Connecting With Customers, Part 2
Xerox Indirect Channels Business Group
Small businesses are constantly looking for new sources of relevant data and information to help them better understand current and potential customers. In this second in a series of three articles, I’ll provide some ideas and guidelines for you to consider in your efforts to connect with customers through short surveys.
Now that you’ve established your objective as discussed in my previous post – what you want to learn and the method you’d like to use to get the answers to your questions – you will need to ensure you are targeting the right audience with the right questions.
Target the right audience
Establish who you want to hear from up-front. One of the most common mistakes is targeting the wrong audience. If you’re using a current customer list in distributing your survey, make sure that you select the customers you truly want to engage.
Within a customer database you will find two different types of customers; those that are brand loyal and those that may or may not choose to do business with you. The latter are your swing voters. Understanding the swing voter maybe the most cost effective way to grow your business. The book, Drinking From The Firehose, has some great information on swing voters and the author’s Facebook page has good information on a customer-led approach to growing your small business.
If you’re not already using it, Survey Monkey, is an easy to use and affordable resource in connecting with customers. For larger efforts you might consider employing a marketing agency. This will be more expensive, but it may be the right choice for your business. Remember these are just tools; you have to ask the right questions in the right way to make them work well.
Ask the right questions
Start by asking a very well thought out and focused set of questions. You can start by asking a direct question, or a question that asks your customers to rank level of importance. But what do you really learn if 50 percent or even 80 percent of respondents tell you all five of your services are important? You can often improve your understanding of the customer in providing them a trade-off question. There are several tools in surveys to do this such as fixed-sum and forced ranking questions, or if you’re feeling really ambitious look into conjoint analysis. Whatever question type you end up using, avoid the temptation to include unrelated questions.
Unrelated questions distract the person from reflecting on the content and line of thought you’ve already established. This can cause a bit of confusion and may be enough to affect the quality of your results, extend the time to complete the survey affecting the abandonment rate, or both. Staying focused on the goal will ensure you get what you need for your small business.
Two good resources to help you design your survey are Survey Monkey, with stock templates and examples, and Rober Wimmer, who has made available a calculator to help determine the appropriate sample size for your survey. For a more in-depth education, check out Questionnaire Design by Ian Brace.
Check back in August for tips on making sense of the data and putting it into action. In the meantime, what resources and tips do you have for reaching the right target audience?