If you work in the nonprofit realm – or are part of small business – you know there are always countless questions you wish you had answers for:
- Who is our best client?
- What would they most like to see from us?
- How can we do a better job?
- How would they like to be contacted?
- What’s most important to them?
- What do they consider success (why would they give us a good rating/donation?)
- What can what we do make their lives easier?
- What could we do that would make them feel happier about working with us?
- What outcomes need to happen for them to think, “Wow! I am so happy I worked with you!”?
All of these are questions. And the wonderful thing about questions is, you can get answers by asking them.
Sometimes we get so busy with our own questions (What should our next campaign be? How should our ads look? Who is our audience?) that we forget that we have a great source of people who are happy to answer many of those same questions.
Our best clients are happy to answer our questions…
If we ask!
So why do we forget to ask?
Although we do know a lot about our industry, our business or nonprofit, our audience, our trends, our campaigns, our fill-in-the-blank…
You know who often knows more than we do?
Our community knows. Our clients, our donors, our advocates, our constituents, our supporters – for both our businesses and our nonprofits.
So why on earth would we not ask them what they think? We all know, based on experience, that people are happy to tell us most anything we want to know – both positive and negative – if we only ask. It does take time and thought, and we’re all busy, however it can be tremendously helpful.
If you feel a bit nervous about asking for thoughts and ideas, thinking it may bring forth some negatives with the positives, consider this…
People are already telling everyone their every thought about your product, service, business, or nonprofit right now. And they always have. “Word of mouth” now, however, is instantaneous and massive. Social media and ratings are already answering many of our questions, but outside of being a good listener there, you can’t proactively learn much about your key questions.
So if people are already talking, and answering questions on social media and elsewhere, why not take advantage of this golden opportunity to ask them specific questions?
[A side note about social media. Often people tell me they are wary of having a robust social media presence because “people might say negative things.” To which I would give the following analogy.
If I go to a huge, festive annual gala, where everyone is talking and having fun in a large, loud room, and I hold my hands over my ears – does everyone stop talking? Or do I just not hear them?]
That’s how it works now – that’s what social media is. If I choose to ignore input– or not be actively present and listening on social media – then I am simply clamping my hands over my ears. No one has stopped talking, or saying whatever they want, good or bad (and it’s usually mostly good!). I have simply just chosen put my fingers in my ears, and say *lalala, I can’t hear you, lalala* (not too unlike in elementary school).
It sounds funny, but it’s not far from how we might sometimes treat asking questions, or listening to answers, in today’s world of social media.
So here are a few new digital ways to ask questions, and to listen to the great advice people are giving already, and are willing to give if asked.
- Listen – Pay attention on social media. Pay attention to mentions of your business or nonprofit that use your name or cause (or #hashtags associated with your name or cause). Paying attention and listening in other places is assumed.
- Ask – Ask your clients/supporters all about what they want. People are usually happy to tell you their likes and dislikes, what you are doing well or could do better, or anything else you wonder about.
- If you have a lot of questions, consider offering something in return for their time, like a unique opportunity or a discount. Time is valuable, so offer people something in return for their kindness of answering important questions, for example in surveys or quick polls.
- Learn – All this asking is toward an end – getting better. Make it your mission to get better, whether it’s in the services you provide or the missions you accomplish. Also consider this “Listening.” The learning is when the listening meets making proactive changes.
- Appreciate – The flipside of asking is appreciation. If you ask, thank. People don’t mind helping, and often enjoy giving feedback, however no one wants to feel like they helped without feeling gratitude back. Thank the people who help with your listening and learning quest. Another great way to show appreciate is by taking positive actions to change in the direction people have indicated they want.
To be competitive now, whether as a business or a nonprofit, listening to your clients is critical. And a key to listening is asking good questions.
(These tips work equally well for employees.)
If you want to know the answer to the questions on your mind, consider the idea of:
What do you think? Do you have interesting ways to ask clients/supporters for information?
(And please check out my new nonprofit launching in February 2017 – Free Tech for Nonprofits.)