Ask Summary and Review

by Ryan Levesque
Has Ask by Ryan Levesque been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary. Have you ever shopped online?  Was it super easy or did you find it frustrating and inefficient?  Website visitors often leave quickly after discovering there is nothing they want to buy.  They simply close the window or look for another site. The real problem is that you can't simply ask people what they want and then give it to them. Here's where the Ask Formula can really help you. The Ask Formula is comprised of a series of surveys designed for both prospective and current customers. You'll know what people's biggest challenges are once people take your surveys and then you can work on solving them. These solutions are what will make your business stand out from the competition. In this summary of Ask by Ryan Levesque, you'll learn
  • why prospective customers don't know what they want 
  • how to overcome the first rejection 
  • what to say in email headings so they'll be read 

Ask Key Idea #1: Promises, Promises

So just how do you learn what customers and prospects want? Conceived as a solution to a problem faced by every business owner, the Ask Formula when properly applied results in knowing what is wanted and positions your business to personalize services and answer customer needs. Of course, you could simply send out a survey. But traditional surveys come with a number of built-in problems. First and most important is that surveys are irritating. How thrilled were you the last time you were interrupted during dinner by a telemarketer or even a recording asking for your opinion on a new soda bottle brand packaging? Like we said – irritating. Since the customers won't know the results, there's also no real incentive to answer a survey. Basically, surveys are pretty much designed by marketers to help other marketers. Because people are usually only good at expressing what they don't want and saying what they already have, other approaches to asking customers often fail as well. If businesses want to know what people really want, they must become good at helping potential customers figure out exactly what that thing might be. Say you're browsing the shelves at a store.  When a salesperson asks, “How can I help you?”, she isn't helping you to make a choice. Instead, assuming that you already know what you want, she's trying to help you find it. Would it surprise you to know that most potential customers really have no idea what they want? Imagine trying to decide on a restaurant when you are going out to eat with a group of friends. Did you ask them what they want to eat only to endure an endless loop of questions and suggestions, but no decision gets made? But even when people can't quite articulate what they want, as a business you still have to find out what that is. By using surveys in a different and unexpected way, the Ask Formula will help you do exactly this.

Ask Key Idea #2: The Ask Formula

We've already established that traditional surveys just don't work. They don't offer any useful information and annoy customers besides. What makes the Ask Formula different? To begin with, the Ask Formula relies on a Survey Funnel strategy – a specific combination of steps that work to transform your prospects into paying customers. Later, we'll take a closer look at each step. For now, you need to build a Deep Dive Survey before you start the funnel.  This survey is only conducted once at the very beginning of the process.  Its purpose is to uncover who your prospective customers really are. Begin the Deep Dive Survey with an email to your prospect list, which could be current prospects or former customers. In this email, you will quickly introduce your company and get across that you wish to get to know your potential customers better. As an example, you could write, “Here at Home Lighting, we want to know who you are so we can give you the best possible service.” Next, you provide a small number of survey questions. Since your prospects know only what they don't want, it isn't useful to directly ask what they want. Rather, you need to prevail upon them to tell you with questions such as, “Tell us the biggest challenge you're struggling with right now.” Direct respondents will complete the survey on a website where you collect the answers. The final step in the Deep Dive Survey is to collect and analyze the survey data. Look for patterns in their answers that will allow you to sort them into buckets - similar groups of prospects. As an example, a B2B company might have one bucket for companies that gross less than $500,000 annually, and another for those with more than $5 million, and so on. When you organize respondents into buckets, you are able to learn the best consumer language to use when communicating with a specific group. After all, it would be silly to write an email to your retiree bucket using the technical language of your software geek bucket! Now that you know who your prospects are, you can move on to the next step.

