The quality of the content you create is influenced by the quality of the material on which it is based. However, that material may not be complete – a client's knowledge of their own customers is often far from perfect.
A customer survey can be a source of rich content. But to gather the sort of material you need, every customer survey should include these three often-overlooked questions.
In creating content, it's important to grab as much information from your clients as you possibly can – the more you can absorb from them the better the creative content ideas that you come up with. And asking clients detailed questions shows you're interested and curious – the better the questions you ask, the more trust you build.
But clients often don't know what they don't know, especially small and medium-sized companies.
SEO professionals and link builders are increasingly taking on tasks that would normally be the territory of marketing consultants. Many have discovered that surveys can be a great source of publicity and editorial links (see 6 Reasons You Should Use Market Surveys in Link Building Campaigns).
Surveys can and should go much further than link bait. A well-constructed survey can give you useful insights into the market you're trying to penetrate and help you create solid content (see 18 Ways to Create Unique Content From Survey Results).
But don't expect clients to say, "Survey? Yeah, great, when do we start?" It's more likely they'll have done a survey in the past and not used the results. This is an opportunity for you to talk about how you can use a survey to get fresh and unique insights into their customer base. And how you can create compelling content based on these fresh insights.
Here are three killer, but often overlooked, questions that will maximize the potential for creating useful content. Include these every survey you conduct for content generation.
1. The Categorization Question
This is a simple question that has big implications for the content you're able to create afterward. It's one that the client will often say isn't needed, but it's essential for savvy marketers.
It's simply the question, "To which of the following sectors do you belong?" Then list the main sectors that your client serves and make sure to include an additional option of "other" where the customer can specify their sector.
The client will often say they already know which sectors they serve, so it isn't necessary.
The value of this question isn't in the answer itself, but in the ability it gives you to dice up the answers later, and create content that is razor-focused on specific niches.
If, for example, your client has three main sectors (e.g., travel, retail, and nonprofit), then you can easily look at the results for each of those sectors in isolation. So if you isolate the travel sector, which your survey software should allow you to easily do, you have material that will be directly relevant to bloggers, journalists, and customers in the travel niche. You get sector-specific research on which to base sector specific content.
This gives you so many more options when you do come to create content.
2. The Customer Story Question
A question along the lines of "Tell us a story about..." your experiences with using our product or how you've used our product to solve a specific problem, complete a task, save time, and so on.
Give plenty of space for the answer so that people get the message that you want them to give you detailed answers. Customers will take up the offer, especially if they have a burning issue or a recent important experience. Answers here can be rich in detail and provide you a ton of inspiration for content.
The answers are qualitative in nature so won't give you nice looking data and charts because they can't be easily measured – but they give you great customer stories. Spend the time reading individual answers, line-by-line, and look for replies that you can develop into meaningful customer stories.
Rich as this material may be, you can't just cut and paste the answers and drop them into your content. You've got to ask their permission first and that's where you'll be in trouble if you haven't asked the next killer question.
3. The Contact Permission Question
The answers people give in a survey are confidential and can't be used directly in content. However, if you tell people that you're compiling quotes and case studies and would they be interested in participating, then you can use that material.
And the more you build a good rapport with the customer, then the more detailed content you will get.
With this type of question you're doing important two things that bring you unique, quality content:
- You're telling people that you will be creating publicity material that features customer stories, which will pique the interest of respondents who are PR savvy and recognize the value of being featured in case studies.
- You're getting their express permission to get in touch with further questions – and that gives you an opportunity to build a rapport and dig deeper into their opinions. Any additional material they give you can be published without a problem.
When you do follow up, your prime objective is to get people to tell you more about their answers – it's not the time for you to ask new questions. Say things like, "I was interested in what you said about … could you tell me more?" Skype is a great way to do these interviews because you'll quickly identify customers who are articulate, are potential brand ambassadors, and whom you may well be able to use in podcasts, videos, or testimonials.
By asking those three questions, you've given yourself numerous permutations. You can isolate people who are in the travel industry (Q1), who have a great story to tell (Q2), and have given you permission to get in touch (Q3).
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