Using Surveys for Fun & Profit

Many years ago, I wrote an article for an industry newsletter on the merits of using surveys as a lead generation vehicle. Today, almost a decade later, surveys are still an effective way to generate leads from a cold list, but in addition, they can also serve as a key component of an ongoing lead nurturing or installed base marketing strategy.

We’re building surveys into most of the lead nurturing programs we design for our clients. Taking the pulse of your customer base or contact database yearly or even quarterly not only helps expand profile data for those contacts, but it’s a very efficient way to identify those customers or prospects who are short-term opportunities and yet who may not respond to more promotional offers.

trinet-surveyAs an example, here’s a survey invitation I received this week from TriNet, a provider of outsourced HR and payroll services for small businesses. The plain text e-mail is simple and unfussy, but it gets the job done (though personally, I’m not sure I take kindly to being referred to as a “contact.”)

What I like particularly about TriNet’s approach, besides the very concise email, is that the offer is both specific and compelling: the email tells you how long the survey is and how long it will take to complete, and offers an executive summary of the results as an incentive to respond. TriNet also does a nice job positioning their company as a thought leader in the outsourced HR space by describing how their quarterly survey report is used by the SMB community.

I e-mailed Greg Howard, an acquaintance and TriNet’s marcom director, for his experience using surveys. His response:

“We see surveys as a way to feed our public relations efforts as well as to pick off some low-hanging sales fruit. Last year we were able to get several dozen media placements as a result of our survey outreach. And by asking respondents if they want to talk to a sales rep, it’s often possible to tease out “hand raisers” who may not have responded to other, more promotional campaigns. I’ve already sent over several hot leads to sales this morning as a result of this particular survey drop.”

Surveys are an ideal medium for companies who may be short on informational content, since, in essence, they create their own content in the form of the survey results. As Greg points out, those results can then be leveraged not only for PR, but also for Webinars, content syndication, blogs, and even SEM and other online campaigns.

There are a number of inexpensive, hosted survey tools on the market (Zoomerang and SurveyMonkey are two of the most popular) that can make hosting an online survey, and even tabulating the results, absurdly simple. Or you can choose to use a marketing automation tool like Marketo, which may not have some of the same survey-specific functionality (e.g. automatic tabulation), but will enable you to post answers to survey questions directly into your CRM system. A tool like Marketo can also alert sales reps automatically if prospects answer survey questions in a manner that you’ve defined in advance as representing an opportunity that merits follow-up.

One thought on “Using Surveys for Fun & Profit

  1. Donna

    Thanks for mentioning Zoomerang. Building a real-time feedback loop into a number of sections of your annual business plan can provide you with a way to be nimble – and knowledgeable – in your operations. In addition to a quarterly customer satisfaction survey, consider sending surveys using this rotation:

    – Operational surveys after each transaction
    – Prior to regularly scheduled tradeshows and events
    – Marketing concept tests as product development dictates
    – Quarterly employee reviews
    – Quarterly vendor surveys
    – Semi-annual product releases
    – Annual employee satisfaction surveys
    – Benefit queries before changes in annual plans


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