having some strange bounce issues with my email provider, and was wondering if that’s what happened or not.

      Brandon Cordoba

      Wow u noticed that!

      Nope I got email happy & had u coming in from 2 different email accounts.

        Derek Halpern

        I send out thousands of emails, and my unsubscribe rate is EXTREMELY low. So, it’s not hard to just take a look, and see what’s up πŸ™‚



Great post Man! But you gotta get out of my head! That’s bat-crap crazy when I’m actually reviewing my notes on this stuff and you send me a post that discusses the EXACT same thing. It’s kinda creepin’ me out, Dude. In a good way, of course.

That being said, I have to agree that I felt more of a bond with you after you responded to the “What are you struggling with…” email. That’s ingenious! By the way, there wasn’t some kind of telepathic link in that sucker that allowed you access to my thoughts? If not, probably in due time. πŸ™‚

Well, thanks again for the insight , my friend. You’ve already taught me a TON!


    Derek Halpern

    Hey Mike,

    That’s what I do here. I use tactics, and then I tell people I used them. And people like it, because they remember, “oh crap, that was good wasn’t it?”

    The key is, make it genuine. I spend HOURS responding to emails every single day. It takes time, but it’s worth it.


      That’s great stuff! Kinda like Brian and the crew over at Copyblogger – “this is what to do, this is why it works, and this is what I’m doing to you now…” It’s excellent insight and really drives the point home.

      Well done, Derek. And I agree. It has to be genuine. If not, people can smell it on you. I believe that’s why my clients like my teaching style when it comes to my personal protection and survival strategies program. They can feel how passionate I am about helping them change their lives. First and foremost, it’s about what I can do for them.

Ainslie Hunter

I am thinking there is another core group of people who lie on your surveys – your competitors. I mean how many of us are subscribed to our competitors newsletetters to keep a watch of what they are doing? I say a good percentage. And if a competitor was to get a survey saying “Hey I am looking to create a new product on XYZ. What do you think?” I bet many would lie and not give a favourable answer.

Sure it is not nice to think that way, but it is something to think about.

    Derek Halpern

    You’re right, that could be a problem, but I don’t think your competitors would create a statistically significant impact on your survey. I think people lying in general is a much bigger problem.

John Corcoran

Excellent suggestion, Derek. I am going to change my welcome email. I was wondering what you think of the question I was going to ask. My blog is called California Law Report and my tag line is “down-to-earth advice and tips about California law and business.” I think this would be an excellent opportunity to say to people who have signed up for my list, essentially, most people who signed up for my email list have done so because they have a particular legal problem. What’s your legal problem?

So I was thinking either (A) “How Can I help you with a legal problem?”


(B) “Do you have any legal questions you want to ask me?”

    Professor Roberts

    Are you am attorney? That isn’t legal in the state of California unless you are an attorney.

    Derek Halpern

    How can I help with a legal problem, sounds salesy. Your second question sounds okay, though.

    Now, if I were you, I’d take it one step further, and ask people this question:

    “Are there any legal road blocks that are keeping you from running you’re business the way you want to run it? Hit reply, and let me know.”


      Regarding this question from Derek — β€œAre there any legal road blocks that are keeping you from running you’re business the way you want to run it? My comment is that it’s a closed end (yes or no) question and to REALLY encourage dialogue it would seem to ask this is an open-ended question such as…

      “What legal road blocks are keeping you from running your business the way you want to run it?”

      Not an editor or English teacher however I think “you’re” should be “your” as “you’re” – you are πŸ™‚

      John Corcoran

      I like your suggestion better. It sounds more like we’re jointly problem-solving, rather than I’m performing a service for them. Great stuff.

        Derek Halpern

        Awesome. Let me know how it works!


          I meant question from John (NOT Derek)

          Regarding this question from Derek — β€œAre there any legal road blocks that are keeping you from running you’re business the way you want to run it? My comment is that it’s a closed end (yes or no) question and to REALLY encourage dialogue it would seem to ask this is an open-ended question such as…

          “What legal road blocks are keeping you from running your business the way you want to run it?”

          Not an editor or English teacher however I think “you’re” should be “your” as “you’re” – you are πŸ™‚

          Martha Taranto

          Mel, in the case of a legal advice blog, the subscriber most likely has a particular problem on their mind and would welcome a speedy and personal response. I love the synergy of this exchange. I can picture the relief in the subscriber’s mind as they get to collaborate on a solution with out having to go back and forth for several emails or scan dozens of posts. The question is straight forward and and personal. Nice work!

          Mel the Dietitian

          Do you think going in with a question like this in the welcome email is a good idea?

          I would have thought building the relationship a little more may be necessary before you really get them to pour out their heart to you.

