• home
  • About AMA Boston
    • our mission
    • board of directors
    • committees
    • who’s who in ama boston
    • ama boston history
    • boston marketing blog
  • get involved
  • upcoming events
  • sponsors and partners
  • marketing jobs
  • contact us

Posts Tagged ‘marketing research’

Conducting an Effective Online Survey

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Kicking off the New Year right might mean conducting a customer survey to gain a better idea of how your company can improve their products and services, identify new markets, and hone its message. If you’re conducting the survey in-house, you will want to make it a speedy, yet professional exercise, one that produces immediate actionable insights. Conducted right, an effective survey can have a wide-ranging reach, so here are three tips on how to create, deploy, and analyze a customer survey:

1. Emphasize in your email cover letter why responding to your survey is a good idea. In her 2-part  series Getting a Good Response to Your Surveys, Constant Contact’s Caroline Shahar notes two key ways of demonstrating the benefits of answering a survey to potential respondents. These tips are echoed in Zoomerang’s 10 Tips to Improve Your Surveys:

     a. offer an incentive and
     b. assure customers that responding will have an impact.

For incentives, the standard is to enter respondents in a drawing to win something, but Shahar notes that sharing a report on survey responses can also be a valuable incentive (I know I’ve responded to surveys where the results were the only incentive). I would add that it also makes sense to use the incentive as a way to drive conversions (I was going to write sales, but this advice applies even when you are not selling something).

For instance, offer respondents 10% off their next purchase, an exclusive online seminar, or an upgrade to a higher level of service, if the cost is not too high. This will not only encourage customers to respond to the survey, but will also realize the additional, ultimately more essential, benefit of more sales and/or conversions. If possible, include a link at the end of the survey to a landing page where respondents can immediately complete the desired conversion. Send an email reminder to survey respondents who arrive at the landing page and don’t complete the conversion.

As for assuring customers that responding will have an impact, clearly state what you intend to use survey responses for, rather than using a generic statement that survey responses help serve customers better. For instance, if you will use the information to improve products, say so specifically. Which brings up tip number 2:

2. Respond to the feedback–and make sure customers know how you’re responding. Using a multi-step process is the best way to demonstrate your commitment to listening to your customers. As noted above, start with your email cover letter requesting participation in the survey.

But don’t just stop at the cover letter–indeed, don’t just stop when the survey is finished. Follow up in a few months or weeks with concrete information about how you have put the survey results into action: release the survey results in a report made available on your site, or mention in your newsletter that a specific product revision came about as a result of feedback from the survey. This kind of concrete assurance that you are listening to customers via your survey, and acting on their feedback, will help boost response rates to future surveys, as well as the quality of responses.

Most importantly, it will help demonstrate that your organization is responsive to customer needs. Of course, this kind of utilization of survey results requires buy-in from many departments, which can be a challenge. But ultimately, the rewards are significant in terms of expanding market reach, increasing customer retention, and growing revenue.

3. Make the survey as easy, and as unambiguous as possible. Avoid respondent fatigue by asking a maximum of 15 questions. If you have more than that number of questions you really want to ask of your customers, consider segmenting your list, and creating two surveys, each with questions most relevant to that segment; Shahar offers excellent tips on sending out surveys to segments of your customers. For instance, she suggests targeting only retail store customers, or only online customers. Zoomerang’s 10 Tips offers a basic roundup of survey best practices for marketers, including several ways to reduce respondent fatigue, such as using closed-ended questions, logical ordering, and pre-testing.

Related to making a survey easy to complete is eliminating ambiguity. Responses can drop off when respondents get frustrated by confusing questions. In addition, if a statistically significant number of respondents misunderstands a question, the survey’s validity can be called into question. To make sure that ambiguity is reduced to a minimum, make sure that not only the questions themselves, but also the available answers that respondents can choose from are clear: eliminate open-ended questions, offer a reasonably large number of options for multiple-choice questions, and err on the side of writing somewhat longer items (for instance, writing “Once a Week” for a frequency question, rather than just “Once.”)

