One of the best ways to figure out what your customers want is to ask them.
Don't get me wrong, looking at numbers and statistics gleaned from various sources is helpful, and this includes comments on posts, Facebook Likes, click-through rates, newsletter subscriptions, and more. But, you'll never learn more than when you hear the truth straight from your audience.
This "ask the audience" technique isn't difficult to carry out, either. It doesn't require going "door-to-door," so to speak. You don't have to approach individuals directly through email or chat and query them.
Instead, get direct customer feedback the simple way - through surveys.
Why Are Surveys Valuable for Content Marketing?
Surveys give you the chance to collect data you may not be able to glean through any other method.
Here are a few more reasons to invest time and resources into them (we'll go into the "how" soon).
1. They Foster Conversation and Engagement
These days, more than ever, content marketing is about engagement and community building.
It's about keeping up a dialogue with your audience. You do this in a few ways: You answer questions and offer information. You learn what their problems or pain points are, and then you see how you can solve them.
Marketing is a continual conversation with your customers - however, you don't want it to be one-sided.
You can never assume how your audience will respond to your content, and you can't assume what they want from you. You have to keep the dialogue open if you want to know. You have to ask.
Surveys are one of the best ways to ask, hands-down.
2. Surveys Offer Valuable Insights
Not only do surveys keep that all-important dialogue open, but they also give you an avenue for insights.
According to Content Marketing Institute, asking your audience can provide priceless data, information your carefully collected statistics can't tell you.
Yes, your stats give a picture of what your customers are doing, however, one factor they can't address is why they're doing what they're doing.
For instance, perhaps your stats tell you certain posts are more popular than others. Lumped together, these blogs don't have much in common - their popularity is confusing rather than enlightening. No matter how you look at the numbers, they'll never give up the secret behind why some of your posts land and others fail.
Surveys can. With this tool, you can acquire useful information such as:
- Impressions your brand has made, along with expectations and perceptions
- How your content may or may not affect a customer's decision-making process
- Demographic information about your audience that may/may not affect purchasing decisions
Real world example: when I personally asked my audience for feedback about Express Writers' services, we learned:
- Pain points our products/services didn't solve (but could, with a few tweaks)
- Exactly how we could serve our customers better, straight from their mouths
- Pain points our customers experienced with our competitors (giving us the ability to know exactly how we were winning - which enabled us to use those direct points in home/sales page copy)
We never would have garnered these vital bits of knowledge without utilizing a survey - it enabled us to change tactics, hone our strategy, and give our customers exactly what they want. How can you beat that?
Now that you understand how integral a tool surveys can be, here are some easy ways to implement them.
How to Create Effective Surveys
An effective survey will depend on a variety of factors. You have to set a goal, choose the right tool, and ask the right questions. You also need to ask your questions at the right time.
1. Set a Specific Goal
Ideally, your survey should set out to answer a broad question. This should have to do either with reach, reputation, or results.
Who is your content attracting, and is it the audience you want? Is your content marketing representing your brand in the right way? Is your content influencing customer decision-making?
2. Choose a Tool
The tool you use to carry out your surveys should be a platform that's easy and suitable for your needs.
Google Consumer Surveys or SurveyMonkey are good tools for in-depth questionnaires - they let you target an audience, ask away, and collect the results. Google's tool is a bit more bare-bones. SurveyMonkey can be exhaustive if you're willing to shell out the expense.
An example of question formatting from SurveyMonkey.
If you're not quite ready to put together a formal survey, you're not limited to traditional tools. You don't have to carry out a survey in a standard way.
For instance, you can directly ask your readers a question on social media in a forum-like strategy that opens up the discussion.
Here are some basic ideas:
- Informally query your followers on Instagram
- Pose a question to your Facebook followers
- Throw out a question for a specific Facebook group, or create a Facebook poll
- Quickly ask your audience one multiple-choice question using a Twitter Poll
Other options: You can go more informal and add a question to the end of a blog post, opening up the comments for discussion. While you're at it, ask your email subscribers for their opinion on a matter, too.
Whatever your style, or information you're looking to glean, you can gather it with the right tools.
3. Keep It Short and Sweet
When surveying your audience, you're asking for their time as much as their input. Be respectful of that and keep your surveys short and sweet.
Make questions easy to answer, and don't overwhelm your readership with too many surveys in a short timespan - you'll end up turning them off altogether instead of gaining useful feedback.