Matt Mansfield


Great post! I am absolutely using this in my next newsletter because I know what people value, but not what they would pay for. πŸ™‚


    Derek Halpern


christian howes

Derek- you’re the man. your tips are great,
thank you

    Derek Halpern

    What’s up Howes?

    When you coming to New York?

Peggy Baron

Perfect timing on this, Derek. I was just thinking about how I wanted to stop and ask my paid newsletter subscribers how they were getting on with the material, too slow or too fast?, what THEY were having struggles with and wanted to see covered.

So rather than send them a survey, I will ask them, right in the next newsletter, to tell me where they are and what their problems currently are.

I think it means a lot to be an approachable marketer. If they feel you can help them and care enough to answer their emails yourself then they’re more likely to answer your call for feedback.


    Melanie Kissell

    Ditto that, Peggy! I second the motion on your commentary!

    “Approachable” is the magic word. πŸ™‚

    Derek Halpern

    Glad you liked this Peggy, and yes, this is a perfect solution to your problem.

DJ Duty

I lie on surveys. Because there’s no real human interaction, i usually answer as the person I want to be, rather than the person I actually am. I answer that yes, im the trendsetter, the heartbreaker, the smart one. People might not mean to intentionally lie… It might really be more a lie to themselves.

But when actual third party perspective is involved you tend to see yourself in the eyes of the person opposite you, and end up spewing less bull. Can’t really see yourself in the eyes of a survey, can you?

    Derek Halpern

    You’re exactly right.

Dewane Mutunga

I agree with you Derek in that simply asking people directly is far more effective than a survey because asking them feels more human.

No survey will ever be as engaging as a conversation with another human. I think that’s where social media and email marketing help to work wonders for marketers looking to connect with customer in a very personal way. Its about nuturing and building relationships. Solving people’s problems is a great way to do that.

Great Insight!

    Derek Halpern

    Thanks Dewane.

    You’re right, it’s about solving problems, for sure. The trick is, finding what those problems are, and that’s where this question comes in!

      Dewane Mutunga

      For sure. Everyone’s approach is different but finding out what the problems are is crucial. Its actually the root of every business large or small.

        Derek Halpern

        So, how do you do it then?

Julian Summerhayes


I think you are spot on. It is about offering something valuable but first you have to understand what issue it is that your audience need help or assistance on. I like the question “What do you think” when positing a point of view or tactic that you think is beneficial to your audience. And although it is trite I still try to think about offering value (not added value just the vanilla type). Too many people are still fixated thinking what’s in it for them. I have grown my practice by offering a helping hand. To quote from David Meerman Scott “To earn attention.” Keep it up buddy. Great site.


    Derek Halpern

    Glad you’re enjoying the content Julian


      Julian, you wrote: To quote from David Meerman Scott β€œTo earn attention.”
      Your “quote” is a fragment — what did you leave out??



        He just quoted “to earn attention” because he said earlier, “I have grown my practice by offering a helping hand” He does help in order to earn the attention of his customers and earn trust by addressing each specific issue/problem with a personal solution.

        No trust = no customers

Duane Christensen

Great post. Thanks. How ’bout this?
“If you could dump just one of your day to day responsibilities, what would it be?”


    Cool Duane. This actually is something I could use myself as I’m hoping to create a service to give time back to my clients, so if I knew what needed to be taken away, then maybe I could craft a product to help with time management

    Derek Halpern

    That’s a PERFECT question.

    Because then you can sell them something on how to do just that πŸ™‚


Mine: What people or Jobs would you like to see a Day in the Life of?

I NEVER lied on surveys; when asked as a teenager how sexually active I was, or how many dugs I had tried:)

    Ramsha Afaq

    the thing is that most of the people try to show themselves even more better than they actually are. They always choose the answer that makes them feel comfortable like once I was asked whether I am introvert or extrovert so I opted for extrovert because I didn’t wanted to tell everyone that I am weak in someway or other.


      Dear Ramsha,
      I’m sorry you feel that “introvert” may imply a weakness (although I do see your point).. but sometimes being an introvert is by choice & Not because the person is afraid of something. I for one, am friendly & outgoing when I feel I need to be, or to show politeness, or kindness, but beyond that I treasure my own time & space.. On the flip-side of the coin, being an “extrovert” may also be considered a weakness if one always “needs to have” socialization & the company of others– he or she may fear solitude. *Look up famous people who are introverts, & be proud my friend.
      Take care

    Derek Halpern

    You’re one of the few, heh.

    Every year, there’s more research that suggests people lie on surveys, and it’s rampant.



      I will conform it for you. At times I lie on a survey when I don’t feel comfortable with the question or don’t believe that its anonymous

        Professor Roberts

        A good survey or web site is never anonymous.

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