6 easy steps for creating an effective online survey

Written on the 17 November 2020

Getting your client's or target market's opinion on your business is essential. It enables you to take the guesswork out of what you need to improve on, gives you insight into your market's thoughts, and provides you with some good benchmarks to measure your business by. Customer feedback is an important part of any business. Without it, businesses wouldn't know when they need to make changes, add new products or improve their services.

Thanks to the Internet and email, there is now a fast and simple way to get feedback from your customers: online surveys. An online survey is the same as a normal survey, a series of questions that the respondent has to answer, except it's on the Internet. They are a great way for businesses of any size to collect information from their customers or other groups. Today, we're going to take you through the 6 easy steps to create an effective online survey.

Step 1: Identify what you want to achieve

There is no point in throwing together a few survey questions and sending it straight out to your entire database, you'll be very lucky if you get anything valuable back. In order to get the best results from your survey, you need to spend a bit of time planning before you send it. The first thing to do is to set out your objectives. Think about what the exact purpose of your survey is and what you want to achieve with it. It may be improving customer service or streamlining your ordering system with suppliers. Spending some time planning your survey will make it far easier to write the questions you need and ensure you get the best results possible.

Step 2: Brainstorm your questions

Now that you know what the survey is about and who it's aimed at, it's time to start writing your questions. Brainstorm everything you want to ask your recipients in the survey. Get your ideas down first, and then finalise the wording of the questions later. You should start off with some basic information such as name, age, gender and location so you have an idea what type of person the respondent is. Also, don't be too specific with these questions; use age brackets like '20-30 years old' and general locations like States or regions.

After you have the basics covered, you need to focus on the serious questions. The nature of these questions will really depend on what you are trying to achieve with your survey so there are no real rules or guidelines apart from keeping it as short, simple and relevant as possible.

Step 3: Organise your questions

The next step in creating an online survey is identifying how you want your survey respondent to answer each question. You can choose from free text, single choice, multiple choice or matrix styles. Then put your questions in the most logical and easy-to-understand order. If your survey is long it is a good idea to divide your questions into sections such as "Store Layout", "Product Range" and "Staff Service" (which you will run as separate pages within the survey), to make it easier for your contacts to navigate and understand. Now you can simply build your survey in your online survey tool.

4. Attract participants

Now that you've created this great survey, how do you get people to participate in it? Distributing and promoting your online survey is easy and cost effective thanks to Email Marketing. Simply use your email-marketing program (like what you'll find in the Bloomtools Database Marketing system) to email your survey to your contacts. The response rate of an email survey will be far higher than that of a traditional printed survey because it is easy for the recipient to open and complete it on their computer and it is completely free for them. However, you may still have do some work to convince them to participate. You will need to write a compelling email subject line that immediately explains what the email is about and indicates what you want to find out from them, such as "Did you enjoy your meal at Tracey's Café? " or "Tell us how we can improve our ordering system".

You could also attract participants by including a reward or competition. Mentioning the word survey in your subject line will turn people away, so attract their attention with a 'help us help you' subject line, then explain the details of the survey in the body of the email. Remember, the subject line is usually only 50 characters long, so if you don't have enough space to include your company name, make sure you use it in the sender line so the recipient can recognise your brand.

Once you have captured their attention with the subject line, you need to close the deal with your email copy. Include a header along the lines of "Your thoughts are important to us" which will make them feel valued. In your main copy, you need to explain that you would like them to answer some questions and what information you want to find out from them. You should also let them know what's in it for them (better service, quicker deliveries etc.), approximately how long the survey will take to complete and personalise it with their details from your database. For some, you may need to include an incentive to complete the survey which may be free products / services/ copy of the survey findings / a free e-book etc.

5. Analyse your results

This is the step that all your work has been leading up to. If you are using a system like Bloomtools Database Marketing, the results of your online survey are collected for you and displayed in an easy to read graph to make analysis fast and simple. If you are manually collecting all your results, you will need to go through each survey response and tally all of the answers, then count them all up at the end and make your own graphs in a program like Microsoft Excel. Once results are analysed, you may find areas where you will need to further investigate by either another survey or focus group.

Once you have got all your statistics in front of you, you will be able to compare these to your objectives. Did the survey tell you what you needed to know? Are there any trends or surprises that you weren't expecting? You can get a lot of great insight from the results of your survey so make sure you set aside time to really go through the results with a fine-tooth comb. Also, make sure you read all of the responses to your free text questions carefully, because they cannot be automatically graphically displayed.

6. Take action

The final step is to make the changes and improvements that your survey results suggest. Once you have made these changes, let the survey participants know. Create a group in your database of people that completed the survey, then send them a short email about the changes you have made to give them better service, more products or quicker delivery. They will appreciate that you have really listened to their opinions and it may encourage them to make another purchase.

Follow these six simple steps and not only will you be creating great online surveys, you'll be improving your business as well!