5 Ways Surveys Can Help Your Small Business

With so many cheap and easy survey applications online, your business has no excuse for not polling your customers.
June 11, 2012

While marketers have long used surveys as a key tool, online variations now make the process of surveying your customers so easy, it’s almost a crime not to do it.

By using surveys routinely, you can demonstrate that you value your customer’s opinions while also gaining important information about the kinds of product, services and enhancements they might be willing to actually pay for.

Here are different ways to survey your customers:

1. Market analysis. The most obvious reason for launching a survey in business is to find out what your market prefers, or what needs it identifies as important. Asking questions about the choices people make when interacting with products or services like yours will turn up valuable information for your future plans.

2. Tracking performance. You can use a short survey simply to keep your operations in order. You can ask for customer feedback regarding their experiences with your company and use that information to keep track of how well you and your staff are doing. Call centers, for instance, often track performance this way.

3. Customer follow-up. Sending a more detailed survey immediately following a sale (particularly for more expensive items) is often revealing in terms of how well you are answering the customer's needs. It is also an important way to show the customer that you are grateful for your interactions and that you're dedicated to continual improvement.

4. Customer demographics. Another way to deepen your relationship with customers is to provide a survey that asks them about themselves: their preferences, their lives, their problems and challenges, even beyond the area your business serves. You can then use this data for product and service development and even in developing key strategic partner relationships.

5. Crowd sourcing. Undecided about the name or logo for your new product or business? Looking for the perfect addition to your already great inventory? Wondering what service is most needed in your local downtown district? Ask your customers to vote. Most people like to chime in when offered a few choices.

Tools to Use

If you're a brick-and-mortar business, you can use questionnaires filled out in person or do "man on the street" surveys conducted by your staff or a consulting agency.

Online, the choices are plentiful. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Survey Monkey leads the field in terms of popularity and ease of use. Moreover, it's free for up to 100 responses per survey. Survey Monkey has joined forces with Zoomerang, thus enhancing its offerings and services.
  • Survey Gizmo carries a monthly fee, but there are no limits to the number of surveys or respondents, and the software allows for seamless branding of the survey instrument.
  • PollDaddy is another great option, created by the WordPress.com team. The tool offers polls, quizzes, surveys and ratings instruments, as well as a ton of other features. Up to 200 responses per month and a maximum of 10 questions per survey can be had for free.
  • You may also be interested in the type of survey offered by KISSinsights, which allows just two questions per popup survey on your site. If you write eye-catching, provocative questions, this could be an efficient way to gather vital information.
  • Constant Contact, the popular e-mail software, also offers a survey tool. Though there's a cost for the service, if you already have a paid account, this may be your least expensive and easiest option.

Of course, your choice of tools will depend on what kind of information you're gathering and from whom. A quick look at the above websites will give you a broad overview of the many possibilities.

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.

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