Most business owners answer that question with a resounding "YES."
But the truth is we're usually off the mark.
For example, a few weeks back I deejayed at a department store here in Chicago. Sales were low and management wanted to spice things up.
In their email, they said their target demographic was a woman between the ages of 35 - 45. Cool, I thought, I'll play some 80's hits and throw in some Top 40 for good measure.
Except when I got to the location, I realized they were short by about 20 years!
Justin Bieber wasn't going to cut it. So I played to my audience, pulling out some hits from the 60's and 70's (and some 80's).
But it got me thinking...were they making product decisions based on the wrong demographic? No wonder sales were low.
The same thing happens with online courses. In fact, most of my clients have made significant assumptions that are off the mark:
They assume they know exactly who their audience is (and what they want to buy).
They sell their audience products based on those incorrect assumptions.
They assume they know what their learners struggle with within their course.
I've certainly been guilty of this, so there's no judgment here.
But at the end of the day, incorrect assumptions affect your business.
For example, one of my clients had a course that wasn't delivering the results that he wanted.
He assumed that some of his learners just didn't want to do the work to finish the program. But it wasn't that simple.
When we dug a little deeper, we found that they wanted to finish the program, but were getting stuck.
They were struggling with prerequisite topics that they needed to know to be successful in his program. Simply put: they weren't qualified to take the course in the first place.
Discovering THIS led us to change the entire program structure, which resulted in a $20k boost in sales.
So if you're not validating what your audience wants, you're leaving money on the table. (And potentially alienating your students.)
Fortunately, the solution is simple: ask your audience what they want (or where they're getting stuck).
Surveys work great for this. In fact, there's five general instances when you should survey your audience.
When they first sign up for your email list
Before you create (or change) a product
Before you outline your product map for the year
At the beginning OR end of each module (to monitor student learning and identify gaps)
At the beginning AND end of your course / program (to evaluate student learning overall)
The point of all this isn't about money. Money is just a symptom. It's about experience.
To create a world-class learning experience, you've got to know what your audience wants and struggles with. Period.