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You can learn a lot surveying your customers and prospects: how satisfied they are, how well your products and services meet their needs, how to best connect with them, which competitors are formidable and much more.

It’s easy to conduct an online survey in the digital age, with many free survey tools available to you. But it’s not foolproof. A poorly designed and executed survey can frustrate your customers, give you skewed or invalid results, and lead to decisions based on bad data. Follow these ten tips to avoid survey pitfalls and help ensure your efforts yield positive results.

1. Determine Your Purpose and Goals

Why are you conducting this survey? Here are some common scenarios in the industrial sector:

  • Purpose: Discover what customers think is missing from your products. Goal: Guide or prioritize development decisions.
  • Purpose: Find out what channels your customers use to research potential purchases. Goal: Better allocate marketing investments.
  • Purpose: Measure the level of customer satisfaction. Goal: Revise policies to better serve customers.
  • Purpose: Uncover the most important issues and challenges your customers face. Goal: Create targeted marketing content that addresses their needs.

2. Decide Who to Survey

Your purpose and goals will help you select the appropriate audience to survey. It might be every customer on your list, or customer and prospects, or anyone that visits your website.

You also might consider surveying an audience that you currently don’t have access to. If you’re trying to discover market trends or gauge the viability of new products, you might ask a media partner if you can survey their customers as well as your own customers and prospects.

3. Choose a Survey Tool

There are many free or low-cost online survey tools to choose from. Some of the popular ones include SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, SoGoSurvey, and Typeform.

In addition, some email marketing services offer survey tools within their platforms. You might already have access to one.

Look for a tool that offers a variety of question types, tips on how to create effective surveys, flexible ways to distribute your survey, and tools to easily analyze survey results.

4. Design Valid and Useful Questions

Writing a good survey question is both an art and a science. Here are two common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Leading questions. Don’t word questions that can sway the user to one side of the argument. Non-neutral wording often signals a leading question. For example: “How fast does the product work?” makes the user think in terms of speed. A better question: “How would you describe the product’s performance?”
  • Double questions. “How satisfied are you with the pumping capacity and ease-of-use of our product?” You’re asking two questions in one. Not only will the user not be sure how to answer, but you also won’t be able to interpret the answer. This example should be split into two questions.

For every question: Don’t ask any question that doesn’t have a clear reason for being in the survey. A good guideline is to determine ahead of time how each question contributes to your overall goal and how you will use the data collected. If you’re not sure, strike the question from your survey.

5. Collect Both Quantitative and Qualitative Data

  • Quantitative data is numerical information that can be measured and analyzed. For example, how many respondents chose to answer “A” to question number six. You can reach conclusions such as “64 percent of our customers are likely to purchase product Y in the next year” or “58 percent of survey respondents say that our chemical test kits are easy to use.”
  • Qualitative data is less structured and more open to interpretation. Survey questions that ask respondents to fill in a blank using their own words give you qualitative data. It can be useful for uncovering insights you can’t get from quantitative research.

6. Keep the Survey Short

Keep your surveys to 10-15 questions or 10 minutes of time. Let your audience know up front how long the survey should take to complete. The longer the survey, the more drop off you will get along the way.

Even with a short survey, you may need to offer an incentive to complete the survey, such as entering names into a drawing for a prize.

7. Promote the Survey

Depending on who your audience is, you may use a variety of ways to reach them. Some include:

  • Emails announcing the survey
  • Links on your website to the survey
  • Display ads or e-newsletter ads that promote the survey
  • Posts on social media

8. Compile and Analyze Results

Most survey tools will provide analytical reports on quantitative survey results. You can typically view compiled results at any time while the survey is still running. You can create charts and graphs that are easy to understand and share.

Qualitative data you will need to read and interpret. If you uncover interesting information, you may want to follow up with a respondent (if they give permission) to dig deeper or perhaps to request a case study.

9. Take Action

The purpose of conducting the survey is to gain new intelligence and actionable information. Compile your results into a white paper or webinar, share with product development to help shape product direction, consider changes in marketing investments or use the results in other meaningful ways.

One thing to keep in mind: before making any major decisions based on survey results, make sure you have a statistically valid dataset. The number of respondents you need is based on a number of variables. Calculators can help determine a statistically valid sample size. Your survey tool may offer one, or they may be found on the internet.

 

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