Long Live the Survey

Do you know how your customers perceive your brand? How they are using your product? Or what they would like to see in your next product line? It’s simple to find out: send them an online survey!

As a marketing agency we find out everything there is to know about your customer before spending one minute strategizing. We do this in multiple ways: demographic segmentation, outlining the buying process, defining the interests and influencers, finding drivers that convert to sales, etc. What we really want to understand is what your customer values most about your product or service. Are they are using your product in a certain way? What is their experience with your brand in their own words? To grasp this, we do surveys.

Do Surveys Work?

Here are some recent stats on an email survey we conducted that prove they do:

Survey Stats

  • 40% participation rate
  • 66% response rate on optional questions
  • 15% of respondents left raving testimonials

What did we learn from this survey as marketers?

  • How customers are interacting with the product
  • How the product has changed their lives
  • What features they use most
  • What features they would like to see in the future
  • How much they are willing to pay for future products
  • If they would recommend it to a friend
  • Patterns among superuser customers

This is invaluable information for us moving forward with positioning, messaging, product development and community development giving us the insight and motivation we need to build customer centric acquisition and retention strategies.

The Essentials

There are two essential elements to maximizing responses and yielding accurate and useful answers in an email online survey: the subject line and the questions.

Subject Line

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 10.10.18 PM

Subject lines are key to your open rate. Here are some tips to getting it right. You can segment your email list to test subject lines.

  • Mention your company in the first three words
  • Clearly state that it is a survey
  • Let customers know the time required for the survey if it is short
  • If your survey is long, mention the prize or gift you’ll give in exchange for participation (you must give customers something for their time).
  • Keep it short and simple


What to ask and how to ask it is not an easy task. Your questions need to be read fast and easy to understand. Basic tips for questions are:

  • Get your customer’s experience in their own words. Giving them drop-down options only limits them and prevents you from seeing outside the box. Yes, it is longer for you to read and analyze, but open-ended questions will give you much more insight. Plus, customers feel valued when they are asked to give their opinion.
  • Ask what they like and dislike about your product or service.
  • Understand what features they value most by asking them to rate or rank them in order of importance.
  • Never ask hypothetical questions such as ‘would you buy this’. Rather, ask how important the product or solution is to them or how it would impact their lives.
  • Never ask leading questions such as ‘such as how time consuming is this process’. Rather, ask how many minutes or hours it takes.
  • Always ask if they would recommend your service or product to a friend.
  • Always try to get a testimonial – these are invaluable assets to any company.
  • Write your copy like you are a human, not a business. Email surveys are personal, so talk person to person.
  • My general rule is no more than 10 questions.
  • Keep in mind question logic. If a respondent answers ‘no’ to question #2 – ‘do you use our product?’ and question #3 is ‘what do like the most about our product?’, well question #3 is not relevant. Have that respondent jump to the next relevant question. Illogical questions will lead to response drop rates or worse, false answers.

There you have it folks. My business case on why surveys are invaluable and my plea to better understand your customers. If you have any tips or questions, let me know in the comments below!

This entry was posted in Misc on by .

About Beth Thouin

Beth Thouin, COO & Partner at Brendan & Brendan is a marketing scientist, speaker and startup mentor with seasoned experience in lean product development, customer validation, inbound marketing and optimization.

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