Storefront? Check. Website? Check. Marketing plan? Check.
Business is growing at a good pace, however you have a persistent question. “Do I really know my customers?” Sure, some of them are regulars and, you, the business owner or manager, may have the opportunity to see them in person, talk on the phone or connect through social media. But do you understand your customer’s interests, behaviors and demographics? What motivates them and what is important to them?
And the light bulb goes off. You’ll create a customer feedback survey! Great idea, but where do you start and where do you learn how to create a marketing research survey?
The good news is in today’s business environment, it’s never been easier to collect information about your customers. Yet before a survey is launched, you need a plan. So let’s tackle that using the Five W’s, with a twist in this blog post about how to survey your customers.
The first thing you will want to consider before writing a single question is why you will ask your customers to take a survey. What are you seeking to learn? What questions about your business are you trying to answer or decisions do you need to make? For example, if you have a retail store, do you want to know what type of merchandise customers are looking for? Do you need to know how far customers travel to shop at your store and if they visit your website? Are they engaged with social media and do they read reviews? How do they find out about your sales? Snap Surveys suggests evoking discussion in a survey and to give respondents the opportunity to discuss important key topics. Identify the purpose of your research before moving on to the next step.
What survey tool or vendor will you use? There are endless possibilities so if you have not previously polled your customers, it’s a good idea to do some homework. There are many online survey services available and some are free for a basic package and offer survey templates and sample questions. Enhanced online survey services are available as well with costs posted.
If you plan to tackle this effort on your own, realize there is a learning curve and the project will require your time and attention from start to finish. Local marketing companies may provide survey services and many of the online vendors have full-service available so consider all the options – and costs – and decide what’s right for your business. The survey should be unbiased and expert help is available. As you begin to formulate a list of questions, Survey Monkey recommends keeping the survey pretty short. The company looked at two years of data and reported that 50 percent of all the surveys during that time period had 12 or fewer questions. Higher up the scale, 75 percent had 21 or fewer questions and 90 percent had 31 or fewer questions.
A few online vendors include:
WHO AND WHERE
Who will you invite to participate in your survey? Where will you promote? Learning how to survey your customers is almost as important as the survey itself! If you have a small or medium size business, you may be able to implement a variety of tactics including sending the survey invitation via email to a customer database, posting the survey notice with link on your website, sharing through social media and handing out survey invitation cards at your place of business. You may decide to offer an incentive prize for respondents who complete the survey and provide contact information.
Also when considering the Who and Where, perhaps plan for several surveys during the year to hunt and gather data at different times for different purposes.
When is the best time to offer a survey? This may depend on the seasonality of your specific type of business however always keep seasons in mind. Consider avoiding November and December unless you are incorporating a holiday theme. The summer vacation travel season may also present challenges as far as participation. If spring and fall work for your business, consider getting those on the calendar and plan accordingly.
Organizing a survey program including creating and finalizing the questionnaire, working with the vendor partner, coordinating the marketing efforts such as social media and other promotions and other details typically takes 30-60 days however that could be a shorter or longer period based on the complexity of the project. Make a big marketing splash when the survey is first launched. Survey Monkey suggests that collecting survey responses for at least a week can result in pulling in a broad range of people and opinions. Depending on your goals for the response rate, you may keep the survey open for several weeks and can monitor activity throughout the process.
Once the survey is closed, it’s time to pull reports and analyze the survey data. All the effort and hard work has paid off and, hopefully, you have received suggestions, feedback and comments from your customers. Importantly, you have collected demographic and other valuable information. Lastly, you probably have many new customer email addresses and have expanded your customer database. Now, you will have the ability to develop target personas for your customer profile and establish your best practices for marketing to your customer base.
There is one final step that resides with you, the business owner or manager. Based on what you’ve learned from the survey results, are there steps you can take to improve the customer experience and propel your business to the next level? You now have reliable data and information to determine the best next steps.