Asking the right survey questions the right way | DMA

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Asking the right survey questions the right way


While technology is advancing and enabling companies to learn more about their customers, surveys still hold a valid place in digging deeper into what customers are thinking and the challenges they are facing. The process is simple. Ask people questions and gain the kind of insights that will lead you to improve your business and marketing processes.

Getting reliable results and actionable insights from surveys means getting the kind of feedback that will work to strengthen your campaigns via brand awareness. The trick, however, is to understand how to structure a survey and what kind of questions to ask. The best thing you can do when working towards increasing survey response rates is making the surveys simple to understand, easy to answer, and quick to complete.

As we look to relaunch our survey tool to meet these needs, we narrowed down our experience to give you the key takeaways in how to elicit truthful responses from your respondents.

Speak the language of your respondent

One of the biggest setbacks that surveys cause is that respondents don’t answer the questions truthfully. That’s why keeping the language as direct and simple as possible is key to gathering truthful responses. One way to avoid this downfall is to talk to people on their level by keeping the conversation light and engaging.

Don’t speak in industry jargon or use overly technical terms. Your respondents are interrupting their busy day to do your survey, make sure you make the most of it by keeping it simple and your tone of voice friendly. The more you humanise your surveys (including the use of appropriate humour), the more likely you are to engage respondents successfully. Don't feel the need to talk in academic or business terms.

For example, consider how most companies now talk to their audiences on social media and via light-hearted blog content. This is the level of language you should be using when it comes to creating engaging surveys.

Remain balanced and don’t be biased

Writing a survey question that makes respondents lean towards a particular answer violates the survey’s objective. Here’s an example:

We think our presentation was awesome. How awesome do you think our speakers were?

This question puts pressure on the respondent to answer more favourably than they might’ve felt personally. A more effective question would encompass more specific qualities. “Awesomeness” is too vague and is more of a generalisation, and that’s what you want to avoid.

Instead ask:

How helpful do you think the presentation was?

It’s best to refrain from inserting opinions into the questions because they will create biased answers. Try to keep the questions balanced. You may wish to frame some questions in a positive way and others in a negative way. As long as your survey is balanced, it ensures that you get the “true” attitudes of your respondents instead of what they think you want to hear.

In fact, the more you are open to honest feedback, the more your audience will appreciate being given the opportunity to express their views. Think about it in the sense of a face to face conversation. No one wants to just validate an ego and most won't feel comfortable offering just negative criticism. With the right approach, you can get the constructive feedback you are looking for.

Cut to the heart of the topic

Wish-washy introductions that profusely thank respondents for their time before they've given it, promise to only take a couple of minutes and don't address a purpose are typically seen as insincere and a waste of your respondent's time. Particularly in marketing, information and interactions that are deemed useful and informative are performing higher than any other form of marketing communication.

Time is a precious commodity and, therefore, you need to make it clear that you value a respondent's own time. State the aim and only create questions that can get to the core of the topic you want to address. You might feel that the survey isn't long enough, but creating "buffer" questions for the sake of questions will only result in your feedback going off on a tangent and potentially annoy those you send the survey too.

Overall, these three elements will set you on the right path to creating a survey that not only engages with your respondents but elicits the responses you need to improve your marketing moving forward. Of course, there are other elements to consider, such as the question types and design of your survey, the best times to send a survey and which topics really need this type of response (email versus event marketing, for example). However, those factors will depend upon your own audience and industry, making you a better judge of the best practices to abide by.

The most important thing to remember when creating your surveys is to give your respondents the opportunity to understand what you’re trying to convey so that you don’t deter them from answering honestly.

With that all being said, how successful are you at eliciting the right, genuine responses from your respondents? Perhaps it’s time to invest in learning more about how to craft effective surveys that will get your respondents feeling comfortable answering your questions.

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