How to create, send, and use surveys to grow your creator business

Build Your Audience Metrics
13 min read
In this Article

Real talk: intuition is not a solid business strategy.

While there is something to be said about creative instinct and passion, you alone can’t steer your business ship into the harbor of success. Getting input from your audience is an invaluable gauge of where you’ve been and where you need to go next.

Surveys are a great way to learn from your audience, and this guide will teach you when and how to leverage them to grow your audience and income.

Feedback is a creator superpower

Being a creator is personal. No matter how large your audience grows, a feeling of connection with you as a person and your content brings people back time and time again. And if you want your work to resonate, you need to know your audience inside and out.

A survey is a question, or set of questions creators use to learn from their audience.

As you’ll see further down, there are plenty of survey opportunities for creators. A few signals that you could use assurance of your direction include:

  • You aren’t sure if people will buy your next idea
  • You don’t have clear audience segments
  • You don’t know what your audience likes or dislikes
  • You don’t understand why your product launch went the way it did (whether it missed or exceeded expectations!)

At its core, the purpose of a survey is to give you perspective. With your survey results, you can:

Avoid wasting time going down the wrong path

New content takes time and asking for opinions before you start ensures you don’t waste it.

Create content that your audience loves

As you and your audience evolve, so do needs, goals, and preferences. Asking people what they want to learn and engage with removes the guesswork so you can create content that connects.

Learn which strategies to keep, leave, and try

You have a finite amount of time to handle everything it takes to run a creative business. In addition to things like analytics and email marketing stats, surveys help you find which strategies are worth the effort.

7 types of surveys to use as a creator

If you have to decide on it, you can survey it. The options for polling your audience are plenty, but we’ve rounded up a few tried-and-true methods to get the feedback you can use to make decisions.

1 – Track new subscriber goals

Start learning about people as soon as they join your email list. Use your welcome sequence to ask new subscribers about the topics they want to know about or the challenges they’re trying to solve feeds two birds with one scone.

Each time someone clicks on a link for a particular topic, you can tag them as interested. Hold on to that information for later, or use it to place people in different email sequences. Image via James Clear.

First, it can be a way to personalize the emails subscribers see from that point on. After they click on a link that fits their scenario, you can propel them into an evergreen newsletter about that topic.

We’re focused on surveys today, though. Keeping a score of your audience's most common pain points is the perfect way to research your next course. Seeing which topics or challenges are most popular lets you prioritize what content to make next. You can also ask people to respond to the email if their option isn’t on the list, which will give you fresh content ideas and perspectives.

2 – Gauge interest in a new niche

Polling your entire community helps you understand whether there’s enough demand to begin creating content for a niche audience or new topic.

For example, imagine you’re an author who wants to use an email list to boost book sales. In the past, you’ve written romance novels. But now you have an idea for one with a sci-fi twist. Before you start drafting, it could be good to see if there are enough current fans who want to read your work in this new arena.

Each response has a link trigger applied in this (totally fake) example. By tracking how many people select each option, you can gauge how an audience feels about your next big idea.

You can ask people to click on a number between one and five to rate how interesting the concept sounds. Adding a link trigger to each option automatically tags users with their chosen rating. Assuming the average response is above indifference, you can take it as a signal to forge ahead. You also create a list of excited subscribers that are a perfect group to send a book launch email to.

So your audience likes your new idea…now what? Check out this workshop on creating a high-converting product funnel to get ready for your best launch yet.

3 – Promote the best products and retire the rest

Not all surveys need to deliver immediate results. Instead, you can use some to track trends over time. A recent addition to our email automation template library is a “which is right for you?” quiz. In this automation, subscribers respond to prompts, and the automation sends an email promoting the resource that fits their needs.

Automation to sort readers by interest or goals automatically lets you pitch the right product. It’s also a way to learn user preferences without asking them to fill out a survey outright.

If you set up this automation, you can check in monthly to see how many people have selected each option. By recording the most popular responses, you can note if any offerings become less popular over time. If a course becomes outdated, but your automation data reveals that nobody really needs it anymore, you can retire it.

4 – Learn why they didn’t buy

Not everyone will buy your offering after a product launch email, and that’s okay. If you want to dig a little deeper, you can always ask what stopped them.

Adding a condition to your sales funnel that sends a message to everyone who didn’t buy makes it easy to follow up. Let subscribers know that there are no hard feelings or pressure, but you’d like to see why it wasn’t a fit and what a better solution would be for them.

You’ll never know if you don’t ask, so politely asking for feedback after a product pitch can help you improve conversions in the long run. Image via Ryan Baustert.

If you notice a trend of subscribers stating it didn’t match their goals, you can adjust your targeting. If someone says the course was too expensive, follow up with free or lower-cost resources on the same topic. Afterward, be sure to tally how many people selected each response so you can identify trends or issues.

Ryan Baustert knows what works and goes all in on it. The musician uses email to turn their band’s casual listeners into diehard fans. To date, the band has sold 40,000 albums, have over 265,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, over 23,000 YouTube subscribers, and 4,000 email subscribers.

Learn how Ryan and Throw the Fight uses email automation to sell out shows and promote their albums here.

5 – Find your audience’s preferred channels

Chances are, you create content across multiple platforms and formats. If you want to know which your audience likes and where else they’d like to see you, you can ask! A survey about whether they prefer written vs. video content, short blogs vs. in-depth ebooks, or Instagram posts vs. stories can guide your strategy.

