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Online Surveys - A Go-To Source for Today's 'Net Pros

Posted on 9.02.2014

By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

When it comes to online surveys, what marketers don’t know can hurt them. Their biases and misconceptions can influence the questions asked, as well as the business decisions affected.

The antidote, according to SurveyGizmo Marketing Specialist Sandy McKee, is to fill in the gaps to help marketers understand best practices, avoid question biases and think about end results. This often means starting backward – questioning the problem that needs to be solved, the kind of data that is required and whether a business decision can be validated. For instance, if a company is preparing to hold a conference but had low registration numbers the previous year, it will want to find out why its event didn’t perform well, what event topics would be more popular and perhaps whether the conference is worth doing at all.

Luckily, survey solutions from vendors like Constant Contact, Survey Monkey, Zoho Surveys and SurveyGizmo have made creating, distributing and analyzing this data source incredibly easy and effective - at least when best practices are followed.

Driving Open Rates

Email remains the primary channel in which surveys are distributed, which means marketers are facing a 17 percent average open rate (in the e-commerce industry), according to MailChimp. When asking a favor (e.g. provide feedback), those numbers are likely a lot lower. Clearly, the email subject line becomes very important.

McKee and Zoho Evangelist Raju Vegesna both agree that subject lines should be straightforward - telling recipients feedback is being requested. Better yet, SurveyGizmo client The Humane Society knows what its audience is passionate about, so the subject line, “Your Feedback Can Make a Difference” would likely compel animal lovers to open this message.

Even the most passionate audiences, however, will want to know how long surveys will take to complete. Marketers should include a survey length indicator (e.g. six questions or two minutes). Additionally, displaying a progress bar is a best practice. So, what is the optimal survey length? Well that depends on an audience, of course.

MEGA LIST of Survey Tips

Companies struggling to get useful feedback and turning those insights into action, should go to

Encouraging Completions

Just like The Humane Society uses its audiences’ passions to persuade them to open an email, companies can gauge their audiences’ willingness to answer surveys based on what’s important to them. Zoho recently held an event and its staff wanted to know about their attendees’ experience and where they could improve. In the context of the event, Zoho knew recipients were more willing to answer questions about the event’s content (e.g. speakers) and not about the food, for example. After emailing its conference attendees, Zoho proved its case. Recipients were willing to answer an impressive 10-12 questions.

In many cases, however, respondents won’t complete a survey, so marketers should put their most important questions near the beginning and all answers should be captured in real-time – meaning as soon as the question is answered, the answer is captured just in case a user doesn’t finish. Zoho Survey, Constant Contact and SurveyGizmo all have partial-save features.

The Rest of the Best

Avoiding redundant questions and using advanced logic may also increase the likeliness of getting completed surveys, as respondents won’t become frustrated with the experience. Advanced logic refers to the practice of when subsequent questions take previous questions’ answers into consideration. Advanced logic can improve the user experience and the survey answers themselves as customers aren’t criticizing the survey for not remembering, for example, that they didn’t attend a certain seminar and so questions about that session shouldn’t be asked. Instead, when advanced logic is used, they may answer questions more thoughtfully.

Making It Count

Getting a steady stream of customer feedback is an essential part of business growth but not the end-goal.

“Of course, you have to actually act on the feedback they’re giving you, whether that’s input on how to improve your customer service, ideas for hosting more informative events or ways to improve the navigation on your website,” said Ron Cates, director of digital marketing education at Constant Contact. “You have to demonstrate that you take the feedback seriously.”

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