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Choosing the Best Online Survey Tool for Your Business

It's not easy. Selecting the best online survey tool to satisfy your unique needs can seem overwhelming. There are numerous online providers today, all with their own policies, special features and benefits. The fact that you are online searching for a survey creation tool confirms how much you realize marketing research is to the future of your business.

In order to be successful at this task, you must first ask yourself the following key questions:

  1. From a basic knowledge of your customer base, which channel would elicit a better response, i.e., via an email, a first class mailing, in person, or by phone?
  2. Should the email survey be designed for mobile phone users? (This data can be gathered from how these users are currently accessing your website.)
  3. Is there someone (or a department) in your organization capable of providing you with invaluable insights into the level of information that needs to be collected?

Once you have built this foundation, it's time to move on to the requirements needed from the online survey provider:

  1. If applicable, will the survey be able to accommodate your branding, i.e., company logo and design color requirements? (Some favor blind surveys to remove any hint of bias.)
  2. Will the potential survey provider be able to accommodate a team effort? This permits you to assign different roles within your team to effectively manage the survey.
  3. If you are already using an online survey tool, what "must-haves" do you now require that your current source does not offer? Is it just a matter of price?
  4. Conversely, which features of your existing provider are also "must-haves" when choosing the new provider?
  5. Is it mobile compatible for more flexibility?
  6. Are you going to be concerned with any stated limitations? Some sources offer "free" versions but limit the number of surveys allotted, the number of questions permitted, and even the number of respondents you can contact. Be sure you understand such policies before making your selection.
  7. Are the reporting and analytical tools more than satisfactory to leverage the data uncovered?

Developing Strategies and Priorities

How many sales channels are utilized in your organization? Which one clearly demands more attention than the others? If it's your e-commerce site, this might be an ideal opportunity to embed a brief survey to uncover the reason(s) why sales or leads are not meeting your expectations. If it's your internal or external sales force, it may be the perfect time to email these customers a confidential survey attempting to uncover any and all problems.

On the other hand, the issue might be with the mobile version of your website. An email survey might uncover the perceived weaknesses users have with this version so you can immediately tackle them. Most importantly, it is critical that once you have completed the necessary revisions, you should send a follow-up survey (after an appropriate interval) to the same audience to learn if the changes made have fully addressed the earlier stated problems.

Perhaps you've become too dependent on your existing customer base and not attracting enough new buyers. If you are familiar with the characteristics (demographics and purchasing habits) of your customer base, then you can rent an email or mailing distribution list and survey prospective customers to better understand their buying habits—who they have chosen instead of you and why you are not successfully attracting them.

The Basics

If you're shopping for a survey tool provider for the first time, what are the baseline features you should expect? See below:

  1. A Relevant Selection of Preloaded Design Templates to provide you with a shortcut (if so desired) to creating one from scratch. These templates also offer the novice with an opportunity to quickly learn how a professional survey is produced.
  2. Branding Capabilities to support your own unique logo and company colors. This entails replacing the survey software vendor's branding. Be sure to investigate whether this is free or entails a paid upgrade.
  3. Survey Creation Flexibility that ensures you have at your disposal a wide variety of question types. This should include multiple choice, Net Promoter Score (NPS), star rating, slider, scale, and open-ended text input boxes.
  4. Robust Analytical & Reporting Tools to ensure the replies captured from every respondent are thoroughly scrutinized and disseminated into a format that team members and everyone else impacted in your organization can understand and act upon.
  5. Skip Logic presents your users with the opportunity to answer only those questions that pertain to them based on prior responses. This feature helps avoid survey fatigue and obtains only relevant answers to your questions.
  6. Mobile Accessibility addresses survey availability from any device. It also lends itself to your external salespeople, if applicable, taking the questionnaire out into the field.

Finally, it's always in your best interest to scrutinize customer reviews on a variety of platforms prior to making the final decision. Once you have absorbed this critical information, be sure to select either the free demo or free trial offer from the survey software website. This will allow you to take it for a test drive before you commit to a monthly or annual subscription.

About the author:

Rich Nelson has been a senior marketing executive for over 35 years. The key focus throughout his career has been helping small to medium size businesses succeed in an ever-competitive marketplace.

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