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Could a simple online survey be the secret to your success?

by Justine Smith  |  January 31/2013  |  ,

Not knowing what keeps your customers up at night could be holding your business back. That’s what my entrepreneur friend – I’ll call her Leslie – discovered last year. After having her first child, she launched a copywriting business so she could stay home with her newborn. She quickly got to work marketing her business on various social sites, created a newsletter and slowly grew subscribers along the way.

Unfortunately the one thing Leslie didn’t grow in those early months was her customer base. She wasn’t able to even land one. That put a strain on the family finances and her husband thought Leslie should go back to her day job.

Through some brainstorming with a peer, Leslie realized that until she knew exactly what kept her newsletter subscribers up at night, she’d continue to have trouble turning any of them into paying clients.

Leslie decided to ask her 112 subscribers to fill out a short survey, which she created with an online cloud-based service. A major discovery for Leslie was that all the people who responded – 16 in total – were very concerned about promoting their business.

That was just the insight she needed. Within a day Leslie had reworked her service offerings to emphasize her PR copywriting services and less than a week later, she wrote a press release for her first client Now almost a year later, business is booming and Leslie is earning the same as when she worked full time – while getting to stay home with her little one.

What Leslie learned can help us all. Knowing what your customers’ biggest challenges are will help you tailor your marketing and services so you look the superhero they’ve been waiting for.

Like Leslie, you may be surprised by what you discover from your prospects through a survey, something so big it could change the course of your business for the better.

Now one thing you may be thinking is “could I lose subscribers by asking them to complete a survey”? The answer is yes, but it’s nothing to worry about because the insight you’ll gain from those who take the time will be more valuable than those few subscribers you lost who wouldn’t have purchased from you anyway.

To create a survey, you can choose from several websites out there including SurveyMonkey, Fluid Surveys and Survey Gizmo. I’ve personally used SurveyMonkey and have been happy with them. Here are some things to note about the service:

-       It’s free for up to 10 questions and a max of 100 responses per survey, with monthly paid packages for needs beyond that.

-       The results are in real-time, so you could potentially start seeing results within minutes of sending off your first survey.

-       SurveyMonkey is web-based, so all your data will be stored online in the cloud for easy referencing.

-       All accounts, even free ones, come with 24/7 email support.

Action Tip: Brainstorm 1 great question you could ask your potential customers and share it with your peers in the comments below. That way you’ll have a great bank of questions to draw on when you’re ready to run your first survey.


  • Jason

    What are some good questions to ask?

  • http://www.freshbooks.com/our-team.php#justinesmith Justine Smith

    Hey @Jason, great question! It does depend on your goals, but a couple question types I used in my past business:

    1. Questions to get to know the demographic – so age, income, what they do, male/female.

    2. Questions to get to know their pain (which is something you can hopefully solve with your services) – this will provide valuable info to help you better tailor your offerings and marketing messages.

    There are also some good tips for writing the great questions here: http://help.surveymonkey.com/articles/en_US/kb/Writing-Survey-Questions-Tips-for-effective-and-relevant-questions

    Best of luck running your survey!

  • Tom

    Excellent post! Enjoyed reading it. Well in this day and age, the benefits of online surveys are tremendous. Just like you said, discovering the customers’ needs and then providing them with exactly the same, would certainly build their confidence for your company, which will ultimately lead to an increase in your client-base.

  • http://fluidsurveys.com Aydin Mirzaee

    Great post Justine!
    Just wanted to add that we (FluidSurveys) just launched an integration with Freshbooks that allows you to automatically send surveys to your Freshbooks contacts… here is a blog post that explains how it works:

    http://fluidsurveys.com/the-awesome-continues-fluidsurveys-integrates-with-freshbooks/

  • http://www.freshbooks.com/our-team.php#justinesmith Justine Smith

    Woohoo, that’s great news Aydin. Thanks so much for letting us know, what a great idea :)

  • Laura

    Hi Justine, its a good read but I have one suggestion. I would like to know what was your experience with SoGoSurvey. I think it is a fairly advanced tool, evolving each day!

  • http://www.SuperSimpleSurvey.com Nick

    Awesome article Justine.
    We recently created an online survey company that helps with this exact problem (www.SuperSimpleSurvey.com) which also includes a pretty sweet free tier that has access to all our functions :)

    Would greatly appreciate it if you can add that into your list of tools as we believe we by far the easiest and quickest way to get a survey out there!

  • Laura

    Hi, im back again! do not see anything about my request left in one of my previous comments. Nevertheless, given that im a bit persistent, I am leaving behind one more request. All survey tools offer free accounts with which you can do close to nothing! With SoGoSurvey, you can make online survey free of cost because its free account also has some noteworthy features.

  • http://www.freshbooks.com/our-team.php#justinesmith Justine Smith

    Hey @Laura – I don’t have experience with SoGoSurvey… it seems like you do though. I think there are a lot of options for the free accounts with the survey sites we mentioned in the article, but thanks for adding another to the list.

    @Nick – thanks for sharing Super Simple Survey!

  • http://www.littlenomads.com James Hayward

    As gran always said – you don’t get if you don’t ask. Thanks for highlighting and seeding the idea for me to ask some questions to help kick us along.

  • James

    Have any of you used Qualtrics, I love it.

  • Victor

    I’ve tried all of the sites mentioned above and actually quite a lot more, but the one that stood out most for me was Super Simple Survey (thanks for the tip, Nick). They don’t have as big a name as Survey Monkey for example, but in terms of what they have to offer they are very much comparable. What is most obvious about them is their focus on simplicity, and this just makes it an awesome site with lots of potential.

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