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7 Tips for Creating Awesome Original Surveys

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You want to be original. Everyone does. In storytelling, originality counts for a lot.

With original content, you can be confident that you’re giving your audience something fresh, whether it’s an entirely new story or a retelling from a new angle. If you’re in the content marketing game, data is a fantastic tool for original storytelling—and decision-making too.

Good data is great for storytelling, but your own proprietary data is even better. Sometimes you can’t use proprietary data, due to lack of time, lack of budget, lack of resources, of lack of expertise.

If you can’t, certainly use the best data you can find. But always try to use proprietary data first. It’s what you have that nobody else does.

That’s why 97% of companies in an Accenture study considered proprietary data either “very valuable” or “quite valuable” in differentiating a company from competitors. And make no mistake, you have data. You just may not know how to access it. According to one estimate by The Wall Street Journal, “companies analyze no more than 1% of their data and convert even less to proprietary advantage.”

That’s a huge gap between observation and action, and it’s up to you to close it.

The good news is data is right in front of you. Your customers are a spectacular replenishing source of data that can give you that market edge in storytelling and decision-making. How do you get data from your customers, though?

Easy. Just ask.

Well, okay, it’s not that easy. You need to plot strategy, you need to do research, and you need to have finesse. You need to know the little things that can mean big success, like how allowing respondents to use social autofill to complete their survey can increase conversions by 189%, or how just adding a word after “Submit” can boost conversion rates by 320%.

When starting out in survey creation, it might be a bit of trial and error, but you’ll learn how to get good data to tell great stories. Just follow these tips to create the best surveys.


1. Keep it short.

Human attention spans are not what they once were, when we thrived and laughed and handed each other books from our grand libraries. This is the era of 6-second videos on Vine, not One Thousand and One Nights. People have a lot to do and they have a lot distracting them. Keep it short if you want responses.


2. Keep it simple.

Ask one question at a time. Asking follow-ups before the respondent can even answer, even if practical, can make the respondent feel like he or she just came home after curfew and you’ve “been up all night worried sick.” Make it a conversation, not an interrogation. Not only will the respondent stick with it but you’ll score better intel.


3. Ask what you need, not what you want.

This isn’t your one shot at a survey. There will be more, so don’t get all stuck in your head like this is your Rudy moment. Make a list of all the questions you want to ask, then trim it down to the maybes and for-sures, then cut it to just the for-sures. Don’t rule out anything at the start of preparation, but rule out everything you can when you get to the end. Asking unnecessary questions makes the survey feel unnecessary.


4. Make things easy.

This is a stylish Q&A, not a flash game from back in the day. Don’t go crazy with extras. Whatever your format—multiple choice, drop-down list, open-ended—make sure it’s the most intuitive user interface. You don’t want your respondents’ eyes to glaze over, and you certainly don’t want them to have a seizure.


5. Remember: Timing is everything.

If you had a hit TV show, it’s doubtful your time slot would be 3:30 a.m. Consider when your audience is most active. It could be industry-specific, which will require some research, but, in general, the highest survey open and click-through rates are typically Sunday, Monday, and Friday. With each survey you do, pay attention to when you sent them and what the response rates were.


6. Incentivize.

Like many activities in this world, more people will participate if there’s something in it for them. Incentives can increase response rates 5%-20%. Now, it doesn’t have to be some bonkers luxury cruise. (If you can offer that without financial worry, then you’re doing just fine!) If you’re targeting existing customers specifically, they clearly like your brand, so this may just be the light tap on the shoulder they need.


7. Think outside the box.

It won’t always pan out, but experimenting is the only way you’ll make progress (in surveys and in life—sorry for suddenly getting heavy there). You can’t always do the craziest thing on the list, but at least consider your options in full. If you only take cues from others, you can evolve, but it won’t be you unless there’s actually a good amount of you in the process. Get your team together to see what everyone has in mind. If they’re at your company, they probably have a good sense of your audience. Plus, they’re also everyday people who have taken surveys. They know what has been intriguing and interesting.

With these tips, go forth and create totally awesome surveys! Run wild and free while collecting customer data! Dance like nobody’s watching and all that! Exclamation mark!
We’re all about original content and beautiful storytelling. If you’re in the market for an experienced team of do-gooders, go-getters, and creative jet-setters, let’s talk about making cool stuff together.