How to Survey Your Customers and Prospects

It’s tempting to ask your subscribers a laundry list of questions when they sign up to your list, isn’t it?

You want to know things like how they heard about you, what competitors they were looking at, what questions they have for you, do they want you to contact them by phone (and what’s their phone number?).

The trouble, as we’ve discussed before in several posts and in our web form webinar, is that the more information you ask for in a signup form, the fewer people fill it out.

So how do you learn more about your potential subscribers without driving them away?

Read on for ideas and a video.

Survey Customers and Prospects

The key to getting subscribers to tell you all about themselves is to be patient.

Start by building a relationship with them, and then, once they’re comfortable enough with you to do so, prompt them to tell you more.

One of the most popular ways to do this is by emailing a survey to your subscribers.

But Don’t Surveys Cost Money to Create and Send?

Up until just recently, I would have said “It depends.”

Some survey providers like SurveyMonkey offer limited free accounts, but typically survey providers do charge for their services.

However, that all changed the other day, making it easy for you to survey your customers and prospects.

So what changed?

Email Your Customers Surveys Using Google Docs and AWeber

If you’re not familiar with Google Docs, it’s a free online suite of word processing and spreadsheet software.

It’s a useful tool just for having spreadsheets handy from anywhere. But here’s where it gets interesting for email marketers.

Less than a week ago, they announced that you can create forms in your Google spreadsheets.

All you have to do is create a spreadsheet, set up a form, and email the link to your subscribers through AWeber — they’ll go to the survey, fill it out and you’ll automatically compile their responses!

What Can You Email Surveys About?

Anything you want to know that can help you serve your customers and prospects (and market to them) better!

A couple ideas to get you started:

Satisfaction Surveys — how do they perceive you? Are they happy with what you provide?
What Other Products Would They Like You To Offer?
What Competing Solutions/Businesses Are They Considering (a good way to sniff out competitors who might otherwise go “under the radar”)

What Will YOU Survey Your Customers and Prospects About?

Share your ideas below!

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By:
Justin Premick is the former Director of Educational Products at AWeber.

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86 Comments

  1. Hi Justin,

    I just watched your video even though my sound card isn’t working and even without the commentary this looks so simple and powerful. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I made the mistake of doing a survey by regular email last month and was expecting to get a responce from 100 or so subscribers. Instead I got over 950 responses. With seven questions in my survey it took me two weeks (a lot of late nights) to extract and compile the results into an Excel spreadsheet. With this new Google/Aweber combo it will all be done for me instantly. Wow! Thanks for sharing this. I will definitely be putting this to good use in the future.

    2/12/2008 7:20 pm
  2. Excellent video, thanks!
    That’s really very easy, if one doesn’t mind relying on Google.

    2/12/2008 10:39 pm
  3. That’s really cool. I’ve been thinking about surveying my main list for a while but had been put off by the time and cost involved. This looks like a fantastic solution.

    2/13/2008 5:37 am
  4. David

    Hi,

    This was great Justin. I never even thought of using google docs.

    Great post.

    2/13/2008 8:36 am
  5. Hi,Justin,
    Thank you very much.excellent advice and support.

    2/13/2008 10:54 am
  6. Amazing! Never knew these capabilities existed in Google. Thank you.

    2/13/2008 10:58 am
  7. Awesome. Short and to the point, near perfect.

    More like those please.

    2/13/2008 12:39 pm
  8. Wow! Who knew it would be that easy, great video!

    2/13/2008 12:49 pm
  9. Phenomenal post.

    It never ceases to amaze me how one can take advantage of the tools Google provides if they just look deep. I just wrote a post the other day on how you can get a company phone number, full mailbox, call transferring, forwarding, you name it using Google’s Grand Central — you guessed it. All for free.

    Virtual PBX system for nothing. Now that’s business!

    Justin, you got some good stuff here, Keep up the awesome work.

    2/13/2008 12:55 pm
  10. I run a website for a restaurant and one of the key things needed is to find out what your customers feel about your business detail by detail. This was something I didn’t think I could do, and thanks to your service you pointed it out that not only could I do it, but it wouldn’t be as hard as I thought. Please keep showing these videos, you’re more than a service that sends out emails to people.

    2/13/2008 2:17 pm
  11. What a great time saving tool. Tips like these will pay for the entire Aweber service for many years. Keep digging for us.

