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The Secrets of Successful Surveys

A basic tenet of successful management is the importance of incorporating research into your business and marketing processes. Those who do almost always find the best decisions are informed decisions.

Why Survey?

Companies who want to achieve the best return on the Marketing and Communication dollars they spend (and who doesn't?), take time to ask customers for input as they strive to improve their Marketing and Communication efforts.

There are many reasons why you may want to do a survey with your clients, prospects, employees or even possibly other supply-chain partners. Before you begin creating your survey it is important to very clearly articulate what your survey objectives are.

Whether you are in Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, Product Development or Purchasing, your organization can benefit from the insights you gain from surveying.

Some examples of specific goals for completing a survey might be:

  • Discover why customers have left, and if there is any chance of winning them back.
  • Find out if serious prospects have any intention of buying from you, and if not, why?
  • Find out why you lost prospects and at what stage in the pipeline.
  • Generate qualified leads for sales.
  • Evaluate response rates and attitudes pre and post marketing campaigns.
  • Get up to speed on what your competition is doing, and how you stack up against them in your client's minds.
  • Assess the strength of your relationship with your clients and their loyalty to your company.
  • Get consumer/client feedback on an idea for a new product or service.
  • Get feedback on events you have run or sponsored.
  • Follow-up on a customer service complaint interaction.
  • Assess the strength of your relationship with your suppliers and gather ideas to improve purchasing efficiencies.
  • Measure employee satisfaction levels.

Where to Begin?

You sit down at your desk with a clear vision of why you need to execute a survey and your objectives clearly outlined for the information you are seeking. But you really aren't sure how to proceed. How do you come up with the right questions to achieve your objective? Do you do a telephone, in-person, print or online survey? How will you tabulate and evaluate the results? Can you do this on your own or do you need to hire outside expertise? Does this sound familiar to you? Well, we can tell you from experience that creating a survey does not need to be an overwhelming task, and there are many tools available to help you be successful.

How to Deliver your Survey

First of all, you don't necessarily need to hire a market research firm to develop a survey for you. It really depends. If simple frequency tables and charts are sufficient, then you can conduct and analyze the survey yourself using whichever delivery method you feel works best for your target audience. However, if you would like to understand standard deviation, correlation and chi tests within your study, then hiring an independent analysis or survey research company may be the way to go.

If you decide to do it yourself and feel that your target audience will respond best online, there are a number of online survey platforms available. Here’s a detailed review of the best online survey tools.

7 Tips on How to Ask

  1. Clearly define your target audience and ask questions that they will care about and be able to easily answer.
  2. Always keep the survey objectives top of mind, and the questions will come fairly easily. Only ask questions that are relevant to the objective.
  3. Use Google to do research on survey questions and formats.
  4. Ask questions that start with who, what, where, when, why or how.
  5. Use simple, clear, concise language that your target audience will understand.
  6. Try to stay away from complex matrix and rating questions. If it looks too complicated or time-consuming, people will bail.
  7. Keep the survey as brief as you possibly can.

7 Tips to Maximizing Your Response Rate

Here are a few simple tips to consider when developing your questions:

1. Design. Graphic HTML emails often result in better response rates for surveys than text-based (a graphic survey button will generally attract more clicks than a text link). Test both to see which gives you the best response rate for your target audience.

2. Test. Make sure you test your survey before launching, both internally and, where possible, with some clients who you trust to be honestly critical. When testing, make sure all the questions and instructions are clear and the layout is user-friendly. Test to see how long it really takes to complete.

3. Advance Warning. About a week in advance, have the President of your company send an email to the clients/prospects/suppliers /employees you want to survey explaining your objectives and personally asking for their participation. Send the link to your survey separately a week later.

4. Reward. Consider providing an appropriate incentive for survey completion. Because there are often restrictions on employees accepting "rewards", donations to charities on behalf of participants can be a productive and responsible alternative.

5. Inform. Be very clear in the survey email about the purpose of the survey, how long it will (honestly) take to complete, and details of the incentive. Commit to follow up on the results of the survey.

6. Remind. You may have to send reminder emails, or make calls to increase your response rates. Be prepared that some participants may not be computer savvy and may prefer taking the survey over the telephone. Be sure to provide that option.

7. Promise Feedback. Commit to honestly sharing the results and your action plans, and be sure to follow through on that commitment. You will find that more people will be willing to take the time to participate in your survey if they gain some knowledge or insights from it themselves

Survey Says……??? Understanding Your Results

Now that you have collected all the data, you need to make sense of it. Based on your survey objectives, you need to analyze the results, draw conclusions and report back to your organization and your survey participants with your recommendations.

Do the numbers. Many survey software programs provide excellent reporting and will display results graphically or in excel format. As well as looking at the big picture results, be sure to review all individual comments, looking for any problems and opportunities. Respond to all comments and address them individually and collectively by getting input from others within your organization to create solutions. Draw conclusions as to what the survey results are telling you and decide on the action you will now take as a result of the survey. Be prepared that you may not always like what you hear, but you need to hear it and you need to take action on it.

Be transparent. Don't be afraid to reveal results that are negative-just let those who participated know what actions you are going to take to improve and be sure to execute. By sharing your action plans, you may gain valuable input and ideas from the survey participants. Customers will demand transparency now more than ever and will be very appreciate and benefit from straight-forward feedback.

Gone are the days (or at least they should be) of blindly spending money on marketing and communication materials without identifying and understanding the specific results you wish to achieve. Using surveys in your process ensures that you understand more precisely where you are and where you need to go so that you can most effectively reach your target audience and move them to the desired action — an important key to your business success.



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