Survey marketing

Philip Morgan

(Readin' time: 3m)

I wanna let y'all in on a lil' experiment I'm running, and also see if I can sucker you into helping with the experiment.

Recently I realized that if 3 things are simultaneously true, I can do research and marketing at the same time with the same mechanism, and I think that's super cool.

First, I must remind you what I mean when I say "do marketing".

To me, marketing is connecting with prospective clients and earning trust from some of those I connect with.

Marketing is not persuading or pressuring.

The three things that must simultaneously be true for survey marketing to work:

  1. Question my audience can answer about themselves
  2. Question is one the audience is curious about RE: their peers/the industry
  3. Question is one I am very interested in the answer to

This confluence of factors makes it possible for me to serve my audience by answering a question both they and I care about, then sharing the answer back with them using a permission mechanism that was created using the same means I used to generate the answer in the first place: a survey. Let me unpack this a bit.

Let's say that my audience invests in improving their careers. This satisfies the first two of the three criteria above. My audience can answer the question "How are you investing in your career?" about themselves because they have firsthand knowledge of how they are improving their careers. And it's reasonable for me to believe my audience might be curious how their peers are answering this question as well.

And--critically--I am very interested in the answer to this question! If I'm not then, frankly, I won't be sufficiently motivated to do my part, which is:

  • Building a survey (actually two surveys, for reasons I'll get to soon)
  • Using scrappy methods to recruit survey participants
  • Writing a brief, engaging report containing my findings (this is the part I'd underperform on if I'm not interested in the question this research is addressing)
  • Distributing this report back to survey participants who asked to receive it

That last part is the "permission mechanism" I mentioned earlier. The final question on the first of my two surveys is as follows:

Would you like me to share the 100% anonymous results of this survey with you? If so, please leave your email address here and I will use it only to communicate with you about the results of this survey.

This question is optional. Respondents don't have to leave an email address, or type anything at all in this field on the survey.

But if they do leave their email address, I have permission to contact them for one purpose: to share back the results of this survey with them.

On the advice of my research coach Ari Zelmanow, I plan to reach out to a few respondents who left their email address and ask them for a brief interview before I write up the results of this survey. So I suppose this is stretching the permission a bit, but it feels fine to me because I'm not doing something fundamentally misaligned with what the permission represents.

The report I share back with respondents who have left me an email address will be succinct and descriptive, but it's actually an intermediate report. It's not the final thing.

The first survey is what I think of as a de-biasing survey. More on this tomorrow.

I said I was going to try to sucker you into helping with this research. Here goes!

Hi there, my name is Philip. I am working to better understand how self-employed devs improve their career. Would you be willing to spare 3m for a survey? It will mean the world to me.


I’m not selling anything; you have my NO SALES PITCH GUARANTEE.

This is the same message I used in my survey recruitment. More on this soon.


PS - When I talk about having an innovation budget, this is the kind of stuff I'm talking about. You might do it yourself using scrappy methods like I am, or you might partner with a researcher, or you might outsource it, but either way you budget for and regularly invest in stuff that can help you innovate.