4. Ask Closed Questions
To collect data you can quickly sort and measure, keep your questions closed versus open-ended.
For example, instead of asking, "What do you think of our company?" - which could elicit any number of opinions - ask "Which answer is closest to your impression of our company?" and provide a limited number of selections to choose from.
Setting limits on possible answers will limit the amount of data you'll have to sift through. This makes the responses easier to analyze.
Here are some examples of closed questions on a SurveyMonkey template:
5. Ask About Past Behaviors - They're More Quantifiable
You can never predict what people will do - and, truly, neither can they. You can only assess your audience by what they've done in the past - the only measurable action is the one that's completed.
Asking questions that probe past behaviors are also easier to answer - it's far simpler to think about what you have done than to definitively say what you will do in an uncertain future situation.
6. Send Survey Invites at Opportune Times
One part of getting people to respond to your survey is timing. If you send invites at the wrong moment or to the wrong people, you'll do nothing but turn them off.
For example, give your audience time to dig into your content before you throw a survey link at them. Include it at the bottom of a post, not the top. Similarly, don't ask readers who haven't engaged with your brand to fill out a survey. A pop-up right when they click onto your website isn't tempting - it's annoying and unwarranted. What do they know about you at that point? Nothing.
Instead, try hitting up your email subscribers, your blog readers, and your social media followers. Use common sense and go where your people are.
Then, once you have your survey locked in and ready to go, you can unleash it on the world. Or, if your goals are less dramatic, you can share it, send it, and promote it.
The stationery sellers at Paper Source invited customers to their survey with an email. They sweetened the deal and offered 10% off, too.
How to Seamlessly Incorporate Surveys into Your Content Marketing
You've learned about the tools you can use to quiz your customers, you understand that survey-taking doesn't have to be formal, it doesn't have to involve long pages with dozens of questions and answers.
Now that you know which tactic will work best for you, how do you implement it?
1. Use a CTA
If you have a longer survey you would like your audience to take, point them in that direction with a CTA.
Include a CTA at the end of a blog post, in a social media post, or at the end of one of your newsletter emails.
Remember: If you don't promote your survey and point a finger at it, shouting, "Hey - look at this." nobody will know it exists.
2. Send an Email
We've already covered this, but it's a good avenue for responses. It's worth a shot to send your survey in an email to your newsletter subscribers.
Why? These are people who've already invested in your company in a small way. They want to keep up with your news and goings-on.
Sending them your survey is a logical step - not unwarranted, and most likely effective.
3. Offer Survey Incentives
There's nothing like a good incentive to get people motivated. Offer up something in exchange for taking your survey. You may get more interest and responses as a result.
For instance, give survey-takers a coupon code at the end of the questionnaire, or automatically enter their name into a raffle or giveaway. This shows your customers that you value their time and appreciate their help.
4. Post the Results
Fortunately, surveys are bits of research you can share in your content marketing.
Round up the results, analyze and quantify them, and write up a blog post or article about your findings. Create an infographic, a slide presentation, or an eBook.
Look at how Hubspot turned their survey about the state of content marketing into an eye-popping infographic:
These are great pieces of content because they're original and they position you as an authority in your industry. Plus, you'll also help push industry knowledge to new heights by sharing your results with other thought leaders.
If your survey gets a generous response and you gain a host of valuable insights, it's transparent and forthright to share, too. That doesn't only build authority - that builds trust.
Bottom Line: Surveys for Content Marketing Are So Worth Your Time
Think about this scenario: You have all kinds of stats gathered from sources like website hits, ad clicks, Facebook likes, blog post comments, and email subscriptions.
You can see what your audience is doing, how they're interacting with your brand and your content. You just don't know why.
Why is that one post so popular? Why does one ad work while another fails? Why are you getting tons of conversions on one version of a landing page, but not another?
That's exactly what surveys are for.
Surveys give you the why behind the numbers, figures, and stats.
For instance, they tell you:
- Why customers make purchasing decisions
- Why customers like you
- Why a particular ad, piece of content, or something similar works (or doesn't work)
And, more importantly, surveys can tell you who these people are.
Surveys can become an integral piece of your marketing puzzle. The information they provide is priceless. You only need the right questions, the right tools, and the right strategy.
That's one small step for your bottom line, and one giant leap for your brand.