    2/13/2008 3:24 pm
  12. ck

    very useful indeed… hope there’s a way to pre-insert the name/email fields though.
    nonetheless, this beats the free version of surveymonkey hands down!!
    thanks Justin.

    2/13/2008 3:55 pm
  13. Thanks all for the great feedback – I’ll keep my eye out for more like these!

    ck,

    I was hoping for that too – it’d be nice to be able to add on to the query string, i.e. &column_a={!name}&column_b={!email} or something like that, but thus far I haven’t seen any evidence of support for that.

    Might want to drop a line to Google Docs support requesting the ability to do that.

    2/13/2008 4:36 pm | Follow me on Twitter
  14. Phenomenal video, so easy, and free!

    It’s really amazing how far web design,list building, and the internet have some…makes some pretty high end (previously) things so easy to accomplish!

    2/13/2008 6:26 pm
  15. The video is great. A tadbit fast for me but I get the point. Thanks heaps.

    2/13/2008 9:39 pm
  16. Great take on an alternative to Survey Monkey. I love Survey Monkey, but its nice to have options.

    Thanks!

    2/14/2008 12:07 am
  17. Wow. What a great way to do survey’s. We currently use surveymonkey but this seems like a great way too. :)

    Thanks.

    2/14/2008 1:24 am
  18. Any opinion on using a survey at the same time as filling out a request for a catalog? How would that response be?

    Also i was havin trouble viewing the video everyone was raving about. When I click on the Video link, nothing happens.

    2/17/2008 1:57 pm
  19. Hi Florence,

    I can’t say I’ve seen any studies on doing that. You might be able to combine the 2 by offering to include a coupon/discount code with the catalog if people fill out the survey as well.

    If you’re having trouble viewing the video, please make sure you have the latest version of Flash player installed on your computer.

    2/18/2008 8:43 am | Follow me on Twitter
  20. My problem with Google–which, don’t get me wrong, offers some great things, and I use many of them–is that they maintain their databases and all information collected indefinitely. Their privacy policy is, well, scary. I’ll use them for things that don’t ask specific personal questions of my members (and even then, I have second thoughts), but for anything where I actually wanted personal responses or private information, I’d rather pay for a service.

    2/19/2008 8:30 am
  21. Justin,

    This is some powerful stuff!

    In the past, doing even a short SurveyMonkey survey took me hours to complete.

    I need to be able to ask questions easily of my list.

    2/19/2008 10:06 am
  22. Nice job Justin (and Google)!

    If you want a bunch of anonymous surveys, this is a bargain-basement way to begin.

    The real power of surveys, though, comes from how you slice and dice your message based on segmentation. Much better to use aweber as your survey tool (limited functionality and design notwithstanding), or to use another survey tool to send people to list A or B or C depending on their answers, so you can speak to them directly based on those answers.

    For example, if I discover that my market consists of three main segments – people who don’t even have AdWords accounts, people who have an account and are spending less than $100/month, and power users whose online businesses depend on AdWords traffic – then I’ll want to send different types of follow up and broadcast messages to those lists.

    Will Aweber allow me to import the Google Doc results into Aweber and connect it to existing subscribers based on the email address?

    2/19/2008 11:04 am
  23. Hi Howie,

    Great point.

    There’s not currently a way to update subscriber information in bulk (it can be done on a 1-by-1 basis at the "Leads" page of your account) but I can certainly see the value in being able to import those results to your subscriber records and will be in touch with our Development Team to discuss how we might be able to accommodate that.

    2/19/2008 11:32 am | Follow me on Twitter
  24. I thought this video was awesome. It really provide a cool way for me to solve a particular problem I was having with certain social networking sites. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

    2/19/2008 3:58 pm
  25. Justin,

    One thing we do, which bothers leads is we have their name, we have their email address already in our aweber system. But them we send them to a page where they have to enter it in again?

    So, I would not have then enter their name and email again, (cause you know it already) unless there was a specific purpose for why you were collecting it, so you could send them something based on their unique responses, I suppose or address immediate needs they provide.

    Kinda like Howie was saying.. if you could take these results back into aweber specific to the individual lead, that’d be sweet.

    But as for Google adding these features, cool stuff. There is a lot of powerful collaboration stuff in Google Docs free… and it works awesome.

    2/19/2008 4:02 pm
  26. Jeff,

    Thanks for seconding Howie’s point on subscriber updating. I can definitely see the value in being able to more seamlessly drop those results back into AWeber.

