From the July 2007 issue of Entrepreneur

Who doesn't like to be polled? Whether the issue is entertainment or current events, people like to make their voices heard--especially if it takes just a minute to participate. Small wonder more e-tailers are using polls.

"Polls are fast and easy," says Louise Garnett, vice president and lead analyst at Outsell Inc., a firm that specializes in the information services industry. "There is a level of enjoyment for people who take polls and a degree of stickiness for a website." Polls aren't intrusive like pop-up ads or invasive like spam. And inexpensive, easy-to-use tools such as PollDaddy.com and PollMonkey.com let e-tailers create free polls for blogs and websites.

Alyssa Rapp, co-founder and CEO of Bottlenotes Inc., a Palo Alto, California-based customized wine club that features high-quality wines, has used polls on her website since its launch two years ago. Polls appear every week in Bottlenotes' Bottle News e-newsletter and are part of its wine encyclopedia and blog. Rapp uses a polling tool from Vizu.

"It enables quick market research," says Rapp, 28, who has raised $1.5 million to date in seed funding from angel investors. "My team can create polls online, put them into any [communication] we'd like and, all of a sudden, I get real-time, statistically significant customer feedback." That feedback has helped Rapp shape wine club promotions and innovate new products.

Polling also keeps customers engaged. "One of our most popular polls was in our Super Bowl e-newsletter, where we asked our members which celebrity they would like to see in a Super Bowl ad discussing wine," says Rapp. What respondents didn't know was that their celebrity choices were being considered for a regular Bottle News column.

To use polls successfully on your website, consider these tips from Dan Beltramo, co-founder and COO of Vizu.

1. Poll multiple audiences to understand different perspectives.

2. Run the same poll on a regular basis to identify and track trends.

3. Think of new ways to use polls--they can help you learn about product design, purchase behavior, copy testing, trends, consumer preferences and more.

4. Keep in mind that it might take multiple polls to really understand an issue.