A below-the-shoulders shot of a man sitting at a dark wood table, using a tablet to fill out a form. A coffee cup and saucer sits to his right.
An online survey site may give the option for lots of questions, but it's best to keep surveys brief and focused. — Getty Images/LumiNola

Do you ever feel like you’re lacking key information about your business? A small business survey is a great way to gain insight into your customer service, product quality or company culture. A successful survey starts with defining a problem, selecting the right audience and finding a survey tool that allows you to craft your questions strategically. Here are some tips for conducting a successful survey.

[Read more: The Changing Playbook for Winning Customer Loyalty All Marketers Should Know]

Step 1: Focus on one issue.

A survey can be helpful on a number of different fronts and can be tailored to your needs. When creating a survey, specificity is key. Ask yourself what information you need about your business and build your questions accordingly. Keep the focus of your survey narrowed to one specific topic you want to address—the best surveys try to accomplish only one thing.

Defining your one issue will help you craft better questions, a step we’ll get into in a minute. It’s important at the outset, however, to recognize that not all business problems can be solved with one or even a series of surveys. Supply chain delays or issues with your pricing model may be better solved with data. Before you invest time and money into creating a survey, look at your POS analytics or website analytics to learn as much as you can about the specific problem you’re seeking to resolve.

Step 2: Define your audience.

There are different ways you can target your survey, depending on your goals. Start by choosing your audience based on the problem you defined in Step 1. Your audience will change if your goal is to get feedback on a returns policy, versus if you’re looking to get specific feedback on your delivery service.

Consider too whether your survey will be best served by as many responses as possible or a small number of in-depth feedback. Customers in your loyalty program are more likely to take the time to write descriptive, thoughtful answers; but if you’re looking to gain a wide consensus about a new menu item, for example, cast a wide net by hosting a poll on social media.

Some business owners choose to provide incentives to motivate people to participate in a survey. By offering a discount or promo code for completing your survey, you can garner more responses. However, keep in mind that some people may just participate for the sake of getting the code at the end; you may not net high-quality feedback as a result.

The more thought and effort you put into forming your questions, the more helpful the answers will be in return.

Step 3: Find the right tool.

If you have experience in coding, you may already know how to create a survey and make it accessible to users through your website or other platforms. If you don’t have that experience, fear not: There are plenty of tools out there to assist you in setting up and implementing a survey.

[Read more: 8 Popular Small Business Survey Tools]

Survey platforms like SurveyMonkey, Google Forms and SurveyPlanet can make it easy and fast to create a survey tailored to your needs. These sites have free options available, but also have more advanced plans for a fee. Exploring the different survey templates and resources on these sites may help you decide what you do and don’t want for your survey.

Step 4: Craft your questions carefully.

There’s an art — and science — to crafting questions. The more thought and effort you put into forming your questions, the more helpful the answers will be in return. For instance, asking customers, “What new product do you want us to launch?” may not give you the focused, useful feedback that you hope. Some customers don’t know what they need or want until they see it.

Keep your survey short and to the point. Ideally, your survey should be only five to ten questions long. Your audience is taking time out of their busy lives to give you feedback, so the more succinct your survey is, the more likely people are to complete it. Here are some other survey question best practices:

  • Avoid leading questions. For instance, questions such as, “How great was George Washington?” immediately frames the answer. Instead, try neutral wording, such as “How would you describe George Washington’s legacy?”
  • Avoid loaded questions. Loaded questions are similar. “How often do you have a glass of wine?” forces the participant to admit to drinking wine (and with a specific frequency).
  • Watch for double-barreled questions. Double-barreled questions mistakenly ask the participant to answer two questions at once. For instance: “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the pay and work benefits of your current job?” Someone might be satisfied with the pay and dissatisfied with their benefits, but has no way of making that distinction.

Where possible, allow participants space to give feedback of their own if desired. Providing a way for them to type in their thoughts more than simply clicking “yes” or “no” will likely yield much more helpful information.

Once you receive responses, look for trends and incorporate changes to your business model wherever possible based on the feedback you receive.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published August 04, 2021