It's easy to throw together surveys, but what damage is that doing your business?

I've seen some shocking surveys from businesses. As cold as ice and all about them.

You're sending a survey to your customers because you need feedback. Of course, you want it to be the best feedback you can get, or it's a waste of time. And the last thing you want to do is piss off your customers.

Prefer to read? This is the transcript from the video.

How many times have you received an email asking you to participate in a survey? If your inbox is like mine, I get at least a couple a week. And the first question I ask myself is, why should I?

I’ve seen some shocking surveys from businesses. It feels like someone in management has said, “we need some feedback, now”. So a few questions are thrown together and just sent with no care at all.

I want to show you an example

This is one that I received in my inbox… I’ve taken out the name of the business.

“Hi there,

We noticed you signed up for our free trail. Could you please complete this short survey about your experience?

Your answers to these questions really help us ensure we are on track, and highlight where we need to improve - so thank you in advance!

(Person Name/Generic Signature)”

 But let’s turn that around…

“Hey Judy,

Welcome and thanks for giving (our business) a try!

As CEO I drive our team to give you a better experience.

I’ve just got a few quick questions that will really help us to help you.

And as thanks for your time, I’m extending your free trial for another (x) weeks (or some other gift of value).

All the best
Jo Bloggs

So to pick them apart. Firstly, if you have their name, then use it. 

Then, coming from a person of authority is powerful, it means you really care.

And reward them… why should they spend their time helping you?

It’s one of the reasons I hate with a passion those pesty surveys sent to customers at the of the transaction. From the customers perspective… “I just gave you money, now you want my time as well”

If you respect your customers’ time, demonstrate you value them. And reward them, not only will the number of responses increase, but the quality will also improve. All while building a stronger relationship.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll move onto our top 10 tips on writing better surveys

So let’s get into it.

BE TRANSPARENT                                                       

Don’t try and hide who you are. Be up-front and honest, and your customers will respect you for it. Tell them WHY you’re doing the survey, and how they’re tangibly helping you.

If you’re trying to solve a problem, then tell them something about it. Even if you’re concerned about revealing a weakness or tipping off competitors. From a customer perspective, your candour will be powerfully engaging.  

Give them a strong sense of purpose. It’s all about them feeling involved in your issue.  

And you’ll receive honest, direct answers in reply.

Here’s an example - Turn your decision-making dilemma into a question. For example. “I’m trying to decide whether to do X or Y. Which one would you choose?” You could even have an open-ended “And why do say that?” for added insight.

Now for the sake of transparency, I’d love it if you clicked Subscribe. I share heaps of useful tips to help you in small business.

Ok, let’s move onto my second tip.


It’s very easy to be immersed in data, if not overwhelmed, by an endless stream of metrics, KPIs etc. Understandably these are essential for management to run the business.

But it can mean being disconnected with the source of all the numbers. Real, flesh & blood people who are unique individuals, with their own stories, and experiences with your business in their lives.

So when building your survey, be aware that individuals in the same narrow Demographic group, such as age & gender, can have totally different mindsets, or what is called  Psychographics.

Filtering your results on a particular mindset - how they prefer to use your product, or the motivators of their usage. That brings you closer to your participants as people. And facilitates the development of profiled segments, marketing more in tune with their emotional drivers.

ENGAGE THE WHOLE BRAIN                                            

For good reason research is often a Left-Brain activity, tied-up in logic, metrics and facts. It’s about highly-structured tasks and content.

Which is all fine in terms of organising the activity. But not always helpful when it comes to integrating with brand values, and reaching into your customer’s head. That find the deeper, emotional drivers in the Right-Brain.

So try using multimedia elements in questions. The right image or GIF, or video even an audio clip can trigger a more engaged response. Though keep it short.

Your survey will then feel relatable, stimulating and fun!

But, take care not to ‘lead’ the participant. For example, if you were asking where they like to holiday, you wouldn’t have an image of the beach. Instead you could show suitcases ready at the door.


After years of conditioning, it’s natural for a marketer to feel that a questionnaire has to be written in formal, academic language to avoid bias, and unconsciously ‘leading’ responses.

Of course, you do have to avoid ambiguous or confusing questions. Or using your industry’s jargon. Which is why testing your questions with outsiders can help.

On the other hand, also avoid try-hard slang.

