Never Underestimate the Power of a Simple Survey (+ a Few Survey Tips)

As digital marketers, we spend a lot of time digging through analytics. And if you’re anything like me, a good portion of that time is spent trying to better understand the customer, their intent, hang-ups on site, or if you’re offering them the right kind of content/product/experience. Of course, analytics can tell you a LOT, especially once you start learning how to die different data sources together to get a more holistic view of the customer.

The one thing they won’t tell you though, is exactly what the customer is thinking. Yes, you can extrapolate and build hypotheses and test for correlations, but in my view the one true way to find out what a customer is really thinking is to just ask them.

Yes, it is true that customers don’t always know what they want, but by asking questions you’ll at least find out what they think they want. And that’s pretty valuable, especially when it comes to determining how customers are making decisions in the conscious part of their brains. But to ask them questions, you need to actually get out there and ASK.

The simplest, and in my opinion, most effective of these is the basic anonymous poll. Put together a question or two and trigger it to display for the people you are trying to understand. Make it as easy to answer as possible, with a limited amount of answer fields so it’s easy for them to make a decision. I also recommend including a free text form for those who don’t fall into the specific categories. You’ll find that some people didn’t quite understand the response options and typed in a variant of one of the existing responses, and you’ll also find additional answers that you never even considered to begin with.

Most importantly though, try to make the answer options as unbiased as you can. Include options that you don’t want to hear (i.e. “I don’t trust your company” or “your prices are too high.”)  Remember, the point of asking questions is to get as honest of feedback as you can so that you have actionable insights you can take back to your team to continue to iterate and improve.

A few tips:

  • For online surveys, try – they have a great system that’s easy to set up, has great insight and analysis tools, and is cost-effective.
  • You can also do surveys/polls directly on Facebook or Twitter, but remember that the only people who will be answering there are the users who actually use those services, which does lead to some potential bias.
  • Use your surveys to build better surveys. As you do a few, you’ll start to understand better how to word questions and responses so they make sense to the customer (as well as avoid leading them to answer with the option you prefer).
  • Your customer support can be a survey. Don’t be afraid to ask your support staff to ask customers questions. Just remember again that you will only be having responses from people who are contacting support, which is not indicative of your overall userbase (unless you have a really bad product and everyone calls support!). Also remember that people are less likely to give honest answers when they are talking to a real person than they are in an anonymous survey.
  • Don’t survey too often. Like anything else that’s not key to the experience, the survey does get in the way of the customer’s goals. Be mindful of this and respect the user.
  • A survey shows you care. Make it clear that you’re asking questions to make things get better. Customers do care that you care about them.

Have you had any positive or negative experiences with surveying? What other ways have you found effective to get direct customer feedback?

Wallet and Key

Visitor Intent: A Key of Conversion Strategy

Every day your site has people coming to it. It might be dozens, it might be millions – but you have people coming (I hope) and chances are not every single one of those is familiar with you or your brand. But as you look at your site analytics and you see this traffic, the first question you should be asking yourself is this: Why are they coming?

You can dig in further in your analytics, look at referring domains, do keyword analyses, sort through page view data or do anything else your data-driven mind desires, but unless you try to answer this simple question first, the rest of the data can be rather meaningless.

You see, people can come to your site for a variety of reasons and until you determine those reasons you can’t figure out what your conversion strategy should be. If you’re a retailer, how many people are coming to actually purchase something (intent to purchase)? How many are just doing product research? How many clicked through “accidentally” – thinking they were coming for one thing, but found out that what you had wasn’t what they were looking for at all? Or, if you’re in digital content there’s also that (rather annoying) question of how many people were looking for free/pirated product?

These questions are important to know. If 70% of your traffic is coming through just for price comparison and you’re a premium-priced product, those customers are probably less-likely to convert (although a retargeting campaign showcasing product features and why you’re worth the premium price might be a good idea). If 40% are there with intent to purchase, but aren’t converting – then you know you have to dig in deeper with some testing to see what you’re doing wrong.

Tip: The easiest way to determine intent is to just ask. Put up a simple survey and show it to the customers you’re trying to understand.

The point is, knowing what your visitors are coming to your site for is one of the most important things you can do when building out your strategies. If you see low-purchase-intent visitors coming through on a batch of paid search terms, maybe cut back on that spend. But maybe they have high intent, but are still in the research phase … then you can adjust your approach and make sure that you’re doing proper follow-up marketing with them for when they are ready to purchase. Adjust your expectations on that paid search channel and treat it as lead generation vs. looking at specific ROI.

That intent, and then further exploration of what you can do based on that intent, is what’s key to a conversion strategy. Until you know why your visitors are coming, you can’t do much to get them to convert to buyers. Even worse, if everyone you’re driving to your site has no intent to do what you want them to do, you need to rethink your acquisition and strategy itself.