An in-depth market survey on behalf of your client can be a rich source of original material that brings you many content ideas and multiple business benefits to boot.
Here’s a practical example.
Several years ago, I was working on a project for an online plumbing supplies company. Over coffee the CEO remarked that most of his customers were women.
“Really? Why are most of your customers women?” I asked.
“I’ve no idea…” was his swift response.
Hmm, there might be a linkworthy story there.
So we sent out a customer survey: it confirmed 70 percent of his customers were women and told us why.
Women preferred buying online because they hated enduring a lot of teasing as they stood in line at a trade shop. So we had the answer and lots of quotes from women telling us why it was such a pain.
This made a perfect media story – we sent out a press release and one of the best results was being covered and linked to by FT.com.
Journalists and bloggers love writing about survey results – there’s something inherently attractive and newsworthy about the numbers and charts in a story.
So how can customer surveys make a link builder's life easier? Here are six benefits that should tempt you to give this a try with your clients.
1. You Get a Great Understanding of Your Client’s Customers
Rather than depending on your client’s opinion, you get facts and fresh detail from the customers they’re targeting. The results of customer surveys can often surprise and inspire your clients. Much kudos to you!
2. You Get Data That is Truly Unique
Because your client’s customers are unique, the data you collect and the content you create around that data is unique. Be creative in the questions you ask. Probe customers for their motivations and experiences. You’ll get unique and creative content.
3. You Get Quotes and Testimonials From Real People
Design a survey well and people will actually enjoy filling it in. Give them opportunities to express themselves in "open" questions – text boxes where they can tell you their story. You’ll get great quotes and testimonials from this material (but you can only use them if you follow up and ask for permission).
4. You Get a Ton of Ideas for Blog Posts and Articles
Working through survey results is rewarding – ideas for great posts just keep popping out. But you can improve on this even further by asking for people’s opinions in a "matrix question."
Here’s how it works:
- Write a number of statements relevant to your client.
- Ask people how much they agree/disagree with each statement.
- Draw a histogram of the rating of each.
- Write a blog post around each statement.
- Even collate all your charts and posts into a "What people think…" report.
5. You Can Gather Case Studies Volunteered by Respondents
Simply ask respondents, “We’re conducting follow up telephone interviews with a number of respondents. If you’d like to be considered for this follow-up, please enter your name and email address below.”
When people volunteer, sift through their results, pick out particularly interesting answers and follow up to get even more detail. This is a fantastic way to generate case studies.
6. You See Specific Areas You Need to Promote (and Stimulate Sales)
There is one killer "sales" question to include in your survey – “Which of the following products have you purchased from us in the past?” – then list your major products or product areas.
The products customers aren’t buying suggests you should focus your link building on promoting them.
And what about stimulating sales?
Invariably customers don’t know everything a client does. They get into buying habits and can be a bit lazy in exploring anything else. But the question subtlely reminds them of exactly what your client does.
The question generates sales in two ways:
- The customer discovers something he didn’t know your client does and promptly buys.
- You bring your client "front of mind" – “I’ve been thinking about buying from you...” and promptly do so.
You Get One Shot at a Customer Survey
You’ll probably only get one shot at it – so make it a good survey. Survey software makes it easy to create surveys and collect and analyze results. But that can be a trap – it’s easy to make mistakes that undermine the value of your survey.
Design your survey so that:
- You make the survey enjoyable for customers to complete by asking interesting questions.
- You don’t ask confusing or biased questions.
- The results easily create the charts and stories that journalists and bloggers love.
- You don’t appear too self-serving but make a real effort at objectivity.
SurveyMonkey.com has an excellent free guide to designing smart surveys here.
My next article will look at 18 different types of content you can create from survey results.
And of course, I’d love to hear your comments and questions below.