The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Web Marketing Surveys, The Value in Gaining Customer Feedback


Online Marketing Surveys and Gaining Valuable Customer Feedback
More and more, companies are looking to make important changes to their websites in order to increase conversion. A few years ago, most website changes were about look and feel or functionality, where today I hear the word "conversion" much more (and especially at the executive level). It makes sense, doesn't it? Web Analytics packages have evolved and web marketers can now view their data easier and faster than ever before. That said, where do you start? Should you use a structured process like the steps in Persuasion Architecture or use another approach that you've utilized in the past? Regardless, finding out what your customers think is essential. There are many ways to accomplish this from focus groups to usability testing to online surveys.

In my opinion, all should be used to gain important feedback prior to mapping out the blueprint for change. For this post, I've decided to target website-based surveys. In my experience with helping clients launch online marketing surveys, the first step is typically the hardest. "Well, what are we going to ask them and why?" is what I typically hear. At this stage it's important to think about your customers and the types of buyers that will be visiting your site. Based on personas that you map out, you can start to flesh out the questions that will enable you to make key decisions about the changes to your website. For example, if you sell HD TV's, two possible personas that come to mind are:

1. The Cutting Edge Buyer - He always wants the latest and greatest equipment.
2. The Discount Shopper - She wants an HD TV, but cannot afford the latest and greatest. She wants the best possible TV for the budget she has.

Keep in mind, there are probably 4-5 other potential types of buyers for this category, but I wanted to give you some quick examples. Note, these are not demographic-based, they are buyer process-based. There's a big difference between the two (and why I believe Persuasion Architecture is a strong process to go through.)

So What Do We Ask Them?
Now you can start to flesh out your questions for each persona. So, for the two sample personas I listed above, what do you want to learn from them? Maybe how important product visuals are, product reviews, or if they would use a forum for customer support? Maybe you want to see if they will read your blog, participate in the blog, or if they cannot stand blogs. You will be surprised what you find. Think about the Discount Shopper persona, maybe they want to access a sales-only page where they can sort products to their heart's delight. Or, maybe they want to subscribe to RSS feeds for the latest sales. My point here is that you should not answer the questions...but that your goal is to learn from your customers. Don't try and answer your own questions, chances are you are too close to the product line, website, and company. You might be right 20% of the time, but 20% won't earn you a promotion...

Survey Monkey, A Great Online Survey Solution
Now that you have your questions, how do you go about setting up the survey? At this point, everyone involved will have a different opinion on how you go about launching the survey. Should the IT department set it up, should you go with a free survey solution, or should you go with a paid service. I almost always recommend the latter. I really like Survey Monkey and several of my clients have taken my recommendation to use their service. The professional subscription is only $19.95 per month and you get a robust online survey solution that's customizable to boot. You can read their online survey features here, but they should cover ~99% of what you want to achieve. The reporting is strong and offers an excellent export feature so you can import the data into Excel (or whichever data analysis program you use). Anyway, I have found it to be a solid solution for launching and tracking online surveys. And, it's fast.

Make Sure You Sweeten the Offer
In order to increase response rate, I highly recommend including an incentive for filling out the survey. And I'm not talking about a $5 gift card to Starbucks. Offer something of worth or you risk having an extremely low response rate. For example, I have a consumer products client that offered their customers 15% off their next purchase. That could translate into $15-20 off their next purchase. The incentive completely depends on your customer base. A quick brainstorm session would yield a dozen or so incentives that you can use.

Analyze the Data
After the survey is over, take the time to analyze the data from several viewpoints. The open-ended questions sometimes yield incredible information. Think about it, if someone took the time to actually type in a response, it's probably worth reading, right? Some people even include their contact information, which can help you build focus groups down the line. It depends on how passionate the customer is and how much they want you to change!

Closed Loop Communication
Last, but not least, let the respondents know what you are doing based on their feedback! This is probably the most overlooked step in the process. Your customers will likely feel as if they didn't waste their time and that you take their feedback seriously. Also, it's a great opportunity to look for customers for focus groups or even word of mouth marketing campaigns.

In closing, online marketing surveys can help you understand how your customers really feel about your products and website, and can help you make decisions based on data versus your own opinion. Use a solid solution for launching surveys and analyze the data fully before making any decisions. Then follow up with the people that responded. You can start to foster a stronger relationship with your customers, which can lead to loyal customers and hopefully increased revenue. And, isn't that what it's all about?

GG

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