Friday, June 27, 2008

Are surveys dead?

In this new landscape of user-generated content (UGC), blogs, and online fora - what is the relevance of good old-fashioned surveys? Here's how I see it:

Unsolicited comments (like blogs or posts in a forum) often tell you WHO you didn't know was important.
Because of the democratization of the web - the ease with which nearly anyone can publish an opinion (or video, for that matter) - very public rants or raves might come from unlikely or unknown sources.

Yesterday I was reading a random blog (highlighted by Blogger) of a woman who has an eco-conscious focus, but writes a couple of times a week on various topics. Her typical post is about politics or alternative energy or recycling techniques. Last week she wrote an absolute rave personal review of this mineral rock deodorant thing - I mean, she went on for 4 paragraphs about how great it is. If I were the maker of this product, I'd figure out how to engage more influential folks like this. So if they saw the post, that company may have just discovered WHO might be helping sell their product.

Surveys will usually tell you WHAT you didn't know was important.
People who care about you or your company are typically the ones that respond to a survey. In fact, you often have targeted a group of prospects or clients (or people like them) in your distribution list. But, your respondents may type in comments or respond differently than you expected. Surveys are a great way to determine how to focus on the products/services that matter to your customers.

When the company I work for, Allegro, did a survey a while back - we learned that one of our key customers depended on us primarily as a technological resource. Our opinion was that Allegro was a creative agency first, with techy stuff as a tag-along service offering. This customer really changed our perspective on the value of technology. The opinion of that client spawned a dedicated team in our company that works on and promotes an online tool called FreshDM. It has become a significant part of our business.

Structuring and sending out a survey is a great way to focus - just writing the survey will cause you to concentrate on an objective way to measure your firm's impact. By the way, I highly recommend an online tool called SurveyMonkey - I started using it on a project in biz school a few years back, and it really is great. They have free and paid versions, depending on your needs. Be sure to consider phone or offline (paper) surveys - if that's your normal mode of communication with customers & prospects.

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