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Create a survey to understand your target audience's needs

How you can read your target audience’s mind

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Do you want to know read your target audience’s mind? We all do, but, I’m here to tell you it’s not as simple as that! But there is a way to find out what they think about a variety of things – create a survey.

Creating surveys is a great way to understand what your customers and potential customers want and need. It should be part of your marketing process.

There is a knack to creating effective surveys and in this blog post, I’ll take you through each step, so you feel confident creating your own survey.

Why create a survey?

It’s not rocket science. Because let’s face it, none of us is a mind reader. Surveys help us get into the heads (in a non-creepy way) of our target audiences.

We need to know that what we do in our businesses will be right for the people who we want to buy from us. That’s everything from new products or services to customer service to marketing.

Surveys help us make decisions. In a rational way. They give us a snapshot of what our target audience thinks. And really, that is what you need to know.

Tools to help you create a survey

There are lots of tools out there. My biggest tip here is to select one that does the heavy lifting for you in the reporting. You really don’t want to spend hours shifting data around so you can analyse the results. So, pick a survey tool that collates the data and helps you organise it so you can make meaningful decisions. Here are some recommendations.

Constant Contact

All right. I had to start here. And yes, you can create a survey using Constant Contact! Why should you try it? Well, the number one reason for me is that it’s so easy to build a survey. They use the same editor that you would build an email with. That means no new software to learn. The next thing is that you can create an email invitation to reply to it and send it to your subscribers. No fuss, no moving data. If you want to see how it works, you can start a 60-day trial.

Google Forms

You might already be using Google within your business. Google Forms is a good starter solution for creating surveys. It’s a good option if you don’t have enough budget for a paid tool. There are limitations, like templates. The biggest drawback is the ability to easily track users. That might skew your results.

SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey is probably the most-used survey tool. It’s pretty easy to set up a survey and has around 100 expert templates you can use. There is a free version; however, there’s only so much you can do with it. One of the limitations of the free plan is you can’t access the data in .CSV or Excel. That’s pretty poor given your need to analyse the data collected. There are also a number of plans tied into the number of responses you expect in a month.

What you need to know to create a survey

It’s not as simple as writing down the questions you want to be answered. There’s some thought goes into putting a survey together. Let’s break it down.

What are your goals?

Yup. You start with goals. What is it that you want to achieve? Is it:

  • Feedback on a new product or service you’re thinking about.
  • Understanding how you can improve customer service.
  • Helping you create a marketing plan.

It could be any number of things. But you need to know this upfront to help you create a survey that will answer your questions.

You’ll also want to decide who you want replies from. It is exclusively for customers? Or do you want wider responses?

Lastly, will you need updated data regularly? It’s something to consider. For example, I create a survey towards the end of every year. It has lots of questions that help me understand what small business owners think about marketing. And it helps me figure out what will be in my marketing plan for the following year.

A successful survey starts with goals. What are you trying to achieve? Learn how to put together your survey in this blog post. #MinalsTips Click To Tweet

Set your questions

Now’s the time to think about your questions. When creating a survey, it’s good to have quantitative responses (ones you can count) as well as qualitative responses (ones where people are given space to type their replies.)

So, aim for a mix and try to ask open questions. These types of questions begin with these words: who, what, where, why, how. Using open questions for your qualitative questions will give you some gems in the replies.

What are the different types of questions? I’m glad you asked!

Multiple choice

This is where you give people several answers to choose from. You can decide whether you want them to pick just one answer or however many are relevant to them.

Multiple choice questions
Example of a multiple choice question

Rating scale

This is where people will rate something, like satisfaction, on a scale of 1 to 10. They’re good for measuring progress over time.

Likert scale

This is where someone tells you whether they agree or disagree with something. It usually appears on a five or seven-point scale. You know, the ones which say “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”.

Likert scale questions
Example of a Likert scale question

Ranking

It’s as simple as it sounds. You ask people to rank things in an order that’s important to them. It’s a great quantitative question to ask. But it won’t tell you why people chose the rankings they did.

Ranking questions
Example of a ranking question

Semantic Differential

This also asks respondents to rate something on a scale, but each end of the scale is a different, opposing statement. Think: “On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you evaluate the service you received?” with 1 being “terrible” and 5 being “exceptional.” 

Dichotomous

This only has two responses to choose from (think this or that) and it’s quick for people to respond to and for you to analyse. On its own, it doesn’t always provide meaningful data.

Close-Ended

These are questions that have a set number of answers that you ask people to choose from. All of the above question types are close-ended questions.

Open-ended

These usually have a box where people can add their own replies. This is qualitative feedback. Remember, this type of feedback is really helpful in understanding sentiment and challenges. It’s good to have a mix of open-ended and close-ended questions.

Create a survey with open-ended questions
Example of an open-ended question

Test, test, test

Don’t make the mistake of sending your survey out without testing it. You want to make sure you maximise results and that will only happen if participants can answer the questions. Most survey tools will give you the ability to submit test responses. Take the time to do this so your survey goes out without any mistakes.

And whilst you’re there, now is a good time to proofread what you’ve written.

Put it out there

Once you’re happy your survey works properly and there are no typos, it’s time to get it out in the open. Here are a few places you can share it.

Customers

It’s always great to get your customers’ input, especially if your survey is around customer service. So, put together an email and send it to your customers. Explain why you’re collecting the information and make it clear how they access the survey.

Subscribers

If your survey is more general in nature, you’ll likely want to hear from a variety of people. Your email subscribers are one such group. I always send The Big Fat Survey of the Year to my subscribers. I want to hear what their marketing priorities will be for the following year.

Invite subscribers to participate in your survey
Inviting subscribers to participate

Your social networks

Sharing your survey on social media is a great idea. You might want to create a short video about why you have put the survey together. It’s also a great idea to encourage followers to share the survey with others.

Social media groups

Lots of us are in social media groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. We normally join groups where we have something in common with other members. That means you’re probably in several groups that are connected to what your business does. Remember to ask permission from the admin to ensure your post doesn’t get taken down.

Partners or buddies

I know lots of other business owners who work with small businesses. That’s my audience and, if I ask nicely, they will share my survey. Work out who you know with a similar target audience and approach them. There has to be something in it for them, so you could offer to reciprocate. Definitely give them everything they need to share – make it frictionless. That means giving them text they can copy and paste and an image they can use.

Plan to get as many responses to your survey as possible by creating your promotional plan. Read more in this blog post. #MinalsTips Click To Tweet

The final hurdle

The last thing you’ll do with your survey is analyse the results and use them to make some decisions.

The results

I always find it easiest to look at the overall results first. So, I download a summary and this gives me an idea of the overall thinking of the respondents.

I always use open-ended questions, so I’ll dig into those and look at individual responses. They usually give me a pattern of replies.

Lastly, because I run my survey annually, I compare answers to the previous year to see if there are any major shifts.

Decisions, decisions

I run my survey towards the end of the year. The reason I do that is that the results help me plan my content for the following year. I look at things like people’s priorities for their businesses, what they want to learn and how. That forms the basis of my plan for my business, including working out how it ties in with my business goals.

And there you have it. A step-by-step guide on how to create a survey. It’s a really good exercise to do because of the amount of information you get. Information that helps you to make sound decisions, based on what your target audience wants.

If you want to get more marketing help, why don’t you join The Marketing Morsel Club? You’ll get a weekly email, an invitation to my private Facebook Group, member-only webinars and more!

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