Plain & simple is the mantra – think Twitter with the disciplines of word economy and one thought at a time.

Here’s an example. A formal question may say “Please rate our service performance on each of the following items”, compared to a friendlier “How do you feel about these features of our service?”


This message is starting to get through, but many of us want to add just one more question.

10 minutes, is the benchmark we like to stick to. Longer than that, and you risk them just ticking anything to get it over and done with. There are exceptions. But for a DIY project, keep it tight.

I had a survey only last week that said it was 15min. Being a research junkie, I clicked on the link. 63 questions… oh my goodness. I just walked away.

Make sure you get someone else to test the length… if you time yourself, it will take you way less. But you want your audience to have time to contemplate their response. So much information can be lost in a rush.

MAKE IT INVITING                                 

Instead of asking people to “fill out a survey”, which becomes more like a tax-form. Ask for their help to improve your product or service, to make it better for them.

In this automated bot-world, people respond really well to personalised, human contact.

And being asked for their opinion by a decision-maker is very powerful. You could even send a short video from the CEO as an explainer of the purpose.

The invitation can be sharpened further by reflecting the target you’re trying to reach. This especially helps if the project is aimed at a particular segment of your database. Which by the way is often more productive than a more generalised, catch-all exercise.

So for a sports club membership survey, for instance, you might say “I invite you as a long-time, valued member, to help me plan next season. Along with others like yourself, your experienced opinions will be invaluable.”

Now if you’re worried about remembering all these tips, I’ve added a link to a ebook I’ve created for you. You’ll find a link in the comments. You don’t need your email, so check it out.  Ok, back to our tips and the last 4 are just as important.


While its necessary to thank and reward people for their time in helping you, the tone of how this is framed makes a big difference to engagement.

It’s not necessarily about ramping up the cash value. Because there’s a point where ever-escalating rewards won’t attract someone to a perceived, low-engagement experience.

What’s In It For Me comes from the emotional benefit of ‘making a difference’, as well as cash or merchandise prize-draws.

Think about a creative ‘money can’t buy’ gift, where you offer a premium opportunity related to your brand. Which will also generate social sharing in that person’s circle, amplifying your branding, all from one insights project.

And just as a tip It’s about people feeling valued, not the value of the incentive. 


DON’T FORGET THE LEGALS                                             

All marketing is relationships. And for your insights program to be an effective touchpoint, customers must feel safe, respected, and completely trusting of your intentions.

Tell participants their survey answers will be merged with everyone else’s data, and they won’t be personally identified in the analysis. Some years ago, I did a survey after buying a new car. I then received a phone call from the sales person was very upset by my comments. I was told the survey was confidential, so that blew my trust.

Make it clear their information won’t be shared with any third-parties for sales purposes. People are well aware that databases are often on-sold, exposing to them to spam.

And by the way that includes strictly avoiding the temptation to contact and upsell a customer, based on a survey question response! This is wrong, and a data-protection, legal nightmare.

COLLECT PERMISSION                              

At the end of your survey, ALWAYS include a Research-Permission question. Write it in a friendly way like “Could I occasionally ask for your opinions again in the future?”

The idea is to build a profiled database of people who actively want to help you. Which makes it much easier and faster to send out an urgent question and not bombard your whole database.

My favourite way of managing this group of people is to make them VIPs. They get bonuses for participating in regular feedback discussions, such as live groups, online forums, or short surveys. So package up something to make it worth their while. Think about your customer, what would they like ahead of others?

Don’t burn them though, restrict contacts to a minimum once every 6-8 weeks.

NEVER send promotional/sales messages. If they’re also on your sales database, that’s separate and business as usual. But your Insights Database should only be for that purpose, to preserve the integrity of your relationship and  data. And give it a warm & friendly name in your communications.


Always say thank you! I’m not talking about that one line at the end of your survey, that says Thanks. If they entered their details for a prize draw, then send them a personal thanks, let them know how helpful their opinions were.

The other thing that works well to build a relationship is to share-back the highlights of your learnings. You could do a short video explaining the changes you’re going to make. Make them feel important to your business, and they’ll be more likely to get involved next time.

If you want to learn more about how to gather insights then check out these videos.

3 Easy Marketing Research Techniques and 5 Senses to Empower Your Marketing Research

And while you're on YouTube, subscribe to my channel to get my weekly tips to help you with your marketing in small business. 

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