Why you DON'T need surveys (and how to research better)

 Forget the typical “ideal client avatar” worksheets. THIS is how to define your client in a way that actually matters for your business. Plus, I’ll teach you how to use my client-sleuthing research technique to get your audience to write your copy for you.  And, yes, I did create a free downloadable version for you to follow along. Click through to read the post and grab the checklist!

Now, this Web Prep training series is NOT just for beginners or people without websites. Because, let’s be honest, we ALL have websites.

This is the path we typically follow as creatives (am I right?):

  • We get an idea, an “AH-HA!” moment that we get super psyched about.
  • So we start Googling available domain names and buy a couple.
  • We do a little research into forming an LLC versus doing a sole proprietor thing.
  • Then we slap together a hasty website.
  • Then we lose steam…

And that’s not what I want for you. That’s why I’ve created this training series and it’s really something you can do at ANY point in your business journey.

So today I’m going to teach you the MOST important step of this whole process–how to do audience research the right way. Because surveys don’t work if you don’t have an engaged audience, already. And, even then, they’re limited in usefulness.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  1. Why my “listen-only mode” observation-based research strategy is better than surveys
  2. How to do this client sleuthing research and use it to write your copy for you
  3. Why I don’t use or recommend those typical “ideal avatar” worksheets
  4. How to define your ideal client in a way that ACTUALLY matters for your business with my go-to exercise for creating a client “empathy map”

I've turned my website process into a video training series that you can get for only $27 (and it includes worksheets, PDFs, and bonuses)!


If you’re just now jumping into the series, I’m teaching you the EXACT steps I took to go from struggling to get 1-2 clients in a six-month period to booked out with 11 clients in the next 6-months.

  1. Jump over here to get the big picture overview of where we're headed.
  2. Go to this post to find out EXACTLY how to define your goals for your website (because what gets measured...).

Don’t worry, you will NOT have to send another survey during this research phase.

Why my “listen-only mode” observation-based research strategy is better:

  • People generally want to be helpful and give the “right” answers, which translate to less truly useful information for you.
  • You’re taking it out of context. You’re asking them to spill the beans about their biggest struggles related to copywriting (if you’re a copywriter), but maybe their more pressing concerns are around social media marketing. So, yeah, they may list a few of their copywriting struggles but those aren’t the pain points that matter to them now.
  • It’s hard to get enough people to respond to your surveys in a really thoughtful way–even if you bribe them with Startbucks gift cards. It’s not worth the effort for the small amount of useful data that you get in return.

My sleuthing technique uncovers truths that you may never hear in a survey or interview.

"Humans are duplicitous even to themselves, you can't trust them to say anything truly ‘useful’...” –Amy Hoy

What is the 'listen-only mode' research method?

Before you start selling something you need to know what your audience needs. You don't start with what YOU want to make, you start with YOUR PEOPLE.

That's where audience research comes in. It is the gathering of information and data as it pertains to your ideal client, her pains and aspirations.

And, as an online entrepreneur, I like to conduct my research in Facebook groups because (as of writing this) there are 2.1 billion monthly active users on Facebook.

No, I'm NOT talking about creating polls or asking for feedback. In the audience research phase, we're just listening. That's why I call this "listen-only mode".

How do you research in this way?

Identify a few key Facebook groups where your ideal client is likely hanging out. Then, search those groups for words or phrases specific to your area of expertise.

  1. So, if you’re a copywriter, search for "copywriting" or “copy”, “sale page”, or “writing”.
  2. If you’re a business coach that helps entrepreneurs get more productive, then search for words like “productivity”, “enough time”, “batching”, “getting stuff done”, etc.

You want to look for problems that they talk about, questions that they ask, frustrations they express, or desires that they’re striving for.

Take screenshots or copy the comments into a spreadsheet. This research will form the basis of any product or service offerings you come up with.

This research is also a treasure trove of customer language to use in your sales copy (which is why I often call this “copy-stalking”, a term borrowed from my friend Mariah).

But I've already done client avatar worksheets!

Do I really have to do this research? I’ve already done like 75 other client avatar worksheets!

When it comes to your ideal client, you need to understand who they are, of course. BUT this is less about the demographic, census-survey understanding, and more about the psychographic, I-totally-get-where-you’re-coming-from kinda knowledge.

This is why I don’t use or recommend those typical “ideal avatar” worksheets.

How to define your ideal client better:

So, let’s define your ideal client in a way that ACTUALLY matters for your business with my go-to exercise for creating a client “empathy map”.

Now that you’ve nailed your specific business objectives for your website (remember that from last week), I want you to get crystal clear on your ideal client–her pain points and goals and what’s currently influencing her.

This means, understanding her:

Desires: What does she want (what are her big goals)? How might she measure her success?

Pains: What is standing in her way and blocking her from achieving her goals? How does that affect other areas of her life?

Thoughts + Feelings: What is she feeling/thinking at this point in her business journey? What is she feeling/thinking because of that barrier?

Words + Actions: What does that feeling look like in her behavior (what’s she saying / doing)? Is there a discrepancy between what she’s saying and what she’s doing?

Influences: What is her current environment like and how is that impacting her? What is she surrounded by? Who influences her?

And think about what brings her to your site. What is she looking for?

Let's recap:

Today we covered:

  1. Why my ‘listen-only’ method of audience research is better than surveys
  2. How to do this type of research in Facebook groups and what to look for
  3. The reason why most “ideal client avatar” worksheets do not work
  4. How to define your ideal client the right way in 6 simple steps

By now you should have defined your business goals and you're well on your way with the ideal client research. Next week, we’ll dig into how to find your competitive edge and craft your unique selling proposition.

Get this FULL series of video trainings (+ bonuses) for $27!