The Art of the Questionnaire
You about to throw away a direct mail package, and you suddenly realize, "Wait a minute theres a real dollar bill stuck in here!"
So you continue reading and find out its a questionnaire and the company sending it is offering you a small reward to "thank you in advance" for filling it out.
Uh, oh what do you do now?
Do you answer all the questions honestly and completely, because after all, they paid for your opinion?
Do you answer in the nicest possible way because, after all, they were nice enough to trust you with the cash up front?
Or do you quietly pocket the bill, delight in the fact that
you just got something for nothing, and toss away the questionnaire?
Well come back to you, and the battle for your conscience in a
moment. But first, lets talk about questionnaires and what makes
them such a powerful direct marketing tool.
Do they ever!
Whats an average response to one of your direct mail packages?
A typical questionnaire or survey gets response rates as high as 10-20%. And if youre mailing to customers, and not prospects, you can do even better.
We did a questionnaire for Lucent Technologies that generated a 28% response. We did one for Datawatch that generated over 4,000 responses.
Ill let you in on a secret -- questionnaires and surveys work so well, they can be used to boost response even when you dont care about the answers.
We included a short questionnaire in a direct mail package we did for AT&T. I have to confess we werent just interested in their opinions we wanted to get them to come back to AT&T. Response jumped over 20%.
Where did we put the questionnaire? Right on top of the reply card
and for a very good reason. To answer the questions, a prospect requires
a pen or pencil. And isnt that exactly what theyll
need to fill out their reply card?
The answer is actionable information.
Theres no sense asking a question unless you can actually do something with the answer. And thats the criteria you must apply
To every question you are considering.
"What would we do differently if we knew the answer?"
For example, I received a survey from a major financial services firm asking me my age. Unless they are planning to introduce a product or service for my age group I dont know why they need it.
And I resent them asking (which probably reveals my age)
The more unnecessary questions you ask, the harder it will be to get someone to answer the really important ones.
I would also avoid questions that may infringe on someones privacy,
although that will vary according to your industry.
The first question is a wonderful way to prioritize needs and determine which prospects or customers to contact first. Yet I rarely see it on any questionnaire except for companies in the travel industry.
They almost always ask, "When do you plan to travel?"
This allows them to follow-up fastest with those people who have the shortest time frame. It also helps to separate the "tire kickers" from those people who have a real need for your product or service.
The second question is, "Do you want someone to contact you?"
Your questionnaire will reach a certain number of prospects or customers who have an immediate need for your product or service.
By all means, give them a chance to hold up their hands.
The third question is, frankly, the one you probably havent
No matter how smart you are, or how carefully you design the questionnaire, there will be some question youd never even anticipated.
Thats why it is essential to leave a space for the person to write
in comments or suggestions at the end of the questionnaire. You will be
amazed at the valuable feedback youll receive.
Theres only one answer because they get something in return.
It may be an emotional reward "They care about my opinion."
It may be a free gift. Our questionnaire for Lucent offered a free Saddle Brief Bag.
It may even be that dollar bill I referred to in the beginning of this article.
But unless you let them know exactly whats in it for them they will probably not respond.
BusinessWeek just sent me a brief questionnaire that said, "Our records are incomplete " Gosh, thats too bad. But thats just not a good enough reason for me to spend another moment with it.
By the way, the more valuable the reward, the higher the response. But the more targeted the reward, the more qualified the response.
For example, we did a questionnaire for PictureTel that offered a "Visual Collaboration" Kit that included a "best practices" CD.
We didnt get as many responses as the Lucent offer but those
that did respond were much better prospects.
They have a number of different advantages over direct mail.
So youve sent out a questionnaire and youve garnered a terrific response. And youre sitting with a pile of thousands of completed surveys. What should you do with them now?
If youre like most companies, the only thing you do is tabulate the results, and put them in a report for future generations.
Unfortunately, thats the worst thing to do.
You need to (1) Let people know you received their answers, and thank them (2) Respond to their comments or suggestions, and (3) Try to fix any problems theyve reported.
Brandeis University does an excellent job. I was there recently
and I ate at the student cafeteria. (It really took me back. In fact, I think I recognized some of the food.)
They have a questionnaire that students can fill out that says, "How do we rate?" Sounds pretty typical. But Brandeis does something more innovative.
The manager of the cafeteria actually responds to every question and comment, and then posts them on a bulletin board right in front of the cafeteria line.
When a student writes, "How come you stopped serving fried eggs in the morning?" the manager answers, "You were using them as Frisbees, and we got tired of cleaning them off the walls."
So when youre considering a questionnaire, consider actually using
the suggestions and comments, and providing feedback to the respondents.
As you can see, questionnaires can accomplish a number of important functions in a direct marketing campaign.
They can help you identify issues that are important to your prospects; prioritize leads; ensure customer satisfaction; promote interaction; and build better relationships.
Most importantly, they can generate a mountain of leads.
So should you do a questionnaire?
Do you even have to ask?
When he isnt writing copy, Alan Rosenspan writes articles and speeches. He's posted about 35 of them on his website at www.alanrosenspan.com
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