It’s always in the back of our mind, “I should be surveying my audience”. We all think it and wish we were doing it. And then some of us actually do it (which makes the rest of us start thinking about it again).
But when have you seen the results of a survey? I’m not talking about the graph or chart that shows how many people picked A on Question 2. I’m talking about a change in direction. When have you seen someone take action because of the answers to a survey?
Most likely. . . never . . . or it was something tiny.
That’s because there aren’t too many people teaching surveys. So today, let’s do just that.
In an ideal world you could publish a 100 question survey that didn’t box people into choosing A, B or C. You could ask questions that open up entire realms you hadn’t considered. Then you could put together a team to analyze the answers, devise an action plan, implement it and track if it worked.
But we don’t live in an ideal world. It’s pretty hard to get people to fill out one survey, let alone answer 100 questions. And then to find the time to analyze 1,000 different answers. . . I could only dream of having that kind of fun with my audience.
Nope. Time and purpose are linked and thus we must be more deliberate with our time.
The Action Plan: Survey Questions
A smart survey has a point to it. That point is action. If you’re going to ‘bother’ your audience to garner information, make sure it is information you can take action upon.
To make sure you’re doing this, you need to spend time writing an action plan based on the replies you could get back. For instance if you ask “Are you a stay-at-home parent?”, then you need a plan that says
- “If only 10% indicate they stay home, I will refocus my content this way”.
- “If it is 50/50, I will change x, y, and z”.
- “If the respondents are 75% stay-at-home, I will stop doing m, n and p”.
If you can’t think of a single change you would make or action you would take, then don’t ask that question. Maybe none of the demographic questions would alter your strategy – if that’s the case then skip them all.
You really want to narrow down the # of questions to as few as possible. Narrow, narrow, narrow the focus and your readers will feel they are more valuable to you and part of the solution.
And remember Google Analytics can tell you a lot about your site and how people navigate it. Don’t ask questions of your audience if you already have the answer somewhere else. Figure out the holes in your analytics – and ask those questions.
The Right Survey Software
It’s important to have a robust survey package. You need one that will allow you to branch out after each question. For instance if the first actionable question is the stay at home question, then you will want to ask the people who said “yes” different questions about the future of your blog content than the people who said “no”.
If you serve parents and you spend a good deal of time talking about child care options, separating the opinions of the stay-at-home parents from the employee parents will help you decide how to frame future content to improve reader engagement.
(Think about this, if I told you that the only people who have signed up on your email list are stay-at-home parents, and told you that conversely 75% of your readers are employee parents, what would you do?)
So make sure you use software that can ask separate questions depending on how you answered the previous one. By the way, I recommend SurveyMonkey – it does that.
The Survey Funnel
If one of your questions is “Do you own any of my ebooks?”, then the ensuing questions would be much different for the people who do than the people who don’t. Imagine 50 people saying “no” and 50 people saying “yes” and having the next question say “Was it helpful?”. (Now 50 people are annoyed)
Before you write the survey, build a funnel on paper and ask yourself at each step, “what would I do if learned this from my audience today?” And what do I want to know of the people who say yes vs no? Hold their hand as you walk them down a path learning what you need to learn to take action and improve your site.
It should really only take 4 or 5 questions to learn good, meaningful information. But first you must plan it out – along with the actions you will take depending on the answers.
What type of Questions
In a package like Survey Monkey, the multiple choice answers dictate which questions they answer next. So ask multiple choice questions, but always include a space to leave comments. You don’t want to box people in if they have something to say.
Once your survey has divided your audience into the groups you feel you can learn from, ask them a final essay question to really learn what action you need to take. In the photo (see above) you can see that there are a total of 20 questions, but no one has to answer more than 5 to get to the end.
Sometimes it is appropriate to ask everyone the same essay question at the end. Then you can compare the answers from one group to the next, which can really supercharge your action plan, can narrow your target market and can increase your income.
Finally, when they’ve answered the last question make sure you take them to a “thank you” page. You can use that page to give away your ebook, have them sign up for your newsletter or give them a link to an article that will make their day brighter. Don’t miss that opportunity to do something nice for them. They just finished doing something nice for you.