Best Practices for Writing a Customer Survey

Kiley Peters

Audience Research,
Content Marketing

Let’s throw it way back to one of the originals, President Abraham Lincoln. He once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” The guy was on to something: you may spend a lot of time sharpening your metaphorical ax, but when you do, you make it easier to cut down the tree. Preparation pays off. Just replace ax with survey and tree with content strategy.   

One of the best ways to prepare for business success is to create a successful customer research survey. Let’s break this down: surveys give you valuable insights about your audience and help you create a sturdy foundation for great relationships and even greater success stories. If you haven’t designed and executed a survey yet, it’s a great year to do it, and we’re here to help. 

At Brainchild Studios, we have experience in the survey game and are happy to share our insider information for survey success. Get your popcorn, folks; we’re talking successful surveys.


Preparing For A Successful Survey 

There are four things you need to understand before you start creating all your ground-breaking survey questions. Yes, it’s the prep work before the survey. Prep-ception. Here’s the breakdown:

1. Know Your Audience

When it comes to successful surveys, you need to know the who. It’s hard to achieve survey success when you’re shouting into the void. Take it from us: before you start designing your survey, define your audience

Running a business is all about communication. An email campaign is communication. A social media post is communication. Client meetings are all about communication. Who are you communicating with through your survey? 

Defining your audience requires balance. Hone in on a unique subset of the world-at-large that benefits from what you offer, but be sure you can survey at least a couple hundred people that fit that description so that your results are generalizable, significant, and ultimately benefit your business. Next, figure out what you want to accomplish by surveying your audience.  

2. Know Your Goals

You can’t achieve your goals if you don’t define them. Before you brainstorm a single question for your survey, get clear on your goals. Brain dump with a trusted colleague. Whiteboard your thoughts. Do what you need to do to get specific, measurable, realistic, and timely. 

When it comes to successful surveys, the information you’re getting from your survey takers should lead to actionable steps for your business. These steps should parallel your goals. Think about what you want to know, how it translates into action, and how those actions help you achieve your business goals, big and small. Consider what answers you need to achieve your goals. 

3. Know the Answers You Need

When we approach our yearly Millennial Mom Research, we ask questions that tell us more about our key demographic. We want to know what makes this particular group of humans tick. How do they prioritize spending? What do they care about? What affects their brand loyalty in either direction? Who do they trust? Are they still active members of the Beyhive? Okay, the last one not so much, but you get the idea. 

Before you draft questions, think about what answers you want, what answers you need to connect with your audience better. Remember, connecting with your audience is much more than understanding who they are on the surface; it’s also about understanding their hopes, dreams, fears, and motivations. You know, the juicy stuff. How do you get people to share this information with you? You can consider offering an incentive. 

4. Consider Offering An Incentive

Time is precious. Yours and your audience’s. Sometimes an incentive helps you get the answers you need and motivates your audience to spend their precious time giving you valuable information. We’re talking coupon codes, downloadable how-to guides, or free consultations—people like gifts, and people like free stuff. Don’t forget that, and use it to launch your successful survey. Before you launch, you need to make sure you’ve stuck question gold. 

Successful Surveys Have  Stellar Questions

How you construct your survey questions matters. A lot. By following our six tips, you can craft dream questions and get ace answers. Above all, remember that your audience gives you the answers. You’re asking to discover, not confirm.

  1. Ask questions in a logical flow, from general to specific. Start with the low-hanging fruit and finish by asking about values, motivations, and pain points. For example, you can ask if your audience watches movies—yes or no. Then, ask how frequently they watch movies. Finish by asking what genre of film they prefer.   
  2. Aim for close-ended questions. Answers include yes, no, or selections from a series of pre-defined options, aka multiple choice.  
  3. No two-for-ones. Ask one question at a time, so you get clear answers that are valid, demonstrate causation, and provide meaningful insights. Unnecessary variables can dilute your answers. 
  4. Don’t ask leading questions. You want your audience to answer honestly, without influence. Your best answers are organic, and they may not be the answers you wanted or predicted, but they will be the most valuable answers. 
  5. Embed distinct and inclusive answers. Avoid ambiguity, and don’t make your audience guess or fill in the blanks. Make it as easy as possible for them to give you answers.  
  6. Ask for demographics at the end. This information will help you understand what defines your audience, what communities they belong to, how you can better connect, and provides additional opportunities to slice and dice your data.  