    As for not asking people for name/email, I totally agree with you, but unfortunately since Google Documents is an outside system, we can only pass them that information if they give us a way to integrate it into their form/spreadsheet (such as in the query string.)

    For those just looking to get aggregate information rather than user-specific data, there’s really no need to ask for name/email at all – even though I happened to do so in my example.

    2/19/2008 4:10 pm | Follow me on Twitter
  27. I found this information just in the nick of time (and quite by accident!). I think it’s fab and the video was very helpful too. No need to worry with survey monkey or zoomerang now then :P
    … and no more excuses for not putting a survey together! Thanks guys.

    2/20/2008 11:48 am
  28. Could it get any cooler or easier than that? Well, maybe a little, but not much.

    Why am I not using these tools more often? (that’s a rhetorical question)

    2/20/2008 7:00 pm
  29. Wow! That is exactly what a small business marketing consultant like myself has been looking for. How often have I wanted to integrate google docs which I already use with an autoresponder function, this is easy to use and most of all time saving! Thanks Justin, keep bringing the tips!!!

    2/20/2008 9:35 pm
  30. Don’t forget the power of BAIT! Sometimes customers don’t have time to respond to a survey and need that extra incentive to take action. I recently sent a survey and offered customers an extra gift if they take action. Needless to say I got a good response :)

    3/23/2008 3:58 pm
  31. Absolutely awesome video and idea!

    Thanks Aweber (and Google!)

    ciao

    3/27/2008 1:25 pm
  32. This is soooo helpful! Thank you VERY much.

    4/10/2008 9:06 pm
  33. I think that when doing on-line surveying it’s important to try to stick to tick boxes as much as possible rather than asking for text answers, as people are more likely to fill out tick boxes.

    4/12/2008 6:49 am
  34. Hi Brad here.
    Very timely video, and well done.

    I am on the month trial right now and was about to give another service a try because of the importance I feel surveying your list has.
    This feature combo fills my needs nicely.

    By the way I asked your support staff on 4 occassions how I could do surveys throw AWeber, (and analize the data) and they did not know.

    Only one out of the 4 knew about this tutorial.

    Just a heads up.

    Great training great service more bells and whistles than I can use, thanks for your efforts.

    4/19/2008 2:09 pm
  35. Hi Brad,

    Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll make sure everyone’s more aware of this survey method.

    Glad to hear this is useful to you!

    4/21/2008 8:22 am | Follow me on Twitter
  36. ck

    hi Justin,
    just want to mention that the survey worked like a charm. i was organising a MeetUp using MeetUp.com and the venue required personal particulars of all my 150+ attendees. without this tip that you have given us, it would have been a nightmare getting the information from so many people and compiling them.
    needless to say.. the event last friday was a success :O)
    once again… thanks!!
    from sunny Singapore

    4/21/2008 9:34 am
  37. I read the page yesterday and watched the video, i was at cloud9 and sent out a mail to my list telling them to expect a survey tomorrow and when i tried the google documents i was very disappointed as i wasn’t able to click the "New" link to create a new spreadsheet. None of the links on the panel are clickable. I tried on Mozilla, IE and Opera, none of them works. So i am right now i am searching for some other solution. Please let me know if you have any solution to the problem i encountered.

    6/11/2008 1:52 am
  38. Spencer,

    I’m not sure why that would have occurred.

    You might want to check Google’s Documents help section, or get in touch with them.

    6/11/2008 7:43 am | Follow me on Twitter
  39. tom

    Tried to watch the video…
    it stopped playing 3-4 times about 1/3 of the way throught it.

    I have most recent flash download.

    I want to see the whole video.
    Help!

    6/12/2008 11:10 am
  40. Dan

    Although this is OK, it is really not integrated into AWeber at all. There is no manual way to even import this data into your subscriber custom fields or to segment or personalize your list with it at this time. The ideal solution would be AWeber surveys. However, until that happens (and I hope it will), you could make things much better by simply allowing the possibility of importing data into existing subscriber custom fields. This way, you could import the results of these surveys into your AWeber database and segment and personalize based on it.

    6/13/2008 3:24 pm
  41. Hi Dan,

    One aspect of the new Email Web Analytics tools we released last month could help you address this (rather than using Google Analytics).

    Since with the Email Web Analytics tools, you can see who clicked on which links in your emails, you can simply put the survey directly into the body of your email.

    That click data will be stored in AWeber and you’ll be able to use it to segment and communicate with subscribers based on their responses.