Don’t want to commit to a survey? You can passively collect subscriber preferences. David Perell often offers both a written and video version of the content. Counting how many people click on different content formats can reveal your audience’s favorite channels. Image via David Perell.

6 – Ask for general feedback

You may want to get a general sense of audience happiness every so often, such as annually. You can send one survey that asks your email list about their opinions of your newsletter and how you can improve. Sending the survey to past customers or long-time subscribers can give you a more in-depth review than including brand new subscribers.

Podcasts metrics can be tricky to nail down, so Jay Clouse decided to get feedback directly from the source with an audience survey. Image via Jay Clouse.

If you want a simpler option, ask subscribers to click on a number between one and ten to indicate how much they like your content. Monitoring this average over time alongside other email performance stats can reveal satisfaction trends.

Bonus: you can follow up with people who indicated they’re delighted with your content with a message about your newsletter referral program. You can also send a personal message to unhappy subscribers to hear their concerns.

7 – Make the most of unsubscribes

Alyssa Dulin, co-host of Deliverability Defined, shared that “unsubscribes are not personal, but they’re beneficial to both the subscriber and you. If someone doesn’t want to be on your email list, you don’t want them there.”

Each unsubscribe is an opportunity to learn. With ConvertKit’s built-in unsubscribe survey, you can ask each person what made them leave your email list.

ConvertKit users can take advantage of built-in unsubscribe surveys to gather audience feedback.

While a response that they don’t want to receive the messages anymore is a sign they’ve grown out of your content, tracking other responses helps you maintain email quality. For example, a sudden spike in “the emails are spam” responses signals that you need to make a change. The unsubscribe survey is another one you should leave running continuously and monitor for sudden changes or trends.

Want to learn more about the technical side of email? The Deliverability Defined podcast reviews topics like deliverability terms, list validation, and sender reputation in an easy-to-understand way.

Browse all episodes here.

How to survey your audience

So you want to learn about your audience—now what? There are five high-level steps to surveys as a creator.

Step 1 – Choose a goal

Responding to a survey, even a single question, will take up audience time so you want to make it worthwhile. Deciding on what you want to learn or improve also makes it easier to write survey questions.

Example survey goals include:

  • Understanding why subscribers leave your email list so you can make changes to improve engagement
  • Decide whether you should create a course on topic A or B
  • Prioritize your next digital product’s format
  • Identifying roadblocks and opportunities for growing your email list

Step 2 – Write your questions

Once you know what you want to learn, you can decide how to ask. Here are a few creator survey best practices in mind:

  • Avoid leading questions that influence a person’s answer
  • Make your survey as short as possible while still achieving your goals
  • Leave personal or identifying questions optional
  • Choose a quantifiable question when possible (this will come in handy later!)

Step 3 – Choose an audience

Who you ask is nearly as important as what you ask in a survey. Your email list is the perfect place to poll your audience since they’re already familiar and engaged with your work. You might choose to send surveys to specific segments within your email list. For example, previous customers can give you more relevant feedback about your next course idea than a brand new subscriber.

Pro tip: tags organize people and segments organize tags.

In ConvertKit, we create segmentation by tagging subscribers and then grouping those tags together into segments. Tags allow you to organize and group your subscribers based on actions, interest, and more.

You can learn more about the ins and outs of email segmentation in this guide.

Step 4 – Set up your survey

You have two main options for surveying your email subscribers—use link triggers to ask a single question or opt for a survey tool for more in-depth research.

A link trigger in an email is a simple way to ask a single question. All a person needs to do to respond is click on the option that applies to them. Subscribers don’t need to leave the email to get involved, and you can easily track responses.

If you want to ask a few questions, you’ll need to use a survey tool. Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, and Typeform are all free or low-cost options. You’ll still need to write an email introducing the survey with a link to answer the questions.

Step 5 – Turn responses into an action plan

Setting up a survey or asking your audience a question is straightforward, but using what you’ve learned can feel trickier. The best way to analyze and leverage survey responses is by quantifying and turning them into actionable statements.

To quantify your responses, you need to tally answers. Your survey tool may have built-in analytics, but a separate “scratchpad” spreadsheet is also helpful. Count how many people chose each response to see what was most popular. Ideally, you have a large enough sample size to feel confident that the people who responded can represent your audience.

The second step in this process is where the real magic happens. Let’s say you asked previous customers what topic they wanted to learn about, and there were two popular responses. Now you need to decide what you’ll do with your newfound knowledge. For starters, you can forget about the other choices. Now that you have two strong contenders, you can pick the easiest one to create first to add it to an evergreen sales funnel while you chip away at the other, more extensive project.

Manage your audience experience with ConvertKit

Growing an audience and creating new content is a big job. Luckily, ConvertKit makes it easy to manage the entire audience experience from a single place. You can create landing pages, connect through email, sell products, and run paid communities without opening 100 tabs.

Learn more about how professional creators use ConvertKit here.

Take the next step on your creator journey

Enter your email to get the free I Am A Creator printable pack, featuring inspiring digital wallpapers for your desktop and phone and a printable journal sheet to help you get started or unstuck on your creative dreams. Your story could be next. And it’s what you do next that makes all the difference.

Steph Knapp

Steph Knapp is a freelance B2B + SaaS content marketer that loves educating and empowering curious humans. When she's not typing away, you'll find her volunteering at the animal shelter and obsessing over a new hobby every week. She shares marketing, freelance, and cat content on Twitter @ hellostephknapp.

The future belongs to creators

ConvertKit helps creators like you take their projects from idea to reality. It's never been easier to build an audience and grow a business. And you can do it all for free.

Launch your next project