Follow these tips, and you’ll have some high-quality data to analyze. 

Analyzing Your Results: Successful Survey Insights

While the data from your survey can be fascinating, you have to do something with it.

Information + action = better business strategy

Once you’ve completed your prep work, created boss questions, and released your survey to fly free with your audience, you’re ready to analyze your data and gain valuable insights. 

Analyze Your Data and Derive Actionable Insights

There are a few angles to look at your data, all of which provide valuable insights. Start by analyzing your top results, then ask questions. Why did you get this result? These answers help you develop actions. Let’s use an example. 

Say you own a company that makes bath bombs in four scents: lavender, vanilla, mango, and pitaya. Your survey finds 90% of people prefer to purchase the lavender bath bomb. Why? Is your audience coming to your website for relaxation and associate lavender with meeting that need? Do they know what pitaya is? How are the products arranged on the product page? Is lavender listed first, and is it easiest to add to a cart? Do the other scents meet your demographics’ needs? It’s a simple example, but you can go much deeper with your survey results.   

Depending on which service you use to create your survey, you can filter results to understand the subgroups in your audience better. We’re talking targeted campaigns style. Are you surveying 500 people between the ages of 18 and 28? How did respondents in different parts of the country answer? Did men and women answer differently? Did their occupation change survey answers? 

Imagine you find out that people in the northeastern United States exhibit a clear preference reflected in your survey questions. Maybe it’s time to host a webinar on content related to that preference and send an email campaign announcing the event to people geographically located in the northeast.  

Make sure you have statistically significant results. Aim for at least a couple hundred respondents overall, and if you want to look at subgroups, you’ll need just as many people to gain insights from the survey. As long as your data is significant, you can make inferences based on it. You can also track data over time.  

Each consecutive year you release your survey, you can compare data over time. You can assess if your audience’s interests, values, and preferences have changed. We all stopped wearing dresses over jeans in 2003, right? These insights streamline your communication with your audience. You find out what motivates them, how they approach decisions, and what you can do to meet their needs. 

You can also track your business successes. Maybe there’s a metric that improves by a large percentage from 2021 to 2022. It’s worth your time to understand what led to that improvement and continue building off your actions. Just don’t forget to celebrate those successes. Once you derive your insights, get ready to take action. 

Implement Your Insights Into Content That Drives and Values Business

Once you’ve analyzed your data to understand what it means and why it’s significant, you’re ready to take action. Consider what your business currently offers and how you can create solutions using your best assets, both human and otherwise. Do you kill it at digital marketing? Pick a key insight from your survey and identify how you can take action in the digital sphere. But don’t forget to be flexible and willing to learn. 

If your survey suggests your audience doesn’t resonate with an industry best practice or your business practices, it’s time to be flexible and meet your audience where they are. You may identify an area for improvement in your survey. That could mean a new skillset, a new technology, or a new technique. These insights can be your company’s next area for growth and development. It will ultimately help you connect with your audience. 

Get creative. When you understand the why behind the survey answers, you can identify actionable steps to value your business. Let’s pretend you own the bath bomb company from earlier, and one of your survey questions asked why customers purchase bath products. Say 75% of them identified self-care and relaxation as their primary reason for purchasing. As of today, you don’t have an active blog. An actionable step could be launching your blog, writing posts with relaxation and self-care tips, and rolling out a series of Ask the Expert posts to lend credibility to your content.


Successful Surveys Lead to Better Businesses

Regardless of who your audience is, a survey is an incredible tool to gain valuable insight into what motivates and inspires them. With more information about your audience, you can create evidence-based and data-backed solutions that help you connect with your audience, meet their needs, and knock your goals out of the park. It’s a win-win for everybody. If you have additional questions about creating successful surveys, let us know; we’re here to help!  




Founder & CEO

Kiley Peters is the Founder and CEO of Brainchild Studios, a boutique audience research, content strategy, and website creation agency primarily serving brands targeting Millennial Moms or business owners. She is also the Founder of the Work From Home Playbook, a series of online courses guiding aspiring entrepreneurial moms through the steps of starting a virtual business. She also launched the Brainchild Fund, a nonprofit initiative to support women and girls in business and entrepreneurship Follow her on Instagram.

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