Reprinted from Strategies newsletter, 2nd Quarter © May 2002 by First Marketing, 3300 Gateway Drive, Pompano Beach, FL 33069.

3 common mistakes to avoid
when posting a survey to your Web site

One great advantage of the Internet is that it’s a two-way street. You can talk to your customers and hear back from them too. But many companies, enticed by the bang they can get from their Internet buck, are launching online surveys without considering the drawbacks.

1. Posting to a public Web site. If your intent is to gather information from customers, a Web site available to both customers and noncustomers is not the place to conduct your survey. Who is responding, and how often?

“Questionnaires designed only to capture e-mail addresses and demographic information are fine on a public site,” says Gayle Kiser, who heads up First Marketing’s Effectiveness Research initiatives. “But it’s not the best place to collect meaningful customer feedback that will play a role in your business decisions.”

2. Assuming that the more responses you get, the better. Some companies opt to post surveys to password-protected, customers-only sites. With the right incentive, these surveys may generate a good response — but can you project the results across your entire customer base? Not necessarily. Because these surveys are open to all customers and respondents are self-selected by online visitors, these surveys are subject to sample error. The best way to avoid this problem is to develop a sound sampling methodology and incentive to respond before moving ahead with the survey.

3. Ignoring offline customers. Unless you are surveying customers whose primary relationship with your company is online (online banking, e-commerce, etc.), Internet surveys can leave a substantial portion of your customer base untapped.

“To project results across your universe of customers, the sample drawn must be random,” says Kiser, a 13-year veteran of First Marketing. “A sample is not considered random unless all customers — with and without Internet access — have an equal opportunity to be included in that sample.”

The best way to do an online survey

Online customer surveys make the most sense when obtaining feedback about your company’s Web site or when surveying an Internet audience, such as online banking customers or e-commerce customers.

Studies have shown that the most accurate results are obtained when:

  • a random sample of customers receives an e-mail invitation
  • the e-mail contains a link to a Web page with the questionnaire
  • and a cash or online currency incentive is used.
“These types of surveys have been known to generate a response rate of 20 to 50 percent,” Kiser says.

First Marketing can help

Online surveys can be faster and less costly than paper surveys. But many of them don’t yield reliable enough data to help you make meaningful marketing decisions. First Marketing has performed numerous online surveys for clients, and we can help you do yours right. We can manage the entire survey for you — including writing, programming, executing and tabulating. Or, we can simply consult with you regarding methodology.

If you are interested in this service, speak to your First Marketing Account Manager or Business Development Manager. Or, contact us and ask us to send you a free copy of 10 Rules of Thumb for E-Mail Marketing.

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