Surveys Are Marketing Gold
Forget all that talk about survey fatigue. Printers need to survey their customers every few years to learn important things, like how service has been, how satisfied (or not) customers might be with your products, and what additional services or information your customers want from you.
There’s no better way to measure how you’re perceived or what problems might be brewing. You can do focus groups, sure, but these are small, by nature, and they involve inconveniencing your customers. Will they really leave their offices to participate in a focus group? Some will; most won’t.
Better to send an online survey to your full list of customers—current and “quiet”—to uncover truths that may be uncomfortable for you, trends that you were unaware of, and glowing testimonials that clients might not have shared otherwise.
From time to time I develop surveys for printers, and every time I challenge myself to tighten the list of questions and dig deeper for information that the printer can use to strengthen current relationships and build new ones.
Earlier this year I did customer surveys for a printer and realized, for the first time, how the data we collected could be seen as a roadmap for their marketing strategy.
By carefully crafting your customer survey questions, you’ll not only build a profile of your “typical” customer, but you’ll also end up with a set of suggestions for marketing your company. In all the years I’ve conducted surveys for printers, this was never so obvious as it is today.
Ask Questions Carefully, But Also Be Bold
When crafting questions for your customer survey, you have to be mindful of a few things. First, be respectful of people’s time. Asking customers to spend more than a few minutes on your survey is unreasonable. (I use Surveymonkey, but there are many online survey tools.) On top of that, you have to develop questions in such a way that they can’t be misinterpreted. It’s not easy.
Question development (writing, rewriting, editing and eliminating extraneous questions) is the most critical part of the process. Don’t rush it. Get a few of your team members involved. In a six-minute survey, even one unimportant question is one too many.
However, as carefully as you need to craft these questions, don’t be afraid to ask some bold ones. I’m thinking of a few specific things. First, ask demographic questions like customers’ age ranges, gender and years of experience. Don’t make these mandatory; leave them optional. But I’ve found that most customers will fill them out, thereby giving you a good picture of your typical customer.
If all of the other pieces of this survey are done exceptionally well and you get a great response, this data will tell you if your customers are mostly men or women, and the major age range you sell to. You’ll know if you’re most successful selling to people fairly new to the field as opposed to senior-level.
This information is so valuable to a printer: think of how it could be used to guide your marketing and prospecting efforts.
Ask About Customers’ Wish List of Services
Print buyers won’t hesitate to tell you what they want. Use a survey to ask your customers what products, services and industry information they value.
Maybe you already offer some of the services they suggest, and they just don’t know it. If they’ve always printed newsletters with you, but they mention large-format and promotional items, which you offer, well, you have some marketing to do.
Within these “wish list” questions, ask about the types of educational or technical information your customers are seeking. It’s one of the most valuable questions a printer could ask. The answers will yield high-value insights for your content marketing strategy. Let me explain.
Let’s say you collect data that indicates your customers are hungry for paper basics, personalization and digital printing options. Most printers excel in these areas—and most have services that cover all three. This says to me that the printer could (and should) develop different kinds of content to market the company and inform his or her customers at the same time.
For example, with that knowledge gleaned from your survey, you could develop website copy that features those three topics, as well as blog posts, newsletter articles, Webinars, emails, even customer events.
And if the information in these questions point out products, services and information that your customers want, but that you don’t currently offer, well, that’s worth a management team discussion. Should a significant number of your customers, as indicated from survey results, place a high value on, for instance, mailing and fulfillment capabilities, either you’ll think about adding these or partnering with a company that offers them.
Ask for Comments—in Their Own Words
The other kind of survey question that yields tremendous marketing opportunities for a printer is the one that invites respondents to tell you what they really think about you. Naturally, you’ll poll them about strengths and weaknesses, and you should also show them a list of standard qualities or attributes that they can rate in order from Best to Worst.
Aside from this, though, you’ll get to the heart of customers’ opinions of your business by giving them space to voice how they feel. This involves a question or two that provides text boxes for respondents to type in, not just a box to check off in a list of multiple choices.
This type and style of survey question does increase the work you’ll have to do when analyzing the results, but it’ll be worth it. I’ve found that customers tend to give high praise in refreshing and personal ways. You may start to see trends among the “kudos” your customers provide, which suggests that your company excels in specific qualities you didn’t fully realize.
Maybe your sales reps are the Number One strength, as indicated by your survey. Or maybe it’s the service and care your clients get when doing press OKs. Such indications warrant action on your part. In addition to congratulating those reps or those pressmen, fold in these highlights in your next corporate brochure, work the content into your website and/or feature cited employees in your newsletter.
Finally, customer remarks on a printer’s survey typically include comments that can be used as testimonials. If your survey is done anonymously, you can’t attribute any quote to a particular person, but it doesn’t stop you from using these anonymously.
These are examples of how a customer survey can help a printer’s marketing efforts. The key is to carefully craft your survey questions, gathering feedback that will help build a dynamic customer profile. Let respondents tell you what they want, and how they feel about you, in their own words. PI
Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched a new business as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. She is as comfortable working in social media as she is in traditional media, and now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content. Dana was the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference.
Although she has exited the event business, Dana is still publishing her Print Tips newsletter each week. For more details and to sign up for her newsletter and marketing blog, visit www.margiedana.com