Erin Hogg

6 Tips for Creating an Effective Survey

September 2nd, 2014

As marketers, we see lots of benchmark data and statistics that we base our business decisions on.

At MarketingSherpa, we recently conducted a nine-month study on the state of ecommerce.

You’ll see the results of our research conducted with 4,346 marketers across 95 in-depth charts.

Obviously, this data didn’t come out of thin air. There was a survey that our MECLABS research team carefully constructed to gather those insights.

Crafting effective surveys is potentially the most important part of collecting useful data, whether you’re fielding research for a report or simply gaining customer feedback.

Diana Sindicich, Senior Manager, Data Sciences, MECLABS (parent company of MarketingSherpa), played an integral part in the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study and provided some tips on how to produce the most effective survey for your needs.

 

Survey Tip #1. Evaluate your situation

There’s a good time, and a not-so-good time, for everything. This rule of life applies to surveys as well.

In surveys, situations may exist for you that make it a good idea to field a survey, Diana explained.

This could include scenarios of when you want to understand your customers’ motivations or characteristics. Maybe you’re looking to expand your product lines and want to know what your customers would like to see offered.

On the other hand, there are times when a survey may not be the best idea for what you want to accomplish. Perhaps you have a very personalized service with a small group of customers. Surveys can be perceived as impersonal — conversely, an interview would make the customer feel special and valued.

 

Survey Tip #2. Understand bias in surveys

As much you try to make your survey as scientifically accurate and objective as possible, without random sampling, it’s not accurate.

Random sampling, by its definition, is a subset of individuals chosen from a larger set, and each individual is chosen randomly and entirely by chance.

No survey is truly random, and that is even truer in marketing. You’re probably surveying your customers, or like the MarketingSherpa Benchmark Studies, your audience.

As Diana explained, you cannot force people to take your survey, and you’ll only get responses from people who want to participate.

“The audience that you get is dependent on the incentive you offer, be it perceived or monetary value,” Diana said.

Perceived value, in the example of the Benchmark Study, would be leveraging the fact that respondents would be contributing to research. These incentives will affect the types of people you get to take your survey.

Always understand the predispositions your survey respondents most likely have. The tendency is to see some responses at the extreme ends of the spectrum — either very positive or very negative:

  • The happiest people might respond
  • The unhappiest will respond
  • The neutral people won’t bother without perceiving value to participate in the survey

Understand that survey results are a measure of the respondents’ perceptions of your topic.

Design and analyze the survey with that in mind. If you can identify extreme groups, such as happiest and unhappiest customers, you can analyze the responses to other questions separately, often leading to very helpful insights into why customers are behaving as they do.

 

Survey Tip #3. Conduct background research and formulate research questions

Before you start to build your survey, utilize what you already know that could help your research, and formulate your research questions.

Finding information from past surveys, online review sites and third-party information on industry trends or population characteristics could hold troves of valuable information, Diana advised.

Based on what your background research reveals, what do you want to find out? What do you plan to do with the information you gain through the survey?

This is when you should develop your research questions. These are different that your actual survey questions, which we’ll address in the Tip #5. A research question should be something you want to answer through your survey. This might include questions such as:

  • What confuses visitors to this page?
  • What kind of people are going to this site?
  • What information are prospects using in their decision process?

 

Survey Tip #4. Finalize methodology

Two of the biggest questions in survey methodology include: Where will your responses be solicited? And, how?

According to Diana, depending on the research questions you developed, it might become obvious to you at this point who can tell you what you need to know.

As for number of responses, “ideally, you want a lot, but a lot is relative,” Diana explained.

For surveys with primarily multiple choice questions, Diana advised, “You want to have a big enough number of responses that even the most unpopular answer options receive some responses.”

It is not unusual to see response rates on emailed surveys below 10%, so start with as big a list as possible.

 

Survey Tip #5. Construct your survey questions

Diana suggested for every research question you have, write down all of the possible survey questions you can think of. Don’t worry about having different versions of the same question; this is all part of the process of finding the best way to ask a question.

As you’re crafting your questions, remember to not lead your respondents to answer one way or another.

Diana gave a great example of taking a leading question and making it more objective:

Question: In which stores do you shop for shoes (e.g., Rack Room)?

This question would prompt many people to respond they shop at Rack Room because you’ve just reminded them about that store.

To change this question to make it non-leading, she suggested asking instead:

Where do you shop for shoes?

This question can be asked without providing a set response or giving a long list of store names that are in randomized order for each respondent.

This way, the respondent is recalling their experience rather than being led to respond a certain way.

Don’t forget to include “Other” and “N/A” as a response, as some survey takers may simply not know the answer or do not fit into the ones you have given. If they don’t see the answer that fits them and have no alternative response choices, they could leave the question blank or pick something randomly that won’t be accurate.

