Online Surveys, Part 1: Instant Marketing Intelligence

What do your customers really want? Before online surveys, you could only guess… unless you wanted to invest in an expensive, full-fledged marketing survey.

Now, you can create that survey yourself, send it by email, and begin receiving results just a few minutes after a recipient answers the last question.

Benefits of online surveys:

  • Cheap. A typical email survey costs about half of a traditional mailed survey. No paper, postage, printing, or lettershop required, nor return postage to send the survey back.

  • Fast. The majority of responses are back in less than a week (usually sooner). Analysis can be virtually instantaneous.
  • Effective. You’d be lucky if a mail survey generated 10 percent response. Online surveys often produce response rates as high as 50 percent.

The advantages of having a finger on the pulse of your customer’s needs, wants, and expectations can’t be overestimated. Not only can you generate hard data for better decision making, but by posing open-ended questions you’ll capture your target audience’s thoughts. You can use these testimonials in your marketing efforts.

In coming weeks, we’ll present case studies illustrating the strength of this powerful marketing and research tool, along with advice from marketing managers, marketing research professionals, and email solution providers on what works and what to watch out for.

To show just how much an online survey can improve marketing efforts, let’s look at a recent success story from one of Karen’s clients, Gartner Events.

Online Survey Case Study No. 1

The Gartner 2002 Data Center Conference doubled registration over the previous year with a promotional campaign that highlighted comments from a preconference survey.

Victoria Cowles, Gartner’s senior manager of direct marketing, U.S. conferences, said, “We count our preconference surveys as a marketing touch in our campaign. Not only do we gain valuable insights, but survey respondents are so enthusiastic and engaged in sharing their experience from prior conferences with us that they often register for the next event as a result of the survey.”

Gartner’s preconference survey is sent before the first save-the-date email. According to Cowles, “While we do get registrations as a direct result of the survey, you’re not really selling at this point. It’s about relationship-building.”

The survey was sent to conference attendees from the past three years. It included questions about conference content and marketing issues. By asking open-ended questions, Gartner received thoughtful responses from IT executives on conference topics that resonate, as well as issues that keep them up at night.

At this early stage in the conference development cycle, planners used this market research to tailor event sessions to what their audience most wanted to hear about. Then, as copywriter for the promotion cycle, Karen built a campaign around these testimonials in email and print and demonstrated Gartner really is in touch with attendee concerns. In a sense, past attendees “sold” the conference better than the company could have.

As an incentive, a gift certificate for each completed survey was offered. In an innovative twist, an additional incentive for referrals was added. Tara Castellano, events marketing manager, reports a full 50 percent of those surveyed recommended a colleague, increasing the database by 40 highly qualified prospects.

Survey results were nearly instantaneous, allowing real-time decision-making. According to Castellano, “As soon as the respondent hits ’Done’ at the bottom of the survey, we receive the results on our end. We can immediately get a sense of what our attendees want early in the conference development cycle, when it really matters most.” Gartner expects even greater success for the next conference, based on what it’s learned about attendee needs and expectations from online surveys.

Get the sense online surveys are worth learning more about? Stay tuned for case studies from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, University of North Carolina Wellness Center, Advanstar, and Strategic Surveys International. Got online survey results to share? Send them along to Karen.

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