The Forgotten Marketing. 7 Tips To Bring Your Survey Alive! 

When a customer walks into your place of business or clicks on your website links it reflects the image you want to present.

You’ve worked hard to build your reputation and you’ve considered every step in the sale process to win them over.

Now you need to understand their likes and dislikes so you add a survey to the funnel.  It might only be once a year, or maybe you send to everyone post-sale.

That’s a sound business practice. 

Except, most of you will pick a free or low-priced online survey tool, make up the questions based on your needs … and send it out.

But nine times out of ten it doesn’t reflect your image. Is it of no value to your customer.

So to help you overcome this quandary of needing information without upsetting anyone, I’ve pulled on my years of experience of making research fun & engaging and put together these tips.


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.

Transparent in Survey

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.  

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” DALAI LAMA

Although we don’t advocate a long questionnaire, people are more likely to be forgiving and complete the survey, if you communicate a strong sense of purpose. It’s all about them feeling involved in your issue.  

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


It’s very easy to be immersed in data, if not overwhelmed, by an endless stream of metrics, KPIs etc. Understandably 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 the brands in their life.

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

“It’s hard to target a message to a generic 35-year-old middle-class working mother of two. It’s much easier to target a message to Jennifer, who has two children under four, works as a paralegal, and is always looking for quick but healthy dinners and ways to spend more time with her kids and less time on housework.” Elizabeth Gardner

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


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.

And surveys the most common form that most of us are exposed to as marketers – whether conducting a study or being a participant in someone else’s project.

Engage the Whole Brain

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. To find the deeper, emotional drivers in the Right-Brain.

“The Right-Brain qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning, increasingly will determine who flourishes, and who flounders.” DANIEL H. PINK

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

And your survey will feel relatable, stimulating and fun!



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, 

understandable only to your team. Which is why testing your questions with outsiders can help.

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

“I have this perception that my friends are the consumer, and if it doesn't work on them, then I'm not doing it.” RHIANNA

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

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


Instead of asking people to “fill out a survey”, 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.

Make It Inviting in Marketing Research

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

“It’s easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back” SETH GODIN

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 BTW 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.”



While its necessary to basically 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.

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

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” MAYA ANGELOU

Consider 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.

Maybe we need to make this more general…a normal business might feel that can’t provide this.  So something like “ ‘money can’t buy’ gift.  Thinking about an experience they would highly value.


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.

Bridging the Gap between Marketing & Market Research

In an online forum this can be managed by using first or nicknames only. Or even anonymous code-names in a more sensitive scenario e.g. B2B.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”  STEPHEN R. COVEY

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. The issue has been around a lot longer than Facebook!

And BTW 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.


Customer surveys can now be created and distributed in many different ways. But whatever the method, the fundamentals of Trust & Engagement always apply.

So, always say thank you! Not only send a personal note to each participant, but also share-back the highlights of YOUR learnings, and THEIR influence. You could even do a short video. Make them feel like a brand VIP, and they’ll be more likely to get involved next time.

This article first appeared in the Retail Learning Channel

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