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What's the Pulse of Your Market?

Surveys and polls give e-mail marketers a read on customers' needs
May 28, 2009
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/201916

If you're like most entrepreneurs, you're probably looking at your business and asking yourself, "What translates into success in this economic environment?"

Maybe you're thinking about adding or scrapping products or services, lowering price points, or changing your business strategy--focusing on one niche or branching out into other markets. Maybe you have some other creative ideas kicking around that you'd like to try out.

Whatever changes you have in mind--don't make those business decisions alone! Get your customers involved in the process with surveys and polls.

Surveys 101: Ask Questions, Get Answers, Take Action
Now is an important time to stay connected with your customers and clients. Your e-mail newsletter is one way that you can speak to your audience. Surveys and polls complement your e-mail marketing efforts by opening the door to two-way communications and showing customers you care about what they think. You're already staying in contact with your customers via e-mail. Wouldn't you like regular feedback from them as well? Surveys are a smart addition to your e-mail marketing mix.

When you're thinking about what survey questions to ask your customers, ask yourself What you would do differently based on the answers you get back. You're looking for actionable data that you can use to make informed decisions for your business. If the answer to the question is "nothing," then don't ask the question in your survey.

Here are some hints for putting together a brief survey in tandem with your e-mail communications:

Ask your customers to rate your performance on a scale of one to five. How satisfied are they with:

Keep your surveys short and respectful of your customers' time. They're more likely to complete a short survey of three to five questions.

Include one or two open-ended questions (that do not have preset answers), inviting customers to say exactly what's on their minds. You can also end the survey with a simple link that says "Click here to send us your comments." Try asking: What could we do better to earn your business? How could we improve our service experience? What other products or services would you like us to offer? Would you be willing to pay $X for product or service Y? If not, what would you be willing to spend? Has your spending on what we offer changed in the economy and if so, how?

Ask customers to numerically rank which products and services they value most. The flip side is to ask them to rank what products or services they want or need the least.

Find out if there's a demand for the new products, services, or pricing or operationsal changes you're thinking about. Have customers rate their answers on a scale of one to five for questions like "If we offered [product X at price point X], how likely would you be to purchase it?"

Try a newsletter satisfaction survey: A survey or poll is also a great way to learn if subscribers are satisfied with your e-mail newsletter. Ask about how often they read your newsletter, what features they find most relevant, and what other topics they'd like you to cover.

Analyze the data you get back and look for trends and new insights. Use that valuable customer information to make smart adjustments to your business.

Share your survey results! Report on your survey or poll results in a future e-mail newsletter. Let customers know how much you value and appreciate their feedback by telling them about business changes you're making to better meet their needs.

Get Answers Fast With Polls
What's the most important piece of information you need right now to inform a critical business decision? A poll is one question, one answer. It's fast and it's easy. A quick poll with every e-mail newsletter gives you timely insights on any one of the questions you asked in your longer customer satisfaction surveys.

Polls are also a good way to get customers' opinions on current events and other topics that affect their lives and your business. Polls are immediate, topical and they make respondents feel like part of a community of peers when they see how others answered in the poll results.

When you use surveys and polls with your e-mail newsletter to invite customers to tell you what's on their minds, you not only build goodwill and community, you get back critical information about your market that you can use to make smart business decisions.