Three Tips for Creating More Effective Surveys

Online surveys can be used to achieve many objectives, from engaging audiences and driving website traffic to collecting valuable insights from target audiences – be it customers, prospects or industry peers. And, these days, creating an online survey is a fast and easy process, especially when using popular tools like SurveyMonkey or Kwiksurveys.

But do you know how to create a truly effective survey? Here are three fast tips for making sure your survey is interesting to your audience and useful to you:

1. Identify the survey’s objective. This sounds like an obvious thing, but it’s surprising how often surveys – longer ones in particular – go off the rails. Figure out what it is you’re hoping to learn from respondents and make sure every question supports that goal. On a similar note, make sure to let your audience know exactly why you want their opinion. If it’s to improve your product or service, or guide the development of new ones, tell them.

2. Keep it simple. I admit it – I’m a proponent of shorter surveys, the kind that maybe asks only three or four questions and takes just a minute of my time. Have you ever been sent a survey that tells you up front that it should only take about fifteen minutes to complete? I have, and unless it’s on a topic I care deeply about, I tend not to participate as I just don’t have the time. Certainly, research firms do conduct larger surveys and that’s fine. But for businesses polling customers or prospects, I guarantee that shorter surveys will get a greater response.

3. Include an optional comment box if your survey tool supports it. Surveys typically have yes/no questions, ask you to rate something according to scale (e.g., one is worst, five is best), or provide multiple choice responses to a question and ask you to pick the most appropriate one. Having an optional comment box at the end of a survey allows respondents to provide insights that even the best designed questions are unable to ferret out.

After survey development, the next most important aspect is determining “how” you actually plan to disseminate it to your desired audience. For maximum convenience, you can send targeted respondents a survey directly via email. Or, if you’re hoping to drive traffic, that email could instead contain a link that takes them to the survey on your website. With tools such as SurveyMonkey, you can even embed a survey into Facebook. This is beneficial for enhancing social media engagement while at the same time collecting important data. In my opinion, all these methods of dissemination have value, so select the one that’s right for your specific needs and situation.  

These days, online surveys have become so easy and inexpensive that there really isn’t a reason not to do one. Not to mention, survey results can give you new content for sharing through social platforms. If you’re doing a survey that’s broader than just your business – for instance, polling respondents on an industry-wide issue – communicating the results can also help to position you as a thought leader.

How are you using surveys in 2014? Will they be part of your marketing, customer service or product development activities?

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