Survey says: Customer surveys top marketer list
The August 2015 CMO survey report finds that online customer surveys are the top technique used by marketers to learn how to acquire, engage and retain customers online. Asked to check off all the approaches they use in that endeavor, 40.1% selected online surveys, while the second highest ranked approach, selected by online customer observations was 25.7%[i].
If you like surveys, these are glory days, because there’s a never ending supply of surveys being published on all sorts of topics. Politicians love surveys; academics love surveys; news organizations love surveys. But does anybody love surveys more than businesses love surveys?
In a New York Times 2012 story headlined “When Businesses Can’t Stop Asking, ‘How Am I doing?,[ii]” reporter William Grimes observed that, “Businesses of all sizes, desperate to lock in customer loyalty, see surveys as a window into the emotional world of their customers and a database that will offer guidance on how to please them.”
“B2B marketers and sales reps have been trying to better understand the customer lifecycle for years — the psychology behind purchasing decisions, the motivations that spur the research process, and more than anything, what makes buyers tick,” writes Adam Blitzer, GM of Pardot, a Salesforce company. But, he adds, “Despite these efforts, there’s still a disconnect between customers, marketers, and sales reps.”
Blitzer points to an IDC survey commissioned by Salesforce, “Selling to the Information-Driven Business,[iii]” that finds and identifies the top factors causing a breakdown in the customer journey
— Buyers simply have a tough time finding the right information.
— Marketers don’t understand how to reach a buyer who remains anonymous for a majority of the sales cycle.
— Sales reps lack insight into their prospects’ needs.
That’s where surveys come in handy.
But there are some ifs! Erika Hall, author of Just Enough Research and co-founder of Mule Design is no fan of surveys. “When faced with a choice, or a group of disparate opinions, running a survey can feel like the most efficient way to find a direction or to settle arguments (and to shirk responsibility for the outcome),[iv]” she writes in an “On Surveys” essay published earlier this year. “Which feature should we build next? We can’t decide ourselves, so let’s run a survey. What should we call our product? We can’t decide ourselves, so let’s run a survey.”
Now I don’t agree with Hall’s takeaway, but she has some good insights into where surveys can go wrong. They are easy to create, easy to distribute and easy to count. And, as Hall notes, “it’s much much harder to write a good survey than to conduct good qualitative user research.”
But sales teams don’t have the time, expertise or inclination to conduct good qualitative user research. There time is most valuable spent developing and closing a sale. But they need somebody to come up with that qualitative research. That’s where a professionally crafted prospect survey comes in.
Surveys are a great tool for ‘going directly to the source’ to enable marketers to garner insights from individual prospects, as well as to gain the collective pulse of a target audience. In addition, surveys are an effective tool for testing new ideas. In particular, prospect surveys are an exceedingly efficient tool to reach, engage, and qualify prospects, all while providing marketing and sales teams with valuable insight into a highly targeted market.
Traditionally, B2B brand messages and content have focused on features and benefits. Insight selling, empowered by prospect surveys, seeks to redefine a prospect’s purchase criteria in favor of a company’s offering by providing compelling new insights and previously unconsidered perspectives. Check out SimplyDIRECT’s market brief on using prospect surveys to enable insight selling for perspectives on putting surveys to work effectively.