Conducting a survey can provide a host of benefits, not just for the marketing department, but for the entire organization. Implementing a survey well can make a big difference to your marketing efforts, providing a wealth of insights. Take steps to ensure a robust response rate, maximize utilization of results, and make the survey itself an effective vehicle of communication with customers. This will greatly enhance the usefulness of your survey.

To leave a comment, please double-click on title.

Christina Inge is a marketing consultant, and serves as Marketing and PR Coordinator for the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA. She has over 10 year’s experience in communicating with both B2B and B2C audiences. 

It’s a Buyer’s Market

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Today, the news raised the threat of deflation. While this is especially troubling to the cyclical and seasonal businesses, they have many options to counter the downturn including seeking bailouts. Smaller firms must look to other means to protect themselves. A natural reaction is to protect the home turf and marketing can be a powerful tool to accomplish that. While customers have been assaulted with a barrage of negative news and an outlook that it will continue at least through 2009, all businesses need is to look for ways to separate from the malaise.

Defense Wins Games

Protecting the business revenue is a primary goal in an economic downturn. However, not all revenue is equal – some revenue comes with so much expense, it’s almost not worth earning. Knowing the factors that make up great revenue helps to decide which activity to invest in – and market for new customers.

Marketing isn’t limited to reaching out to new customers. It should also consider the choices that the current customer base made at their point-of-purchase. Marketing can give current clients a sense that they’ve done something right, hopefully to the point that they’ll keep doing it again and drive more business.

Gathering information on customer sentiment and satisfaction is usually best accomplished through a market research firm. Many belong to the Marketing Research Association.

Results of market research can be leveraged into action items for current customers to improve satisfaction, but also to expand the relationships into new areas. Sometimes, new areas of growth can arise from marketing into existing customers for new products and services and is usually an easier prospect.

Growing Through a Downturn

The results of the market research can help determine the list of factors that the best customers have in common. These are the “sweet spot” factors for current customers and should form the baseline for any new customers.

In a tough market, new customers need to feel that they are making a smart choice when each decision may be scrutinized later. Successful firms take control of the messages to the market to ease the decision of the buyer. One way of doing this is to separate the business from the negativity in consumer sentiment by increasing demonstrations of financial strength and growth.

A few good examples are:

  1. Announcing new wins to the customers in some manner. Showing success regardless of the economy turmoil in providing services that are important now is important to both new customers, but also for existing customers. It shows the business has stayed relevant and forward-thinking. The important thing is that the customer receives the knowledge of the new member to the family, the delivery mechanism must work for both types of customers and may take the form of email, printed newsletters, lunch with sales, a roadside bulletin board, or all of the above.
  2. Actively introducing new products or services increases the “buzz” and may slide into a viral marketing situation. Some media outlets are looking for positive news to counter the negative news. One method is to offer limited-time trials or samples to buzz-makers. A public relations firm can help manage the message, especially in advance of holiday shopping, even if the product isn’t seasonal as this recent launch of the new Blackberry.
  3. Publishing a case study of a customer highlighting the factors referenced above adds credibility and practicality to the messaging, such as this study by Akamai measuring the ROI.
  4. Starting a loyalty program can also galvanize best customers against competitor products, especially the types of competition that isn’t obvious, i.e. energy drinks vs. coffee. Starbucks recently introduced the Gold Card.

These programs should accomplish two things: they can remind customers why they made the original choice and create buzz for new customers of the products and services The over-arching objective is to capture the best customers while looking for “like-best” new customers.

What new ideas do you have to manage your message to the market?

To leave a comment, please double-click on title.

Kevin Flavin has almost 20 years experience in the financial services industry. Balancing the first half of his career as a buyer, he has spent the last ten years as a vendor in a range of roles from sales, product management, but always marketing. He is based in the Boston area. He is also a monthly contributor for the AMA Boston blog.

Join our group on LinkedIN:

Visit Connect.AMABoston.org
AMA Boston • Office: 411 Waverly Oaks Road, Suite 331B, Waltham, MA 02452 • (781) 647-7555

The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.


levitra rx