[Business Tips} A Fresh Look At Surveys

It is part of our human nature, as social creatures  craving acceptance, to wonder what others think of us.  As business owners too, we often wonder whether our customers are interested in our products, drawn in by our photography,  and engaged in our stories.  It can be hard to ask what others think of us, once we’ve moved beyond the approval-seeking surveys of the schoolyard. However, the truth is that  if you want to improve your products, get to know your customers, and grow your business, there’s only one way to do it – by asking lots of questions.

Stay with me here… You might hate surveys – I, for one, certainly do.  I can’t stand survey pop-ups, I never answer phone surveys, and I run away from clip-board-toting mall employees.  And I really, really don’t like Amazon and Ebay sending me emails reminding me that I need to leave feedback for recent purchases.  But I do use surveys regularly, and successfully, in my own business.  The key difference here is CHOICE.  Today I want to share some ideas to help you effectively, and unobtrusively, elicit feedback from your customers in a way that will have them begging for questions to answer.

First, let’s take a look at the benefits of surveying your customers.

Authentic Feedback.  Surveys give you detailed, specific, and honest feedback on the criteria that are important to you, in a way that feedback systems cannot.

More Page Hits.  Not that page hits directly translate into sales, but brick and mortar sellers know that there is a direct correlation between the length of time a customer spends in the store and how much they ultimately spend.  The longer they stay, the more they see.  Don’t over-do this one though, as no one likes to feel stuck in a store they are ready to leave.

Credibility.  A professional-looking survey shows your customers that you are interested in learning about their preferences, hearing their concerns, and improving your products.  Having a reputation for innovation goes a long way to build your customer confidence and brand loyalty.

Educate Indirectly.  Because you create the questions, you can suggestively educate your customers about what criteria are key in making your product stand out against the competition.  For example, instead of “What kind of lotion do you like?”, try “Which is the most appealing feature of this lotion – it is packaged in glass, it does not contain paraben preservatives, or it is scented with essential oils?”

Now let’s look at some reasons why your customer might want to take a survey.

They want to help you.  As Etsy sellers, we work very hard to be real people with our customers.  They buy our stories as much as they buy our wares.  Asking for their help allows them a chance to participate in our stories.  If you offer your customers freebies or samples, it is a great idea to include a survey code to solicit feedback.  I include a business card with all of my samples, and if I send something I am currently running a survey for, I will put a sticker on the back of the business card that says, “Please enjoy this complimentary sample of my new ___.  If you are interested in giving your feedback about this item, please take this survey at _____ and earn a discount on a future purchase.”  It is a great way to combine the benefits of sending samples (getting your product into the customer’s hand) with choice (your customer can opt to either enjoy your product harassment-free, or earn a coupon for completing a survey).  It’s a win-win!

They love to answer questions about themselves.  Facebook polls are a great way to take a super-quick pulse from your fan base, and if you ask them about themselves, they can’t help but answer.  Ask one quick question every other week or so,  and you’ll get lots of feedback trickling in, without overwhelming your customers.  Myra, of HerbanLuxe uses a quick facebook poll to take a quick read of her fans.  When she asked, “Which color of mascara would you like to see?” she received an overwhelming number of votes for brown, black and blue, and not so much for green.  This helps her know which of her ideas are hot, and which to drop.

There’s something in it for them.  This is important – as Karen, of EcoKaren.etsy.com pointed out, unless there’s a crisp dollar bill in the envelope, surveys are just not really all that appealing.  I like to offer a coupon at the end of the survey, as a thank you for taking the time to help me out.  If you use Survey Monkey (there are other free survey makers out there too), you can put the coupon code in the last page of your survey, so they only see it when the survey is complete.  You can also offer a drawing for freebies from among completed surveys.  Another idea, offer one discount for doing the survey (say 15%), and another percentage (say 20%) for posting a favorable review on a personal blog or facebook page.

What if you don’t have an established fan base?  How can you get your surveys into prospective buyers’ hands?

If your items are easily packaged into sample sizes, send your survey with real samples of product.  Either post on your own blog, or borrow space on an established blog, advertising your need for product testers.  You pay for the postage to send out the samples, and receive a wealth of feedback in return.  Yes, it is a monetary investment, but if you carefully design your survey, you will not find a cheaper way to collect valuable market data.

Give an incentive for those who do take your survey, and who share the survey with their friends.  If one of your survey lines asks for the email of the person who referred them to your site, you can give a reward for those customers who bring you, say 5 new respondents.

There are many articles out there on the ‘nets about using surveys to build  your business, such as the blog of Josh Gordon, author of the book Selling 2.0: Motivating Customers in the new Economy.  Easy (and free) survey tools I have used include Survey Monkey and Zoomerang, and also Facebook.  All are fairly straight-forward and easy to use.  If you need some ideas to get you started on your own survey, you can have a look at one of mine here.

Do you have any experience using surveys, or do you have a new survey to link in the comments below?

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  1. Tiffany @ Picnicbasketcrafts says:

    Thanks for your comment, Myra! I would love to hear how it goes for you! If you make a survey, post it here – I’d be happy to take it. (-:

  2. Tiffany, this is a great post. I tend to offer free samples but never thought of tying it to a survey. I’m going to have to test that one out.