Ask Key Idea #3: A Great Landing Page

You should now have a good idea of who your prospects are thanks to the results of your Deep Dive Survey. Getting them to tell you more is the next step. This will make it possible to actually start solving their problems. Another survey will help you to accomplish this. You'll need to create a convincing landing page, the Prospect Self-Discovery Landing Pagein order to convince prospects to participate in the next survey. This landing page needs to be easy to use with all key information available without requiring readers to scroll down. Here's what your page should look like: The landing page will begin with an interesting headline or question. For example, the RocketMemory homepage created by the author asked, “Is it possible to improve your memory in just three days using these techniques?” Next, share your goal with your prospects and explain how you will achieve this with the help of the survey. You could say something like, “We want to offer you a customized solution.  Let us diagnose your problem by asking a few questions.” Adding a video to your landing page will increase participation. One easy way to do this is where you or an actor explains your company with a “talking head” video. You can also use slides with voiceover. A good hook, a fascinating idea that inspires curiosity and desire, is the key to the video's success.  Ask your viewers about their struggle to find your hook.  A good hook will grab their interest, whether it's losing weight or improving their tennis serve, and entice them to take the next survey. Don't think everyone is easily persuaded. If-then statements can be used to coax skeptics.  For example, “If you work with diverse markets but aren't sure how to communicate with all of them, then…” Finally, hint at your expertise when introducing the survey to your prospects. Something like, “For ten years now I've asked my clients a series of questions that helped identify their biggest sales bottleneck,” will generate interest and confidence. When you've won over your prospects, they'll happily click that link to begin the next survey.

Ask Key Idea #4: Win Prospects Trust

You have your prospects hooked and they want to take your survey. This is when you deliver your Micro-Commitment Bucket Survey. People are often reluctant to divulge personal information so this survey starts with small, non-threatening, multiple-choice questions, then moves on to more private questions, such as name and email. The little questions at the beginning chip away at that reluctance. Make sure you phrase these questions in a decidedly conversational way rather than with a robotic feel.  “What's your favorite soda brand?” is a much more personable question than “Which market-leading soda manufacturer do you most prefer?” Start your Micro-Commitment Bucket Survey with easily answerable questions such as – “How old are you?”. This data is great to use in personalizing your messages.  For instance, you might refer to your prospects' age in a follow-up email. Characterize your prospects using segmentation questions to help funnel them into different buckets. While it's tempting to segment by demographic (age, location, etc.) avoid this.  Instead, ask questions that allow you to segment prospects according to the specific problems or challenges they want to solve. As an example, you could ask a multiple-choice question such as, “Which of the following is your biggest challenge right now?” with the answers “Making paid traffic convert,” “Selling to multiple submarkets,” and “Entering a new market.”  You get insight into your customer's specific problem with each answer. Once you have all this data, now it's time to sort it. You already created buckets in the Deep Dive Survey. Now you'll fill and refine these buckets using the Micro-Commitment Bucket Survey. A car manufacturer, for example, might sort prospects according to their marital status first. Then they might sub-segment those buckets with the number of children in each family as this will have a direct effect on the type of car the prospect may want. By helping you introduce suitable products to your customers in a marketing language they understand this type of segmentation is invaluable for future promotions. Send your prospects to a capture page, where they'll enter their name and email address is the very last thing you'll do.

Ask Key Idea #5: Get Ready

Once they have submitted their survey answers, prospects will be sent to your Post-Survey page.  This is where they'll receive a diagnosis of their problem and a personalized solution to it. This page contains only a headline and a personalized video that offers feedback on the concerns they shared in your survey. At this point, you would offer your patient a specific prognosis and walk them through the various treatment options if you were a doctor. You wouldn't try to rush them into surgery or discuss costs! You are merely trying to demonstrate that you understand their problems and to motivate them to ask you what they should do to fix it? When they finally do ask - that's when you make your sales pitch! Your sales pitch should also include a video just like your landing page.  Use the Problem, Agitate, Solution formula.  First, introduce the prospect's problem, then reinforce its severity and urgency and then finally explain its solution. A creatively named diagnosis can generate interest and confidence. You might tell the viewer: “Based on the information you've given us, your marketing bottleneck is caused by the Cold Traffic Curse.” This diagnosis should immediately kindle your prospects' curiosity, making them want to learn more about it. Then explain the meaning of your diagnosis. It's important that you show your prospect that you understand their problem while focusing on its severity and urgency.  You will then show that you care about the outcome. To continue with our example: “Many websites today face the Cold Traffic Curse, which prevents them from converting visitors into customers and threatens the business.” The final step is to explain your solution by turning education into an offer. The benefit should be included in your offer, in other words, what's in it for your customers when they purchase.  Always include a complete description of the offer and the discount price or special deal available.  Communicate to them the primary reason why they need to act now (such as deadlines or limited availability). The Ask Formula has, up to this point, assisted you in identifying specific customer problems so that you can solve them. Next, you'll learn how to make the most of these new conversions. 

