Surveys: What to Do With Them, How to Launch Them

Surveys: What to Do With Them, How to Launch Them

November 28, 2017

Hello everyone, welcome to another Digitize Your Firm webinar – with me, Stephen, your host! Today we’re going to foray into a favorite topic of mine: surveys!

For anyone joining us who is a survey expert or for those who are just starting out, I welcome all comments and questions, simply click the green speech bubble at the top of the screen to open the chat and either type out your comment or ask to speak. If you haven’t already, be sure to click the ‘phone’ icon next to it the chat icon to ensure your audio is connected.

As with all Digitize Your Firm webinars, this will be recorded for later playback in case you wanted extra time with a certain section or for listening on the go. If you haven’t already, please visit the Weekly Webinar Schedule on our Digitize Your Firm page to check out our past webinars.

Now, let’s go over today’s agenda.


We’ll start with why you should be using surveys, but going into just what you can do with them. We’ll touch in how you can put your survey into action, before closing out with our regular review and the topic for next week.

Sound good? Let’s go!

Why use surveys?

Today – we’re talking online surveys.

“Surveys?” you say. “Why are we going to learn about surveys?”

I’m glad you asked!

By taking advantage of online surveys your business can:

  • help identify differences across market segments
  • help developers of products, services, or programs to gauge the market’s response to new development concepts
  • reveal audience preferences for design, features, applications, etc
  • measure customer service satisfaction levels and identify weaknesses and strengths in your strategy or processes
  • evaluate attitudes of customers, clients, and employees
  • reveal how the market feels about your competitors’ products and positioning
  • measure the effectiveness, clarity, or emotional impact of a message to an audience

This is all great and good – but how do surveys truly help you?

What can you do with surveys?

So, you have heard of online surveys but how exactly can they benefit your company or business? Before I dive into best practices and the designing of a survey, let’s focus on what exactly there is to gain by asking questions.

1. Collect Valuable Data In Real-Time

The purpose of creating and sending out online surveys is to collect data, as with any traditional survey. Whether it is market research for your product or researching industry trends, an online survey is the best way to get results fast. The great thing about online surveys is that you can create them in almost no time at all and be collecting data. Then once the results are coming in, you can review them in almost real-time due to everything being online and accessible 24 hours/day.

2. Learn from Your Results

Online surveys are great for collecting customer input about your product or service. Send one out every few months to better gauge customer satisfaction, enquire into new feature ideas, learn how customers are using your product or service, and record any general feedback. I also recommend having feedback outlets on your website or application all the time. Use the surveys as a larger request a few times a year. This way you are sure to get the biggest sample of your audience. It should go without saying that the key is to take what you learn and put it into practice. Customers will be happy to see their input being put to good use and, more importantly, will keep providing you with feedback. If they think you are not listening they will stop trying to help you out and maybe even stop using your service altogether.

3. Become a Thought Leader

No matter the topic of your survey, the results will be valuable data. But what if you could turn that data into lead generation and present your company as an authority or leader? It is very possible. If you conduct an online survey about industry trends, for example, you will find yourself holding a lot of valuable data in your hands. Chances are, other people in your industry are going to find it valuable too. Publishing your data with a thorough analysis of its implications will position you as a thought leader on that topic and generate new leads and followers for your company. Publishing such information to other B2B and B2C marketers not only has benefits for you but it provides information that benefits them as well.

4. Turn Data into Content

If you do choose to publish your online survey results, get creative with the kinds of content you can produce. Not only can you publish your data in a press release, but you can also turn it into a blog post, infographic, video, marketing ebook or a case study. People love visuals when it comes to statistics and data, so keep that in mind and take advantage of graphs and charts to make the data less intimidating and more understandable.

As you can see, you can gain a lot from a simple online survey without any significant investments in time or money.

Before Making an Online Survey

Okay, so you now understand why you should be asking questions to your customers, readers and anyone else you want to target. But what else should you work on before laying out your survey? Some important questions need to be answered before even considering designing a survey. In fact these questions are important to consider before even deciding whether a questionnaire survey is the right way to go.

First ask yourself or your team:

What is it that you really want to find out with your research?

Can the survey help me find answers for this problem?

Who are the right people to ask?

How can you reach them?

What is needed to make them understand your questions?

These are just a few of the issues you need to be clear about before you even decide that an online survey is the way to go.

