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6 Open-Ended Questions That’ll Transform Your Landing Page Copy (And Your Business)

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Image by Dennis Hill via Flickr.

For a long time in our early days, Groove was really bad at learning from our customers.

In one of our first surveys, we asked mostly multiple-choice questions.

Why?

Statistics.

We assumed that the best way to get value from a survey would be to use multiple-choice questions, gather enough responses to make our results statistically valid and then easily sort the responses.

And so we asked questions like:

1-survey-question

Unfortunately, the answers were less than helpful. We assumed that we knew what our customers felt, and so we boxed them into our preconceived notions.

The responses were all over the board, and they never told us anything meaningful that we could act on to change our business.

That is, until we started experimenting with open-ended surveys.

We were hesitant at first; open-ended questions make for messier surveys and more work. How would we easily parse the responses?

As it turns out, it was a little bit harder, but the results were massively more useful and the insights we gleaned were a huge part of what let us reposition our product and go from $30,000 to more than $100,000 in monthly recurring revenue.

Here’s why:

  1. Open-ended questions don’t force your customers into your assumptions. You’ll finally hear what they really think, rather than which of your views they most agree with.
  2. Open-ended questions are a goldmine for landing page copy. We already know that in copywriting, we should be using the words that our customers use. What better way to come up with those words than by collecting hundreds of examples directly from your customers?
  3. Open-ended questions can still be useful with smaller sample sizes. You don’t need to collect thousands of responses. Because of how rich and insight-packed they are, even 40 or 50 responses to thoughtful, strategically crafted questions can give you big, business-changing results.

Now that’s not to say that multiple-choice questions are necessarily bad. In fact, they can be very useful in the right circumstances.

For example, when you’re collecting customer feedback on your product, multiple-choice questions can help focus your customers on the the parts of your product you’re most interested in testing.

But in the initial stages of collecting information on emotional insights like your customers’ needs, hopes, goals, fears and dreams, we’ve found that open-ended questions work much better.

We’ve spent years honing our customer development survey questions, and below I’ll share the ones that we’ve found most useful.

1. Tell me about your experiences with [X]

In this question (and in the next one), “[X]” refers to the function that you want to help your customers perform.

For example, for Groove, [X] is “managing customer support emails.”

For Unbounce, it might be “creating and testing landing pages.”

This question allows the customer to walk you through their thought process in their own words, helping you spot the key terms they use to convey their feelings about it. You’ll be able to capture their tone and sentiment (Is it generally positive? Or filled with seething hatred?), as well as other elements you might miss with multiple choice responses.

Responses to this question have helped us uncover some insights that were completely missing before. For example, we learned that collaboration was just as important, if not more important, to our customers than productivity (the original “big benefit” of Groove). That insight allowed us to address that need in our product and copy:

2-customers-language

The more we addressed collaboration in various channels — our site and landing pages, our onboarding flow, our support emails — the more engagement we saw.

2. What’s the biggest problem for you with [X]?

Businesses are built by solving your customers’ problems. The better you understand their problems, the more effectively you can help to solve them.

And asking open-ended questions about problems lets you get super-specific in your copy.

For example, when Laura Roeder was building the landing page for her Social Brilliant product which helps small business owners with social media marketing, she could have simply assumed that her customers thought that “social media is hard and confusing.”

Instead, she dug deep, talked with her audience, asked open-ended questions and extracted the precise language they used to describe their problem.

Check out the excerpt below from her landing page – how much more compelling does this sound than the generic approach?

3-precise-language

3. What are your biggest frustrations with problem [X]?

Now let’s further break down the customer’s “big problem” into individual frustrations.

The responses to the “what are your biggest frustrations?” question will help you understand your audience’s motivation for buying your product:

  • Are they spending too much time on it?
  • Are they spending too much money on it?
  • What aspects of their current solution suck the most?

Don’t assume. Let them tell you.

