The wellspring of ideas can run dry even for the most creative and dedicated content marketers. With engineers and industrial professionals constantly searching for content to help them do their jobs, it’s a challenge for marketers to continually develop fresh material for them to consume.

One excellent source of content is your company’s own customers. Surveys and polls of your customers can elicit a trove of valuable information and insight that you can shape into content and publish as part of your content marketing plan. Customers like to know what others similar to them think and do, and content that reports this information should be popular. Plus, there are plenty of free or low-cost survey tools you can use to put this practice into place.

Poll or Survey?
A poll is single-question survey. It often appears on a web page, in an email, or on your social media feeds. Most polls will allow the user to answer a question or cast their vote and then display poll results in real time. For example:

When researching a work-related purchase, what online resource do you use the most?
a) Supplier websites
b) Search engines
c) Online catalogs
e) Other

Use a poll if you want to encourage interactivity and participation from your audience while still collecting valuable snippets of data you can use to create content. For instance, the results of the poll question above could lead to a blog post about how industrial professionals research work-related purchases.

A survey is longer and more complex, often 5-20 questions or more, and taking five minutes or longer to complete. Use a survey if you want to conduct more in-depth research of your customers. Following the poll question example above, you might ask not only the most-used resource for researching work-related purchases, but also a series of questions that dig deeper into resources used through various stages of the buy cycle as well as buying patterns and more.

Have a Goal in Mind
You can use the results of customer surveys and polls to develop white papers, webinars, articles, eBooks, blog posts, case studies, testimonials, and other content. The key is to determine what your goals are in surveying customers and how you will use the information you get. You want to find the perfect balance between gathering information you’re looking for while asking relevant and interesting questions of your audience.

You should always state that you will share the results of the survey with your audience. This, along with other incentives such as entries in drawings or gift card giveaways, will increase participation rates.

Here are few ideas for surveys and polls:

• Conduct a survey that profiles your customers: where they work; what their roles and responsibilities are; level of job satisfaction; how their work has changed in the past five years, and so on.
• Ask their opinions about trends or news in the industry.
• Ask about pain points or what concerns them the most; also, what are they most optimistic about.
• Ask customers for unique stories about their experiences with your products or services. You can follow up on their answers for potential case studies and testimonials.
• Survey customers on how they use your products, their feature wish list, or their impressions of your company.
• Ask questions to discover the kind of content your customers favor: how-to guides, technical specifications, novel approaches to solving problems, or analysis of industry news.
• Ask what format your customers like to get their content in: e-mail; e-book; webinars; articles; white papers; videos, etc.

Question Types
Survey tools will offer a variety of question types, from multiple choice, to select all that apply, to more complex ranking grids and open-ended questions. All of these are viable question types and the survey tools should explain how and when to use each one.

One word of advice: Keep to a minimum open-ended questions that allow survey takers to write what they want. Open-ended answers are hard to compile, quantify, and analyze. One exception is if you’re asking a customer to share an anecdote or story about how they use your products or services.

You can turn most open-ended questions into closed-ended questions by rephrasing them. Example:

• What do you think about the future of self-driving cars? (open-ended)
• Which statement best describes your beliefs on the future of self-driving cars? (closed-ended, because the user would be presented with a series of statements and be asked to choose one)

You can get started with polls and surveys quickly and begin generating new content. Create an account at one of survey tool services and get a poll or survey up and running.

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