In the early 2000s, the survey, for most, was an inaccessible marketing technique. It required an audience or a large stack of cash – which meant that most of the time, you probably had both. In 2014, that reality has changed.
The survey is accessible to any marketer, and it doesn’t require an established audience or a massive pocketbook – thanks to cheap online tools like Google Consumer Surveys, it now only requires some creativity, a good writer, and some decent graphic design skills in order to put something together that can get covered by some of the biggest publications online.
Survey Creation – Idea Stage
In our content marketing checklist, one of the first steps to content success is to ask yourself if your content idea meets the S.U.C.C.E.S. formula. That is, is your survey question likely to end with data that is Simple, Unexpected, Credible, Concrete, Emotional, and tells a Story? If you think about what the final product is likely to result in, and you can’t conclude that the answer to most of those letters, you’re probably not going to have a successful piece of content.
As the person constructing the idea, it’s smart to ask yourself “what statistics am I likely to get back from this that are interesting?” and “do I know the final answer to this question?”. If you have a strong reason to believe you know what the final answer to a question is, it’s unlikely the reading audience will care, because they probably already know as well.
You’ve probably seen studies that say things like “eat less and you’ll lose weight”. We didn’t have to spend money to get the answer to that study, but somehow, someone paid for it. Don’t be that person with your study – it’s unlikely anybody will care about it.
Survey Creation – Asking the Right Questions
With surveys, one important part about how you compile the questions comes from how you ask for data. For example, we once had the idea to ask consumers what their favorite specific dessert was for a client relevant to that area. We were hoping for a very niche answer such as Pumpkin Ice Cream, or Sea Salt Caramels.
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Instead, because we gave them an input field, we got an answer back of “ice cream”. Not very interesting at all, and something you probably would yawn at.
The problem we experienced came from expecting that the person answering the survey would care about it as much as we would. Instead, most took the very basic answer and did the least amount of thinking/work possible, and because of that, we got a response that really wasn’t that interesting.
Expecting sophisticated responses without giving them a strong reason to give them (that is, cash), is not likely. With online surveys, most survey takers answer questions to get access to more content, or they get paid a very small amount of money for each question. Because of this, you need to ask questions that people can answer (correctly) in under five seconds.
Asking for an in-depth response is not smart, and likely will lead you to the wrong path, with data you can’t use. Keep it simple, and let the sample size and demographics from your data set make the responses interesting – not the complexity of the answers.
Writing the Survey – Making it Marketable
Many surveys force the reader to interpret the data, leaving the reader to sift through the information to find the meat of the piece that’s truly interesting. There’s an opportunity for marketers to take the most interesting part of their own data and turn it into a truly interesting piece. The first is to make that headline POP.
Here are just a few examples of survey headlines that turn your head, that also resulted in really successful pieces for the companies they were written for:
- 16% of Cellphones Have Poop on Them
- 67.5% of America Doesn’t Trust Real Estate Agents
- 1 in 4 Young Adults Experience Hacked Accounts
When you combine interesting data, good questions, and smart headline writing to market the surveys, you have the potential to have a really successful piece.
If you’re paying attention, you can also see how the context of all three parts comes together with how we started – the S.U.C.C.E.S. formula. A great headline should be simple, unexpected, credible (from a good source, with good data), concrete, and generate emotions that come from a good story behind the stat.
If you put this all together, you’ve got the recipe for really interesting content, that can be created for cheap, and also be really effective at the same time.