Conducting your own online surveys gives your business easy access to the data you need, no matter your goal. Whether you’re looking to conduct market research, gain insight into your customers’ behaviour, or looking to understand what your target audience wants and needs; gathering survey data can help to inform future business strategy, and it does so without breaking the bank, or requiring much overhead.

The beauty of collecting your own data by means of your own branded survey is that it gives you total control over the type of data you retrieve, its quality, the volume, and its source/s. This makes data from your own survey all the more useful and applicable; by customising your survey exactly as you see fit, your business gains data that is custom fit for purpose.

How does your business get started with online surveys? How will you make sure that your survey is effective, and results in high-quality data that is specifically useful to your business’ needs?

In this article, we explore 5 best practice tips for building a high-quality, effective, branded online survey.

Before you start: Define a specific, measurable goal

There’s no use diving in and conducting a survey without having a clear idea of what it’s for.

Your survey shouldn’t just be about collecting data willy nilly – that data has to have an application, and the type of data you collect comes down to the questions you ask. How do you know what questions to ask in order to get the data you want? Define a clear, measurable goal.

Your goal has to be specific in order to be useful. A general goal won’t help you to design your survey, nor work out a strategy to gain access to the right data. A general goal for a survey, such as “get client feedback on our customer service” might seem at first to be informative enough to build out a survey – but when it comes to how custom and useful your data is, a general goal like this falls short.

For example, why is feedback useful to your business? What kind of feedback in particular is useful? Are you collecting feedback on customer service in order to figure out whether the customer support platform you use is working? Or are you trying to gain insight into what kind of customer support increases client loyalty and leads to repeat purchases? Ask enough questions, and a more specific goal will reveal itself.

In this example, a better goal would be: find out if the customers who use our customer support more highly rate phone, or live chat – and ask why that is. The goal here is to see whether either phone support or live chat can be phased out in order to concentrate the customer support team on the best channel.

Next up, it’s important to make sure that whatever your goal is that it’s easily measured. Deciding ahead of time how you will measure your results in accordance with your goal will help you figure out what questions to ask, and how to ask them. For example, if you want to see which support channel is the ‘best’, you might measure that by whether customers rate their satisfaction highly, or whether they are frequent repeat support users (indicating that the support is not long lasting).

You might use rating question types for satisfaction rating so that you can measure your results numerically, or a drop down menu question type for ‘how often do you use customer support?’ and have limited options: ‘once a year, monthly, weekly, more than twice a week’.

Specifying how your goal is measured will inform how you build out your survey, so make sure it’s something you’ve cleared up to a tee.

Scrutinize every question in your survey, and only ask what’s necessary.

If a high response rate is important to your business and its survey, then it’s important to remember this one rule: keep it short and simple.

Online, most people have short attention spans, and when a survey demands obvious time and attention, you may lose plenty of respondents to disinterest. If someone clicks through to your survey, they shouldn’t have to scroll for ages, nor fill out countless essay-response style questions. This survey is for your business after all; why should your respondents have to suffer through a stressful quiz to give you data that ultimately benefits you alone?

With your clear goal in mind, scrutinize every question you want to ask in your survey. Is it absolutely necessary? Is there a simpler way to ask your essay response questions? Instead of asking an open ended question that requires more mental energy to answer (e.g. “What do you think we could improve?”) choose a question type that makes decision making for your respondent easier, for e.g. “Check the boxes for the improvements you’d most like to see on our platform”.

When deciding which ‘darlings to kill’ when editing your survey, ask what data each question will result in. And if the data is directly useful, keep the question. If it isn’t, or if it’s only providing vague or already existing data – scrap it.

Use page breaks to break up a long survey

If your survey becomes long, and requires scrolling, even after a heavy audit (and you know for sure every question is 100% necessary), then you might want to simulate the appearance of ‘short and sweet’ by adding page breaks. This means that you won’t lose potential responses to disinterest in scrolling; but you’ll do so without compromising on your survey content.

Page breaks on your survey will mean you can ask a few questions per page, with ‘next’ buttons to help usher the respondent along. Having to click through – rather than scroll – keeps engagement high, and you’re less likely to lose respondents despite asking plenty of questions.

As a rule of thumb though, the shorter and simpler your survey – the better.

Warm respondents up before asking hard questions

Just like you wouldn’t start off a conversation with either deeply personal, or challenging questions in real life, it’s best to design your survey so that it flows like a polite discussion. If you’re wanting to ask personal questions, such as age, or are looking for more mentally challenging responses such as opinions and suggestions – try formatting your survey so that easier, less personal questions are asked earlier on; giving your respondents a chance to ‘warm up’ to the harder stuff.

This also helps to increase engagement, as you may lose respondents – due to the amount of attention demanded – earlier on in a survey, if you require that they answer harder questions straight off the bat. Just like it’s important to keep your survey short in order to maximise responses, it’s also important to keep it easy – or at least, easy at first.

Give a clear incentive

The more data you collect from a survey, the better you’ll reach your survey’s goal. That’s why maximising responses is an important subsidiary goal to have for any, and every survey your business conducts. It can be difficult to convince a high volume of your audience to fill out a survey. Often the surveys you conduct will clearly only benefit your company – and as such, not all of your target audience is going to be chuffed to spend their precious time handing over data that’s useful for you.

That’s why giving a clear incentive to your audience is important. In the gap between inviting recipients to respond to a survey, and having them actually submit a response, your company has to effectively communicate a clear incentive to make a survey submission.

The easiest incentive to provide is some sort of reward for submitting a response. For example, a voucher, or a free digital gift. It’s simple to set this up: make sure that your survey management software allows for automated confirmation of submission emails. Simply switch this on and make sure your automated confirmation email contains the voucher, or necessary links, to enable your respondents to collect their prize.

There’s plenty of other ways to incentivise your survey, so get creative. If you’re looking to make your survey as effective as possible, then making sure that you source a large pool of responses is imperative. That’s why you need to illustrate why filling out your survey is of benefit to your target audience.

Conducting your own branded online surveys gives you total control over, and access to, the exact type of high-quality data your business needs to inform its strategies, decisions, and trajectory. Data is an invaluable resource in this day and age, and having easy access to it via the means of online surveys gives your business the chance to take full advantage. No matter your goal, conducting surveys and collecting data will help you reach that goal faster, and with ease.

Want to build, manage and analyse surveys online? Try Swift Digital’s survey tools, and partner them up with automated emails to make the most of it. Call our experts to talk it out further on 02 9929 7001.

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