 

Survey Tip #6. Practice fielding your survey

Test your survey before you begin giving it to your intended audience. By doing a trial run, you can see how the survey will be experienced by people who have never seen it before.

Diana advised finding a group between five and 10 people to take your survey, so you can discover things like:

  • How long did it take to complete the survey?
  • Were any questions confusing?
  • Were there any technical glitches?
  • Did all of the questions record properly when data was exported?

 

You might also like

Infographic: Customer experience in the digital age [More from the blogs]

Email Marketing Research: What information will help you do your job better? [More from the blogs]

2 Vital Questions Every Marketer Should Ask of Lead Gen Forms [More from the blogs]

Small-Business Marketing: 5-step email survey process leads to 600% revenue growth [Case study]

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David Kirkpatrick

Social Media Marketing: Tools and takeaways to implement today

August 29th, 2014

Earlier this year, I was asked to moderate a case study panel at DFW Rocks Social Media Day. It was a fast and furious two days with multiple concurrent tracks and a lot of great information for attendees.

Since so much was happening at once, I wasn’t able to take in all the great content. So I reached out to Lissa Duty, Organizer of DFW Rocks Social Media 2014 and Vice President of Community Management at Advice Interactive Group, for her take on the event to give MarketingSherpa readers the opportunity to learn some of the top takeaways.

 

Insights from the organizerDFW-rocks

From the organizer’s perspective, Lissa said that this year’s event placed a higher importance on live content.

She explained, “This year, I really saw the value in having the live blog to share the conference sessions and highlight the speakers, even after the event, plus the live tweets, which did make for the #DFWRocks2014 hashtag streaming on Twitter at one point.”

What’s Lissa’s quick-hit advice on social media marketing?

“You must start with creating a social media plan,” Lissa said.

She then outlined three key points:

 

Key Point #1. Understand why you’re using social media

It’s not just to ”get rich.” Understand why you feel social media is important to you, your customer and your brand.

 

Key Point #2. Research what your customer wants to know about your brand

Discover how you can share that message uniquely in each social space, and then create a plan to give them that message.

Read more…

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Erin Hogg

Social Media Marketing: Setting expectations both internally and externally [Video]

August 26th, 2014

“#FAIL” is the last thing you want to hear from your audience on your social media channels.

From disgruntled users or customers to people calling out your company or brand’s blunder, handling the outcome of a social media fail correctly is critical for recovery.

But beyond just addressing a crisis online, is there an effective way to prevent these cringe-worthy mishaps from even happening?

epicurious-boston-tweet

 

In the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE, Andrew Jones, Industry Analyst, Altimeter Group, explained how using a simple two-part strategy can help prevent social media fails before they occur.

 

Strategy #1. Manage expectations internally

Before you embark on social media, Andrew explained there should be a plan going into the journey to set guidelines for those who will be posting.

“At first, I think a lot of brands got involved and saw it as kind of a cute toy, and said, ‘Oh, let’s give it to the intern,” or, ‘Let’s give it to someone who doesn’t necessarily know a lot about the company,”‘ Andrew explained. “That can cause problems if the engagement that ends up representing the company in a very public space ends up causing social media fails or misrepresenting the company.”

Andrew recommended that the team managing a company’s social media account has rules and scenarios on how to interact with the audience online, especially when there’s a problem.

Read more…

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Jessica Lorenz

3 Tips to Improve Your Marketing from Doctor Who

August 22nd, 2014

(Editor’s note: Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, also contributed her knowledge – and love of “Doctor Who” – to this blog post.)

There are a lot of nerds in our office, and if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, this is probably not news to you. Recently, we’ve realized something nerds everywhere have known for a long time – we are not alone.

In our case studies, blogs and events, we’ve seen how other marketers utilize pop culture to help convey complex ideas – for instance, emergency alert systems provider One Call Now used “Star Trek” characters to represent its customer personas.

Since we have seen the success others have had, we wanted to try this idea out for ourselves using an office favorite: BBC’s science fiction cult classic “Doctor Who,” which is having its latest series premiere on August 23.

doctor-who

For those who are unfamiliar, the titular Doctor is a Time Lord (a time-traveling alien species very similar to humans) who faces various foes in attempts to save civilizations and right wrongs using intellect over force while exploring all of time and space.

Intellect over force is a driving principle behind our work here – marketing through testing and optimization over gut feelings and intuition.

Read on for three tips we’ve taken to heart from “Doctor Who” about how to make the customer your companion in your marketing efforts.

 

Tip #1. Test every (seemingly) insignificant thing

Doctor: Stone dust.

Kate: Is it important?