    Granted, this requires that you use multiple-choice or "click all that apply" type questions, but it has the advantage of giving you quick access to information you can use to tailor future email campaigns to your subscribers’ wants and needs.

    6/16/2008 10:17 am | Follow me on Twitter
  42. Joe

    The Shockwave Flash plugin crashes all three browsers (WinXP IE6, FF 3.0 and chrome) when I try to watch the video. Would it be possible to get a URL directly to the video so that it could be downloaded with Orbit or the like?

    If so, great. If not, no problem.

    9/10/2008 11:53 pm
  43. Hi Joe,

    The video plays fine for me in XP/Firefox 3 as well as XP/IE7. (I can’t speak for IE6 as I no longer have it on my computer).

    Sounds like there’s something else going on w/your computer that’s affecting that. You might try checking the Adobe site to make sure you have the latest version of Flash Player (believe they’re on 9 now):

    http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/

    9/11/2008 8:53 am | Follow me on Twitter
  44. Great post! Exactly what I was looking for! Should have come here first before searching elsewhere.

    9/26/2008 2:04 pm
  45. Michelle

    Hi Justin. I was very excited when I found this post, as I want to do a survey. Unfortunately, it seems Google has changed the rules. There is no longer an option to "Fill Out a Form." When I click on "Share," and then click on "Invite People," I have 2 options: "To Edit" and "To View." There is not a 3rd option of inviting people "To Fill Out a Form."

    Can you tell me where the "Fill Out a Form" option has gone?

    10/18/2008 1:09 am
  46. Michelle,

    With the newest Google Docs changes, you can find the form option in the toolbar along the top of your spreadsheet.

    Click the "Form" menu and choose "Create a form."

    It should be pretty straightforward from there.

    10/20/2008 8:45 am | Follow me on Twitter
  47. CM

    Justin,

    Excellent video, thank you! I’m excited about using this tool.

    Question – could the link to the survey be included in a regular issue of my newsletter, rather than having it be a whole separate broadcast?

    Thanks!

    2/2/2009 9:44 pm
  48. Hi, I just watched your video on google docs. Google seems to have changed their format in their spreadsheets such that the video steps no longer match what Google has. Forms are now a setup choice under NEW. It seems to require us to enter email addresses we want to send these forms to instead of simply putting a link in our aweber broadcast. Can you advise how to use google docs now?
    Thanks

    3/23/2009 12:32 am
  49. It would be great if you would remove this and replace it with an updated video. This one doesn’t work anymore…it looks like it hasn’t worked for several months.

    Thanks.

    7/13/2009 2:11 pm
  50. Great video (worked fine for me). Very excited about trying it out!

    1/23/2010 8:12 am
  51. Cee

    Can’t view the video, but it works just fine :)

    Click on more actions > embed, grab the URL from it:

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/embeddedform?key=<bunch of random letters>

    Just replace "embedded" with "view" so it becomes:

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?key=<bunch of random letters>

    Add that to your email broadcast. DONE!

    This is pretty damn amazing, thanks for the tip!

    1/28/2010 8:58 pm
  52. I’m new to this so the video helped explain it a lot. Thanks for posting it. Hopefully start surveying my customers soon.

    2/9/2010 8:38 am
  53. yes Google have changed the way you do it.. so an updated video would be really helpful. but I did manage to accidentally work it out!!

    3/24/2010 5:20 am
  54. Lukey

    Can I use the Google Docs survey & put it onto a web page?

    (If so, there is probably still no way to collect the email addresses in AWeber, apart from import them one by one later.)

    What other options do I have?

    If I use Survey Monkey on a web page can I link that back to my AWeber list collection?

    4/13/2010 9:22 pm
  55. Thanks so much. This was excellent and the timing is perfect. I was just about to try an email one. Never dreamed it could be so easy,professional…and free! (-:

    4/28/2010 3:44 pm
  56. N

    There’s now a even newer version of Google docs and the video above is even more out of date. Doesn’t matter though because it’s quite easy to create the survey. Create a new spreadsheet and click on “form” at the top. Then just follow what Justin says in the video. Thanks for this Justin. Amazing.

    5/5/2010 10:24 pm
  57. This is phenomenal – you guys rock.

    5/28/2010 7:56 am
  58. this video with google docs is just what the doctor ordered. I have only one small niggling worry and this is about Aweber

    I could sent this survey to over 4000 customers who lets say need re-engaging BUT they have not given me permission to send them this survey or anything. So CAN i USE aWEBER OR WILL I FALL DONE AT THE FIRST FENCE WITH YOU GUYS

    8/24/2010 10:44 am
  59. Jeff ~ Re-engaging should only be done with subscribers who have already given you permission to email them. So, you can certainly use AWeber as long as you get permission from each of your customers to receive your emails.