Why do you think Amazon, on one of their long Kindle product pages, starts with an image of a kid next to copy about how much more drop-resistant the Kindle is than the iPad mini?

4-engineered-by-amazon

It’s not an accident. Amazon knows that a big frustration of the audience for this page — parents — is how easy it is for an expensive tablet to get broken in a household full of kids. The iPad reviews are full of these concerns:

5-iPad-reviews

By understanding their customers’ frustrations, Amazon can address them in the copy on their product and landing pages.

And while you might not have access to thousands of reviews of your competitors’ products, you can achieve much of the same by asking the right open-ended questions.

4. How are you currently dealing with the problem?

How is your audience dealing with the problem in this exact moment?

Are they ignoring it?

Are they using some clunky, hobbled-together solution that they threw together themselves?

Are they paying for software they hate?

Great copy is relatable, and the only way to be relatable is to know what your audience relates to (duh). By digging into their status quo, you can write copy that they’ll connect with deeply.

Notice how HipChat, a team chat app, specifically calls out how many businesses still clumsily deal with team communication, “losing momentum with reply-to-all wars and buried email messages.”

6-relatable-language

Anyone who’s been bogged down in “reply-to-all wars” — myself included — will know exactly what HipChat is talking about here. It feels like the copy was written just for me.

5. What else have you already tried to solve the problem? What else are you thinking about trying?

If the problem you’re solving is important enough, then you’re probably not going to be the first solution your customer has tried.

And in fact, often the biggest objection that your customers have — at least in our experience — will be some variation of “but nothing else has worked for me, why would this be any different?”

In order to address that objection, you need to learn exactly what those alternatives have been and what other alternatives they’re considering.

Once you have that insight, you can guide your prospect to the best decision.

Notice how on this ConversionXL landing page, one alternative — working with another agency — is dismantled, point by completely reasonable point.

7-guide-to-best-decision

Face it. Your customers are considering alternatives to doing business with you. Neglecting that is a mistake.

Help them work through the other options along with you and show them why you are the best choice.

6. What would solving that problem allow you to achieve?

You’ve learned where your audience is — now it’s time to learn where they want to be. After all, if you’re going to be the one taking them there, you have to sell them on the ride.

This question will help you learn exactly what your audience desires most so that you can help them achieve that. It’s what your “ultimate promise” will be.

On the Copyblogger Authority program landing page, they could have promised “we’ll teach you content marketing.” It would’ve been an easy and obvious lead.

But how many of their customers want to be “taught” content marketing? No, they’re not going to pay if the promise is simply to be taught. They want to become experts.

And so…

8-ultimate-promise

Notice the powerful messages here:

  • “Become a content marketing expert” is an extraordinarily strong promise that speaks directly to the end result that the reader actually wants. Much stronger than “learn content marketing.”
  • “Around a Dollar a Day” is a subtle way to make the program feel more affordable than saying “Around $30 a Month” or “$360 a Year.” Of course, you’re not actually paying a dollar per day; your credit card will be charged in monthly or annual intervals. The psychology behind this is the same reason that the “just pennies a day” messaging in charity campaigns is so effective.
  • Even the description of the Authority community in the top right corner furthers the point that the page is about the customer (who wants to accelerate their skills and success) and not the company.

Writing landing pages with this type of sophisticated nuance is only possible if you’re asking your audience the right questions.

Why asking the right questions is so important

In the world of doing business online, we have a fascination — an obsession, even — with data. Collecting it, analyzing it, talking about how much of it we have.

And so we often make strategic decisions, like what kind of questions to ask our customers, based on how much data we get. This leads to big surveys full of closed-ended questions.

But when we’re talking about deeply understanding our customers, especially early on, we don’t want data. We want answers.

Answers give you the foundation for product development and landing page copy that resonates with your audience. Once you have that, you can go nuts collecting data and optimizing your conversion rates to grow your business.

