5 Tips for Online Surveys that Build Relationships and Drive Sales

  |  December 9, 2013   |  Comments

No matter what the intent of your survey, it's a communication that will influence the respondent's feelings about and relationship with your company.

survey-excellent-good-fair-poorOnline surveys are a great way to learn about your e-mail subscribers. You can do surveys to get a read on just about anything, from customer satisfaction after a purchase to how readers feel about your free e-mail newsletter.

But here's the thing to keep in mind: no matter what the intent of your survey, it's a communication that will influence the respondent's feelings about and relationship with your company. Do it well and you'll not only get the answers to your survey questions, you'll build brand loyalty and may even drive some sales.

I was reminded of this recently when I was reviewing the first draft of a survey developed by a client. In this case, it was a survey to gauge customer satisfaction following a purchase. Here are five tips for doing it well.

1. Branding Goes Beyond Your Logo

It's good to include your company logo on each page of the survey, but this alone isn't going to make it your own. It rings hollow if everything else on the page is generic and sterile. Every interaction a prospect or customer has with your company impacts their perception of it. Popping your logo on a survey which doesn't reflect the voice of your brand doesn't help the relationship and may even hurt it. It's like your brand has momentarily morphed into a zombie; and don't think customers won't notice.

2. Look at the Flow from the E-mail to the Survey

As e-mail marketers, it's our job to put ourselves in the shoes of our recipients; what is their experience going to be, from start to finish. In this case, there was a well-crafted, somewhat tongue-in-cheek e-mail that would be sent with a link to the survey.

The e-mail was right in line with the company's brand; landing on the first page of the generic survey was like a bait-and-switch. It's a fun brand and the e-mail was promising another fun interaction -- and then it was all blah-blah-blah business. A major disconnect, and one that I've seen result in large abandon rates with previous clients.

3. Work with a Copywriter

Yes, you read that right. Even if you don't consider this a marketing initiative (I would argue that most interactions should at least secondarily be considered marketing initiatives, but I digress), it is customer-facing and professional copy is needed. I recommend that clients figure out what they want to ask and how they want to ask it, then bring in the copywriter who wrote the e-mail to massage the survey and bring it in line with the voice of the brand.

4. Work with a Designer

As I said, brand goes beyond your logo. If your brand sells products that are visual, this is critical; if your offering isn't visual, it's less important.
In the case of this client, I've recommended they include small images of different products on each page of the survey. Not only does this add visual interest, it starts planting the seeds for their next purchase, which we hope is right around the corner (see the next item).

5. Offer a Thank You

To offer an incentive or not to offer an incentive, that is the question. Many brands don't want to get their prospects or customers in the habit of expecting a discount, and I get that. But I feel like a survey is different.

This person has just taken their time to provide feedback that should help your company; they deserve some kind of thank you. Verbal thanks is good, a third-party gift card is great, but the incentive that makes the most sense for a survey like this one is some sort of deal on your next order.

There are a few ways to do this; I recommend that companies test to see which drives the best balance of quantity and quality of survey responses and revenue.

  1. Promote the thank you offer in the e-mail: this should result in a high quantity of people clicking through to take your survey, but you'll want to see if their survey responses are high quality. Revenue should be pretty high as well, as they likely have a purchase in mind before they click-through. Want you don't want is people rushing through the survey without much care or thought, just to get to the discount. 
  2. Don't mention the thank you offer in the e-mail, but include it on the first page of the survey: in this case, the incentive won't drive people from the e-mail to the survey (lower quantity), but it should help motivate those who click-through to complete the survey. This should provide a good balance of high quality responses (but fewer than if the incentive were mentioned in the e-mail) and revenue. 
  3. Don't mention the thank you offer until the last page of the survey: in this case, the offer would have no impact on the quantity or quality of responses, it would strictly be a nice surprise for those who completed the survey. It definitely gives you a pure survey results, since people are taking their time to give you feedback with no expectation of a reward. But I would expect this approach to generate much less revenue than the other two. 

Bookmark this column for the next time you do a survey -- or take a look at any surveys you currently have in market and see if you can improve the branding, as well as the quantity and quality of response and the revenue it generates.

Until next time,

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Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.

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