How To Survey Small Business Clients To Get Actionable Insight

August 13, 2013By
Small Business Surveys

You can learn a lot about your customers with surveys.

Surveys can be very helpful to your small business.

A way I’ve found to get valuable information to work on your company is to ask your current clients questions.

It can be tricky to survey your clients. You never know if the information will be helpful or if it will lead you down the wrong path.

But I feel there is some great information to gain from talking to your clients or sending them surveys. After all, these are the people paying you money for goods or services. They can help you understand why they do it and you can use that information to improve your business and to get more clients.

I’ve been involved in surveys on multiple levels.

My first experience was with a large online footwear retailer. We occasionally sent out surveys to gather insight into various things like customer preferences and online browsing habits.

I’ve also sent over surveys to the clients at GBW and to the subscribers on Country Music Life. Each time I felt I learned something valuable that I could use to improve.

Here are some of those takeaways.

Provide A Reason and Keep It Short

People don’t really have patience for taking surveys. A lot of companies are sending out surveys right now. Most are a little over the line intrusive when it comes to putting pop-ups on their sites or sending our emails.

People will be quick to delete your email message if you don’t give them a little more information about the survey.

What I like to do when sending out the email is to phrase the message in a way that says something like how the feedback will be used to improve the service for the client. You have to give your clients a reason to take time to answer questions. Make it about them.

The second part is to keep the survey relatively short. People are busy and don’t have time for long questionnaires. Instead, ask 3-5 questions in each survey and let your clients know that it shouldn’t take more than 3-5 minutes to answer.

Open-Ended Questions Provide Great Answers

My favorite type of questions to ask are open-ended questions.

By asking specific, but open-ended questions on surveys you let people give you answers in their own words.

There are a few potential pitfalls, though, so you have to be careful. I’ve ran into survey questions where my question has been too vague and you confuse people. This leads to your clients simply not filling it out or voicing their frustration that they can’t figure out what you’re trying to ask.

After making this mistake a few times I always have someone – a friend or colleague – take the survey ahead of time to make sure the questions make sense.

Open-ended questions also cuts down on how you lead customers into answers. That’s a very easy thing to do. You’re trying to get some sort of answer, but you have to find a balance of letting people answer questions truthfully.

A question like what social media sites do you use might be a leading question. Instead, you can ask what for the person’s favorite websites. From there you can get an idea if social media is included.

The Best Questions To Ask

Questions about what people struggle with are good. You can ask these pretty generally. Ask your clients what they’re struggling with right now at their business. You will get some interesting feedback and you might even stumble on something you can solve for them.

I also like to ask about behaviors. These are not always reliable, but you can get some good insight. I liked asking the question about favorite websites. I also liked asking about hobbies and interests. You can learn a lot about people by asking what they do, what they watch and what they read.

The last couple questions I asked on GBW surveys included:

  • What are you struggling with at your business?
  • What is your biggest business challenge?
  • How did you discover GBW?
  • Where do you get your marketing information?
  • What websites do you visit each week?
  • What type of online video do you watch?
  • What is your preferred device for accessing the web?

You don’t have to ask those, but some of them might give you some good information for your business.

Hopefully this article will help you with your client surveys. There is a lot of insight to gain if you know how to ask the right questions. Your clients can help you figure out exactly what it is they (and others like them) need.

From there it’s your job to figure out how you can best provide that product or service so you can make a profit.

Image: BuzzFarmers