Surveys are incredibly effective when it comes to learning about your client base, prospects or industry trends. People are generally more than happy to give their opinion or talk about something that affects them daily. It’s a way for them to be heard, voice concerns and just “get on their soap box.” With technology and social media at the forefront of communication methodologies, you have the ability to reach targeted audiences more easily than ever before.
But wait! Before you start down the survey path, you have to think about who will be taking them. Surveys need to be well planned and deliberate. Just because you send a survey, doesn’t mean you’ll get responses. In fact, the response rate is one of the biggest challenges companies face when administering surveys―and quite often is an afterthought. The reality is, your survey is only as good as the data (and amount of data) you receive. But don’t worry… it’s actually not that complicated. Here are a few quick tips that will get those responses up in no time.
1. Screen and Clean
Your list, that is. A little list housekeeping at the front end of a survey goes a long way. There is no use in sending surveys to outdated contacts. If you aren’t already keeping your customer and prospect database updated regularly, spend a little time with your employees to verify and update the contacts and their information. If you don’t have a contact list or just want to start fresh, there are plenty of companies who offer list services. For a small investment, they’ll target in on the audience you are trying to reach and provide you with that current contact info. For more information about lists, read our three-part blog series.
2. Target and Focus
Wait to develop your questions until after you identify your target audience. The topic and series of questions should be geared toward the individuals you are surveying. This is important because it allows you to focus on the language and types of questions that will resonate with them. Is the target audience made up of end-users of your product, influencers or decisions-makers? Will they be able to truly answer the questions you are asking? Is there any industry specific lingo you need to be aware of? If your audience feels engaged and can easily answer the first few questions, chances are they will continue; otherwise, they’ll likely drop out.
3. Keep it Short (and Fun!)
The worst thing you can do is waste someone’s time. Your customers and prospects have minimal time to respond to a survey, so make sure you get to the point quickly. Choose 5-10 questions that drive at the topic you are trying to better understand. Tell them upfront that this survey will only take “X” minutes to complete (and make sure it’s true). Make the questions easy to answer, like multiple choice, ranking, etc. No matter which survey tool you use (i.e. Survey Monkey, Zoomerang), they make it easy to create surveys and collect data. If you have the time, throw in a random (lighthearted) question (i.e. What is your favorite dessert?). It keeps them awake and maybe will add a smile to their day. Besides, you may be able to use the data point in some future promotion or presentation.
People tend to do things if they know they will get something in return. You don’t have to hand out a gift to everyone who takes it, but you can enter everyone (or first 50 completed) into a drawing for a worthwhile prize. Are they people who like the latest and greatest toys (i.e. an Apple iPad, an Amazon Kindle, etc.)? Are they sports buffs (i.e. a new golf club, sports tickets, etc.)? Or do you need something more generic (a weekend getaway, American Express Gift Card, etc.)? You can also tie it directly to your business (free attendance at a conference, copy of report in advance, etc.). The possibilities are endless and it doesn’t have to be over the top. It’s simply a nice way to say, “Thank you. We appreciate your time.”
5. Timing is Everything
If you haven’t been sending a lot of mass e-mails (via a third party e-mail vendor such as Vertical Response or Constant Contact), you might need to test a couple of different groups and see what day and time works best for your audience. This is easy using an e-mail system as you can see the response rates virtually in real-time. The general rule of thumb is to send Tuesday thru Thursday in the late morning or afternoon (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT). But, be aware―every industry is different, so it is important to know your recipients and if there are any looming deadlines or key industry happenings that would deter them from having time to complete a survey. Think about your clients’ and prospects’ day-to-day activities and when they might actually have some downtime to open your e-mail and take the survey.
6. Make it Personal
Take into consideration who the communication is coming from. People feel more compelled to complete something for someone they know or from a person in an executive position. An e-mail from your CEO inviting clients to take the survey indicates the commitment and importance of the topic. Or a simple e-mail from your client’s daily contact can make them feel more obligated to complete. Additionally, (if applicable) add a personal salutation , including a name feels less mechanical.
7. Promote, Promote and Promote Some More
The worst thing you can do to increase response rates is rely solely on your e-mail blasts. Use the e-mail blasts as the first communication. But you want to reach more than your database. Promote the survey on your website, in your e-mail signature and on social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). You can use your company pages as well as enlist your sales team to use their personal pages (it’s easy and they will be more likely to post when you supply them with sample content). Furthermore, are you partnered with any industry organizations or associations? Ask them to promote your survey to their contacts. If they agree, find out which mediums they will use (e-mail, website, blog, social media, etc.) and supply them with the content. Lastly, promote your survey in all conversations with clients and prospects. They will appreciate the fact that you value their opinion and be more likely to take the survey. If you have an incentive, be sure to mention that as well. Then follow-up the conversation with a personal invitation to the survey.
8. Everyone Needs a Little Reminder
Not everyone has time to take the survey immediately and chances are, if they put it on their to-do list, it will keep dropping lower on the priority list as more deliverables come in. One or two quick reminders will help in keeping it front of mind or even post reminders on your social media pages. Try sending reminders on different days and at different times from the initial invite, it might be received at a better time. Plus, this is a perfect opportunity to personalize it further and have someone follow up (with a phone call, if there is time). Be sure to mention a deadline for taking the survey!
If at first you don’t succeed… yes, try again! It’s not the end of the world if you have to change your outreach strategy mid-survey. Research has shown that 50% of responses (for an online survey) will arrive within the first day of receiving. So if that rate is low, you may need to step back and think differently. Review the tips above and try something new: send the invitation on different days, provide give-a-way (if you aren’t already doing), buy a list, extend your follow up, partner with an association, etc.
While some may think surveying is a science, it really is more of an art form. If you are new to this, it may take some trial and error. Just don’t give up! When done right, surveys are an incredible sales and marketing tool―and can be a lot of fun. The information you receive can go far (which we’ll talk about more in an upcoming blog.) So start thinking about what you want to know from your clients and prospects and start surveying!
Lastly, let us know about your survey experiences. What tools did you use to increase responses? Did you see a spike when promoting the survey a certain way?