    8/24/2010 12:35 pm
  60. Awesome idea! I’ve been using survey monkey and quite frankly, I’ve been unimpressed.

    Using Google Docs seems like the way to go. It would seem that you could completely "brand" the survey, too, with all of your own promotional materials and it’s your data, too.

    Thanks for the great suggestion!

    9/17/2010 5:15 pm
  61. wow, just saw the video now, right when I was wondering how to survey my list…phenomenal info, cant wait to use it!!
    thanks a lot!!

    10/16/2010 1:57 pm
  62. Great video thanks! Very easy indeed .. I will give it a try.

    Thank you.

    1/16/2011 6:22 pm
  63. Natan

    Another option is Rational Survey. The tool is very easy to use and they offer a great free account good for 1000 responders.

    http://www.rationalsurvey.com

    5/10/2011 11:47 am
  64. Students can also use Survey Prof. It is aimed at students and entirely free.

    5/31/2011 8:53 am
  65. Justin/Amanda… Woo hoo! Very very nice! The video was great! One question though… Now that Google has changed from the spreadsheet to the form option, where do I go to get the URL to paste into my AWeber broadcast message. Do I just take it from the URL field in my web browser?

    Thanks a bunch!

    6/30/2011 9:13 pm
  66. Tuan Bui

    I wanted to add http://www.mobosurvey.com to this list of survey tools. Mobosurvey helps you quickly create online surveys that are accessible from any internet capable devices. Your users can access the same survey from their smart phones, tablets, laptops, or desktops at anytime

    9/24/2011 2:35 pm
  67. Woo. Nice read. One query I have though. Now when Google has changed its display format where should I paste my AWeber broadcast message. It’s confusing me. Or should I simply pick URL field?

    11/27/2011 8:33 am
  68. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for asking. Google has made a number of changes to their form tool since I shot this video.

    You don’t need to paste anything from AWeber into your Google form. What you’ll do is create the form in Google, then get the link for it (it appears at the bottom of the page while you’re editing your form), then add that link to the broadcast you create in AWeber. That way, when you send out the broadcast, your subscribers can click the link and be taken to your survey form.

    11/28/2011 1:20 pm | Follow me on Twitter
  69. Hey Justin thanks for posting! Now what we need is for Aweber to be able to integrate the form right into the email. I hate to give somebody a link to go somewhere else and take a survey, so I came up with a way to embed the form into the email. It’s more hands on up front but I like having the form in the email.

    The users still have to go to another page when they click submit, but at least that way they already have the form filled out.

    Are there any plans to integrate some sort of surveys into Aweber? Drag and drop capabilities would be sweet!

    5/26/2012 2:59 pm
  70. Hi Everett,

    Thanks for your feedback. Adding a drag-and-drop survey function to our message editor is definitely an interesting idea! I’m sending your comment along to our developers to see if it’s something we can implement.

    In the meantime, there’s an easier way to create surveys directly in your emails by adding a quick tracking code to your links. This article explains how it works: http://www.aweber.com/blog/email-marketing/create-surveys-to-segment-your-subscribers-5-steps.htm

    Hope that helps, and thanks for the great suggestion!

    5/29/2012 10:02 am
  71. Thanks for this excellent post Justin! I just sent out my first survey using Google Docs and Aweber. Easy to use and I got a great result!

    I embeded the survey form into my website – which was a good look.

    Google Docs produced a spreadsheet with all the collected data but also a nice report with bar graphs etc.

    Thanks again for suggesting this great idea which is free and I can use anytime I want to survey my audience.

    Jain.

    9/23/2012 7:42 pm
  72. Phil

    I don’t see the video… on any browser. Is there a problem?

    11/23/2012 12:52 am
  73. Phil – The video is outdated, but this post and this post talk about techniques for learning about what your subscriber’s want.

    11/26/2012 9:49 am
  74. I see all these post about a video, but I do not see one or a working link. Can some one email me the link. I want to survey my email list.

    10/5/2013 7:27 am
  75. Rachel Acquaviva

    Hi J.C.,
    I apologize that the video won’t load. We recommend using a free survey tool and putting the link to the survey into your email. I hope this helps!

    10/7/2013 2:27 pm

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