A couple of weeks ago I wrote to you about ethical stalking.

It’s an essential online business marketing practice whereby you find out as much about your customers as possible – which includes getting in touch with them to find out what they really think.

You can get brilliant results from this… such as higher open rates and click-throughs, larger emails, social media lists and more profitable product launches.

For a full list of suggestions on how to ethically stalk your best customers, click here.

I wanted to follow this up by recommending a tool that will help you get a more accurate picture of your best customers and what they really want from your business.

This way you can avoid wasting your time and money on products or services that are doomed to fail.

It’s amazing how few businesses do this effectively. Quite simply, you run a survey – a short list of questions which you put online.

You then direct your blog readers, email subscribers and social media followers to visit that page and answer the questions.

To encourage them you can offer an incentive, such as a free eBook or software download, or maybe a prize draw. Or simply stress that they will be helping you deliver them a far better service in the future that will improve their lives!

It’s very simple to run a survey online. My recommendation is Survey Monkey which has 200 pre-made survey templates here.

As well as readymade templates, Survey Monkey offers customisation, where you can add your logo, tweak the theme to match your website design and build your own thankyou pages.

You can see the results and they come in, and the final report is really easy to read and analyse.

When you join up, the site is self-explanatory and they lead you through the steps as you go along. The only tricky bit is making sure that the survey extracts the information that you need – and that enough people take the survey to make the sample valid.

So to help you, here’s our Digital Upstart guide to surveys…

What to put in your survey

First, make sure your survey has a clear goal.

What is your main objective? What do you really need to know about your customers?

For instance, you might want to focus on what your customers think about your website, how they use it and what they’d like to see improve.

Alternatively, you could find out about a specific problem or challenge that your customers face in their day-to-day lives, so that you could create a product or service to help them

Or perhaps you’d like to find out about their experiences with a specific product you’ve sold – or try and gauge their potential interest in a specific product you plan to launch.

Whatever you decide, I recommend asking around 10 questions. Depending on your objective, they could include questions based on:

• Their age/sex/age.

• Their internet usage (social media accounts, email, browsing behaviour)

• Their technology use (smart phone? Home computer? TV etc)

• Their life role / hobbies / career status

• How they heard about your business or products

• What their primary life goal is, related to your field of business (for instance, if you’re a nutritional product site, it might be pain relief or weight control)

• What obstacles stop them succeeding in their goals?

• Where they go for their information and advice (what they read/watch/listen to)

• What other products or services they’ve tried to solve their problems or achieve their goals

• What they’ve liked or disliked about other products/services

• What they’ve found most useful or enjoyed the most about your services or product

• What they’ve found most irritating/annoying/problematic about your services or product

• If they could improve one aspect of your business/services, what would it be

I’d also recommend you end the survey with an option for them to offer some information in their own words. For instance, ask them to describe in a few sentences what they’ve most like to achieve in life, or what most frustrates them.

What you get from this is something known as ‘copy fodder’. These are real phrases from real customers that you should compile and use to help create brilliant future sales copy that speaks in their language.

Of course, the success of your survey depends on getting a good amount of people to take part…

How to Get the Best Response from Your Survey

To ask your customers to take the survey, send out a short email to explaining what the survey is for and how it will help them.

Here’s a rough template for the email…

Subject line: Can I ask you a favour?

Dear NAME,

My name is [your name] from [company].

Thanks so much for your interest in our products/service/website [if possible, be specific about what they might have bought or signed up for]

As a really valued customer/subscriber/client I’d love to know what you think of our service, and how we can improve it so that you enjoy even better/more [insert the main benefit of your service/product/website]

So I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to ask you a BIG favour…

If you have a couple of minutes spare, please could you fill in a very short survey for me? Be as honest as you can! Your answers will help me improve/develop new [products/benefits]

All you have to do is click here: LINK TO SURVEY

You don’t have to answer all the questions if you don’t wish to, but the more feedback, the better I can help you in the future.

Oh, and rest assured, your response will be kept private and confidential. I won’t be sharing this with anyone else.

Many thanks in advance for your help. This could really help make [product/website/service] better than ever.

OPTIONAL: As a special thanks for your response, I’ve got a little gift lined up for you.



You can also do this in the form of a blog post and then post it on social media.

Whatever you decide, here are some essential pointers…

• Make sure your invitation comes from the usual contact name – that is, whoever usually writes the emails, blogs or runs the social media. If that’s more than one person, pick the person in the highest authority, who the customer is most likely to know.

• Talk to the reader as if writing to an individual and not to a general group. Avoid addressing them as ‘customer’.

• Avoid business jargon or cliché, eg: “We’re in the process of assessing our customer interface to improve the end user experience” – instead it should be, “Hi, I’m looking for ways to improve our website and products for you, can you help?”

• Explain what’s going to happen, and how long it will take, so you can overcome any objections, such as “I’m too busy”, “I’m probably not the best person to ask”, “you wouldn’t be interested in what I have to say”.

• Flatter the responder. People love being asked for their opinion on things. “We really want to know what you think – be as honest as possible”.

• Reassure the customer that their response is private and you’ll protect their details.

• Be honest about why you are doing the survey and what is in it for the responder. For instance, it could be that their answers will help you come up with a better service for them, with more products/services.

• End the invitation with a call to action. Tell them precisely what to do. For instance, “please click on this link where you’ll be taken directly to the survey. Take a few minutes to answer the questions”.

I hope this helps. If you do try a survey, let us know how you get on!