So, you have come to the final conclusion that a survey is the way to go. Great decision! Otherwise, this guide would not be that helpful going forward now would it?

What Makes A Good Survey?

There are 3 features of an online survey which are a must for success.

The questions are clear and precise, collectively allowing for detailed, unambiguous and meaningful answers.

All predefined answers provided and their formats are appropriate to the question.

There is room for people to add additional information if they need to.

On top of that, always keep the user experience in mind. This is very important. Look at the survey as a person answering it. If you have trouble with certain questions, take them out. Reading, scrolling and clicking can be tedious options, so:

Avoid any unnecessary questions.

Use conditions to avoid asking questions not relevant for a specific participant.

Keep questions and answers short and easily readable.

Think about the trade-off between scrolling and clicking. Display everything on one page for short questionnaires (5-15 questions). Use grouping wisely for longer questionnaires.

Avoid confusing participants with different scales, i.e. limit the amount of different scale types, scale scopes and scale descriptions as much as possible. Try not to change the direction of scales.

For rating scales it might be useful to use an even number of rating options so the user has to decide for a certain direction.

There are so many types of online surveys that it is hard to truly define what makes a good survey. But the above details are tried and true examples of what to include and plan out for your next questionnaire or data gathering expedition.

Launching Your Survey

Now that you understand the logic behind an online survey and what best practices to follow, it is time to create, design and craft your masterpiece. Surveys are more than adding questions to a list and publishing. A successful online survey is a work of art and takes time to create.

Here is a process that I find works best when putting together a survey. Some of these points are repeated from the best practices section. This is not a mistake. It is to clearly let you know that they are very important to do. I will cover the look and feel, including images, graphics and more after breaking down the skeleton of the survey.

Step 1 – Define your goals

Before you write your questionnaire, ask yourself and your colleagues, “What do we want to learn?”

Make a list of research objectives and narrow it down to your top 3-5 goals. There is no sense bothering your list of respondents if you don’t know what you need in the first place.

Step 2 – Create list of questions

Think of all the questions possible that pertain to each of your goals. Don’t restrict yourself by type of question or number of questions. Simply write everything that you would ask a potential respondent if you could. Use plain language that can be refined later on. Don’t sweat the small stuff at this stage.

Step 3 – Refine your survey

Choose the best 10-20 questions from step 2, making sure you have a good mix of research goals. Refine each question one by one by making it into one of the types below.

  • Rating scale: Respondents will answer this question using a range, the most popular being 1-4 (no option for neutral) and 1-5 (typical scale question with a neutral option). Example: “Please rate your satisfaction with our email marketing product on a scale of 1-5”
  • Multiple choice, one answer: Respondents must choose a single answer from a list. Example: “Which type of marketing most influenced you to sign up to our application?” where the options are search engine, newsletter, online ad, blog post etc.
  • Multiple choice, multiple answers: Respondents select one or more options from a list of answers. Example: “Which types of marketing helped convince you to sign up for our product?” A respondent who had found you on a search engine and a blog post could answer yes to both.
  • Matrix of choices, one answer per row: Use this to ask the same question about multiple items. Example: If you want your customers to rate satisfaction for 10 features, you can group these features together and ask for the same rating.
  • Matrix of choices, multiple answers per row: Respondents have the flexibility to select any box in a matrix. Example: “Please select what type of marketing you would use to promote your business.” Respondents could then say they used Twitter, Facebook, press releases, PPC ads etc.
  • Ranking questions: This question forces respondents to put a preselected list of items in order. Example: “Please rank the list of product features listed below by your satisfaction with each.”
  • Open text – one answer: Respondents can answer whatever they like, giving you a more qualitative gauge of how well your company is meeting its objectives. This is also a great place to gather testimonials with a question like “Why would you recommend our company to a colleague?”
  • Open text – multiple answers: Here you can discover choices that you don’t know or cannot predict. If you’re not very familiar with what features your customers even value, you can have respondents list the features they want and normalize the responses.

Step 4 – Transform yes/no questions

If you have any yes/no questions in your survey, try to transform them into rating questions. For example, change this question: “Are you satisfied with our product?” into this one: “Please rate your satisfaction with our product on a scale of 1-5.”

Step 5 – Engage with a welcome page

Why would someone want to take your survey? What is in it for them? You have a short amount of time to engage a person to actually take your survey, so make it count. In a short and concise way, you need to explain why they should take the survey, what it will do and what they will get out of it (incentive, improved service etc.) Less is more for this stage of the game. Also give the respondent a time frame of how long the survey will take.