Ask Key Idea #6: Maximize Profit

Rather than simply ending with this first offer on the Post-Survey page, the Ask Formula aims to drive sales well into the future.  How do I do this, you might ask?  This formula doesn't just generate customers.  The real benefit of the Ask Formula comes from the extended relationship you'll have with a customer as you sell to them over time. It is here that the Profit Maximization Upsell sequence comes into play. Consider your latest visit to McDonald's. Did they ask you if you wanted fries or maybe a drink? They don't make billions in sales simply because people buy burgers. Rather, they ask, “Do you want fries with that?” When someone has decided to make a purchase, they're already in a buying mindset.  This makes them much more likely to spend more money right then and there. To take advantage of the buying mindset, present them with one or more one-click upsell opportunities directly after your prospect makes their initial purchase.  Make sure you don't require them to re-enter payment information. The simplest option is to simply sell more of what the customer just purchased but at a discounted price. If you sell protein powder, for instance, you might offer a free tub for every three tubs of powder purchased. Or you could sell a faster, easier result. An example of this might work if you sell a gym membership online.  You could propose a 30-day pass to a fat-burn boot camp in addition to the membership to people you have targeted who expect fast results. You could even offer a solution to a problem that your prospects hadn't even thought about yet, but will face after getting results from your initial product. Imagine that you help people argue for higher wages by selling a salary-negotiation course. If your course is successful, you now have an opportunity to help customers with the new “good” problem of having extra cash. A sensible upsell for this “problem” might emphasize the importance of investing their excess money wisely and offer a free program focused on investment. 

Ask Key Idea #7: Soup Up Sales

While just a small fraction of visitors –sometimes only ten percent – will actually purchase after the first round of surveys, you shouldn't give up on the other 90 percent! You'll learn a special way of following up with the prospects who hesitate to win their business with the Ask Formula. Use the Email Follow-Up Feedback Loop to keep up a constant string of communication that helps optimize and improve the marketing funnel through with email follow-ups. Non-buyers and buyers each have their own type of email sequences. We can begin by concentrating on following up with non-buyers. Emails to non-buyers, those who didn't promptly buy the offer presented at the post-survey sales prescription, must be highly engaging to rescue a sale. It is often possible to keep them engaged by tweaking the offer by offering discount after discount. Be careful not to devalue the product. You might try lowering the threshold of commitment rather than the price – by offering a one-dollar trial period with the full amount due at a later date. In addition, knowing that an offer is only valid for a short period of time could convince some non-buyers to pull out their wallets.  Urgency emails can be used to remind non-buyers of your offer's time limitation. Finally, if the initial offer failed completely, give prospects the opportunity to pivot.  Start the Ask Formula cycle again and allow them to choose their own next step, this time focusing on a different type of product. You can use a similar process to get more from your buyers. By leveraging the joy they got from the product you already sold them, you can easily prime them for another purchase. Putting an unfinished thought or phrase in the subject line is a good way to entice buyers to open your emails. You might write, “Where there's a will there's a…”.  This tickles the reader's curiosity and entices them to open the email and read on. Then you simply include a link that directs them to your offer in the body of your email to turn these one-time customers into repeat buyers.

In Review

The key message in this book: The only way to know what your customers really want is to ask. The real trick is in asking the right way.  You do this by using an organized system that lets you extract actionable information from prospects while building trust and intrigue at the same time. The Ask Formula is what you need. Actionable advice: Nothing-fits-all. Everyone's situation is unique and thus the solutions that are best for each individual customer will likewise need to be unique. There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Suggested further reading: Launch by Jeff Walker With his Product Launch Formula, Jeff Walker has changed the way we sell. In his book Launch, he outlines his tried-and-tested strategy for selling products online and building a business that's almost guaranteed to bring success. Walker shows you how he's succeeded by outlining a step-by-step plan for launching your product – even before you know exactly what it is.