I discovered the benefits of online forums and Facebook groups when I had my first son. He mastered the art of catnapping day and night, leaving me a sleep deprived, hormonal mess. I’d find myself posting in forums at crazy hours of the night seeking reassurance and guidance from other mum’s that it was totally normal for a child to not sleep more than 40 minutes at a time.  The support from complete strangers still to this day blows my mind.

In many forums, I’d see a ‘Please do my survey’ request pop up in my newsfeed at least a couple of times a week.

And I’d do the survey – because I’ve written many over the years and the least I can do is pay it forward and help others.

But as I did these surveys, I’d be struck by some of the questions. While it was great to see people seeking feedback, some of the questions were unclear, leading or hard to answer.

It also left me wondering how many people actually do these surveys, and what important decisions were being made on the basis of the insights.

So I decided to do a little experiment. I created a short survey about getting customer feedback, and shared it in a couple of Facebook business groups (after securing admin approval of course!).

While I did offer an incentive (donating $1 for every survey received, up to $100 to the Kids Cancer Project), I deliberately didn’t do anything *extra* to drive engagement – I wanted to see what kind of response rate I’d get with just a standard survey request.

Here’s what I found.

#1: EVERYONE IS SUPER BUSY. AND DOING A SURVEY ISN’T HIGH ON THE PRIORITY LIST.

Honestly, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

But I was.

Despite giving an incentive to participate in the survey, response to the survey was weak. It was a timely reminder of just how difficult it can be to entice people to participate in research – especially those who you don’t have a connection to (yet!).

We had 21 completed surveys. Ouch . Of course, not everyone in each of groups will have seen my post … but nevertheless, if you’ve run a survey and your response rate was low, you’re not alone!

It reminded me of the importance of having a strategy up front to generate interest and engagement in surveys beyond the initial request.

So it goes without saying that the rest of the insights I’ll share in this post are indicative at best, but nevertheless provide some interesting viewpoints worth sharing.

# 2: TWO IN THREE OF THOSE SURVEYED HAVE DONE SOME KIND OF TRAINING IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS RELATED TO THEIR BUSINESS.

Owning a small business can often mean needing to develop new skills. The most popular forms of training were the informal kind – training via You Tube videos and webinars. Many also reported doing a course through a consulting business or specialist provider, while fewer had used online platforms like Coursera, Udemy or Lynda.

#3: FINANCES AND TIME ARE THE BIGGEST BARRIERS TO UNDERTAKING ADDITIONAL TRAINING

What was notable was the popularity of ‘on-demand’ education – doing training when and where it suits you. Today it’s possible to undertake practical training in almost anything – and often, for quite a modest investment.

#4: NEARLY HALF HAD SOUGHT FEEDBACK FROM THEIR CURRENT CUSTOMERS THROUGH A SURVEY OR FEEDBACK PROCESS IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS

Reaching out to customers can be a little daunting – both from an execution perspective (what do I ask? How do I ask it? And now what do I do with the data?) and from a personal perspective (shit – what if they aren’t happy? Now what do I do?).

Among those who hadn’t undertaken research, primary reasons focused on not being really sure where to start, and what to ask.

This is the gap I’m hoping to fill the gap with the Research Toolkit.

#5: THE MOST COMMON BUSINESS PAIN POINTS MENTIONED WERE …

Social media marketing strategies

Understanding analytics

Learning how to reach your target customers

Time management

It’s not surprising these are the biggest pain points, and highlights the significant work required to acquire new customers. From there, retention also becomes important. Customer research can play an important role in informing the strategies you use to both acquire and retain customers.

PLANNING ON DOING A SURVEY? READ ON

Part of the reason I’ve written this post is because every other day there’ll be a post from someone asking for others to do their survey.

I  worry a little that big decisions are being made possibly based on very small sample sizes.

The moral of the story? If you’re considering making a big decision based on a survey, give careful consideration to the types of questions you ask, and have a broad strategy to promote your survey.

Be prepared to keep the survey open for some time (perhaps up to a month), and consider alternatives to reaching your target market such as online panels or personal discussions with existing customers.

PS I just donated $100 to the Kids Cancer Foundation regardless of the survey outcomes – it’s a great charity to support!

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