Step 6 – Start your survey with a grounding question

Begin your questionnaire with a generic question like “How satisfied are you with our product?” By doing this, you can compare the other ratings to this initial one. This can also serve as a great satisfaction benchmark over time.

Step 7 – Thank you, thank you, thank you

Thank your respondents and provide a call to action. The survey is done, so now what? On a thank you page, you could explain what will happen with the results, promote a coupon code and link to buy, or more information on your company. This is a critical touch point where the respondent is ready to act. Make it count.

Step 8 – Test your survey by phone

Call some of your potential respondents or those helping you test and see how they answer your questions. Look for any misunderstandings or areas where you could further clarify what you want. You would be amazed at how you can optimize by actually saying things out loud.

Step 9 – Market your survey

If you have a customer list, sending emails with an incentive works well in generating responses. Your customers know a lot about you from first-hand experience, and surveying them will help you enormously. Don’t go overboard with the incentive though, because then you will just get people who are taking the survey to win or score the prize. Their answers may not have any value as they just rushed through to get to the end. Another example would be for testing website usability. Simply post a link to your survey on your homepage, or as a pop-up on exiting your website.

Step 10 – Compile responses

Make sure you have an easy way to get your responses into a spreadsheet. Most survey software services will provide simple exporting functions. You will want to explore responses in different ways, cross-tabulating different questions and comparing to any in-house data you have. You will have a lot of data to comb through, so making sure you are collecting it and able to look at it in a simple way is important.

Step 11 – Analyze the responses

Look at the survey data you have collected, preferably with a visual analytics if available. This will help you understand how your respondents are thinking and what they want. Whenever you come across an actionable piece of information, take note. As a business, you want to be able to spot trends and act on them. A nice pie chart or graph showing what customers are feeling is great for that.

Step 12 – Compile your report

Focus on the initial goals of your research and show your conclusions. Are customers happy with your product? Yes, they rated us at 4.7 / 5.0. Which features do they find most important? They care most about A and B. Are they satisfied with what they think is important? They love A, but aren’t as keen on how we present B. As you are going over these points, are they matching up with your initial plan of what you wanted to learn?

Step 13 – Create an action plan

List the actions you hope to take regarding each conclusion. Do the results show that customer service seems to be lacking after hours? Then add “look into adding more support after closes” to your action plan. If customers consider feature C very important, but don’t seem satisfied, do more research to find out why. This is where you can drill down on another survey and focus entirely on feature C in this case.

Lessons Learned

1. Surveys and fantastic – and often underutilized – tools that can open you to a plethora of insights that you may not have otherwise known. They are extremely malleable when it comes to purpose from employee happiness to customer satisfaction, event feedback, opinion farming, and more.

To put it simply – they hold the key to answering many of the burning questions you often ask when planning promotions, internal initiatives, and seeking to learn more about your contact base.

2. We learned that surveys are powerful tools – they can help you collect data in real-time, becoming a thought leader, and even help when it came to content creation. Before you start building out your first survey however, take the time to sit down with your team and drill down to the exact questions you require answers to.

Do your best to come up with thought-provoking questions that lead to detailed and ambiguous answers. Do your best to display as any questions as possible on who page while paying close attention to length. Be diverse with your answer tools, but don’t go crazy – it’s nice to break a survey up with a choice matrix or dropdown selector, but having too many can be confusing and unnecessary.

3. Finally, we went through a thirteen step checklist to make sure your survey is ready to launch. The main take aways: create surveys from pre-determined goals, steer away from yes/no questions and try to have no more than 20 questions. Once done, ensure you test the survey across any mediums you want to send it through – text, voice, email, social media, and more. Come up with a clear plan to market your survey and don’t forget to thank respondents. Once launched, have a clear place to store and compile responses so you can compile your results easily into a report.

After that – take your information and create an action plan, whether that is improving response time to customer service, creating relevant content, or choosing between potential initiatives.

Next Week

Next week we’ll be heading into December, a time when many people are rushing around to tie up projects at work, get their holiday shopping done, and of course book off time to spend with family and friends. As such, we don’t want anyone to miss out on our content and so we’ll be taking a break from our webinars until the New Year.

Don’t fret though! We’ll be back and better than ever in 2018 (and will be sending you plenty of content to get caught up on if you’re going through digital withdrawal.

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