But first, get the insight you need to build a strong foundation by asking the right questions to get the best answers.

About Len Markidan
Len Markidan is the head of marketing at Groove, makers of simple help desk software for teams. Read his weekly posts on the Groove Customer Service Blog and follow him on Twitter.
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Comments:

  1. Clement Lim

    Hi Len

    I often work out what my audience’s pain points are and the language they use to express them by reseaching long tail keywords for search engines and also q&a sites like quora. Thanks for the tips on how to use open ended surveys, I can see how powerful the data would be to drive conversions.

    Clement

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  2. Seth Ollerton

    Hi Len,
    I definitely need to do better in asking open ended questions. I want to understand this better. How are you implementing these types of questions into landing pages that gather information? The open-ended question strategy seems more like a survey. How are you getting the viewer to opt-in and enter their personal information? Hopefully I made sense. :)

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    • Len Markidan

      Hey Seth — thanks for the question!

      I think I understand your question correctly — but let me know if I’m getting it wrong — so I’ll clarify: we’re not actually doing these surveys (because you’re right, that’s what they are) on the landing page itself. We do a lot of outreach to our customers to have one-on-one conversations with them around these things, and we also deploy surveys to get these questions answered. Here are some of the ways we do that (including outreach email templates): https://www.groovehq.com/blog/customer-development

      Then we take THAT info and put it into the landing pages.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if I can answer anything else.

      P.S. Re: getting people to opt-in…if these people are your customers, you’ll be surprised by your opt-in rates. People, in general, WANT to help you, especially if it means building a better business to serve them :)

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      • Len Markidan

        I’ll also mention that there ARE tools to help implement on-page surveys (e.g., Qualaroo) if that’s what you wanted to do.

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  3. Stephanie Saretsky

    I too have fallen into the multiple choice habit – it’s great to see some example questions that show just how important open-ended questions can be. Great article Len!

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  4. Steven Eisen

    Hi Len –

    Thank you for sharing your insights! You are spot on. As the former director of market research for a large national company, you have given a terrific suggestion to the readers. Your article is a very PRACTICAL and POWERFUL tool. Open-ended questions get to the heart of the matter from the client’s perspective…and that is KEY to properly positioning their offer in a Landing Page (or for any marketing purpose).

    If I may be presumptuous and answer Seth: You are correct – it is a “survey” – but it is done with each client. You would use open-ended questions during the interview process when you ask about their customers. After all, no one knows them better than your client. If you don’t have a client questionnaire, I suggest you develop one. Then you use the responses, as in the Amazon example, to formulate the content of your Landing Pages.

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  5. JK

    I’m with Seth. Great article Len but would be awesome to get your thoughts on how to weave the open ended questions in to the landing page experience without annoying the user.

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  6. Eyal Katz

    Thank you for this post. I’ve had such a hard time convincing my superiors in the value of qualitative research. Mostly because it’s difficult to put into a bar graph and make it easily digestible. I hold a full MA and about 27% of a phd in Anthroplogy so I’ve done some extensive and academic qualitative fieldwork. I think businesses have yet to tap into this resource and really utilize its full potential.

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    • Len Markidan

      Thanks, Eyal! It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that numbers are all that matter, but hopefully we can turn the tide :)

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  7. Raphael

    Thanks alot for this wonderful post. I have come to realize the importance of open-ended questions.

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  8. Jimmy

    Great great and great for sure it’s help, for now on I will try on building better landing page.

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  9. Andrew

    Awesome – spot on!

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  10. Evelyn

    Hi Len,

    I’m so excited to try this open ended question approach with one of my clients. They are constantly looking for ways to improve their product/services, so we’ve been reaching out to existing customers with surveys containing purely multiple choice questions. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Kymberly Hudspeth

    Useful ideas , Coincidentally , if your business has been searching for a a form , my kids came across a sample form here http://goo.gl/WCnJCi.

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Comments