Doctor: In 1,200 years, I’ve never stepped in anything that wasn’t. … Now, I want this stone dust analyzed. And I want a report in triplicate, with lots of graphs and diagrams and complicated sums on my desk, tomorrow morning, ASAP, pronto …

Doctor Who,” The Day of the Doctor, 2013

Every single thing, down to the dust he has stepped on, is something the Doctor considers important. He’s been testing, scanning and analyzing all of his surroundings for 1,200 years.

You may think that you know the answer to every question anyone could ask about your customers. But when you begin testing, you could discover that you’ve totally overlooked a simple concept that was right under your nose (or boots).

For example, at MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco, Jon Ciampi, Vice President Marketing, Corporate Development, Business Development and Strategic Accounts, CRC Health, presented a case study where his team tested what they considered to be best practices.

They took their control page of concise copy with an above the fold call-to-action, and created a treatment full of copy with a below the fold call-to-action.

What Jon and his team discovered was an “aha moment,” realizing that not only had the treatment outperformed the control by 220%, but they hadn’t understood their customers’ motivations at all.

While they had been promoting luxury and statistics, it took one test to realize that customers weren’t asking, “What is your doctor-to-patient ratio?” but rather, “Can I trust you with my loved one?”

“We test in the eternal hope that we can possibly understand the motivations of our customers and adjust our practices accordingly,” Jon summed up in his presentation.

Read more…

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Daniel Burstein

Content Marketing: How a farm justifies premium pricing

August 19th, 2014

“We often feel like we have a sales force of thousands of loyal customers looking out for our best interest.”

We’ll get to how content marketing enabled the example in that quote in just a minute, but first, let’s start with the incredible, edible egg market.

The egg market is a perfect example of how value, and marketing’s role in the communication of that value, can be added to what was previously a commodity in order to produce higher margins.

Take a look at the market for eggs. There’s white. Brown. Hormone free. Antibiotic fee. Vegetarian fed. Grass fed. USDA organic. Free range. The list goes on.

Of course, there is a range of prices for these different attributes, ranging from $2.78 per dozen to $5.49 per dozen in a recent Consumer Reports article, for example.

This creates a dilemma for the consumer and a challenge (and opportunity) for the marketer.

 

The Marketer’s Challenge and Opportunity: Communicating value when markets are filled with choice

This is, after all, the heart of marketing: enabling choice and communicating the value of those choices.

So let’s look back at the egg market. Remember, not too long ago, eggs were just a commodity. Then, all of these product claims came along. One could argue that all of those claims create more value for customers, and thus, justify the higher price. That may in fact be true, but they would miss the point.

The real ability to charge a premium price for having any of those words on an egg carton is the customer’s perception of that value. After all, how many customers really understand what goes into raising an organic egg?

 

It was beauty (the content) that killed the beast (the commodity)

Commodity products are very dangerous for companies. It means their only lever of survival is to focus on operational excellence and cost-cutting to constantly stay one step ahead of expenses and the competition.

This is where content can be so powerful. Companies that really are producing something of greater value (e.g., the organic egg) can use content to show the story of how their products are made so the customer can see for themselves what the value is (e.g., justifying the higher cost for an organic egg).

Effective content marketing isn’t only happening online. Let’s take a look at an example of how one egg company is using content marketing to show this distinguishing value.

 

In-package newsletter

If you buy Country Hen eggs off your grocer’s shelf, when you open the carton, you will see “The Country Hen Farm News.”

country-hen-newsletter

 

Content marketing = show your work

At first glance, it’s easy to miss how profound this in-package newsletter is. After all, the company basically bought a truck. So what?

Surely, customers must assume that their eggs make it from point A to point B to eventually their grocery store shelves in a truck of some sort. How does that add value?

“We like to see people working on our behalf,” Michael Norton, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School, explained at Web Optimization Summit 2014. (You can read a 15-second synopsis of his research in Takeaway #2 of Web Optimization Summit 2014 Wrap-up: Top 5 takeaways to improve your testing and optimization).

 

The difference between showing and telling

It’s not simply the fact that The Country Hen bought a truck that adds value, but rather, how it uses the newsletter to show product value. The magic is in the writing. This newsletter shows the value in three subtle, but brilliant, ways:

  1. Shows the work – As mentioned above, it shows how these farmers are working hard to get your eggs to you.
  1. Shows the passion – This isn’t some mega-corporation with commodity eggs. These people really care. For example, “Our girls will not have their vital nutrients in the care of a less than reliable vehicle.”
  1. Establishes its place in the market – Again, this isn’t a mega-corporation. They’re the underdog, the little guy. By spending more to buy Country Hen eggs, you are supporting the small farmer. After all, it’s quite charming how proud they are of a used truck: “The truck has only 188,000 miles and is capable of transporting 24,000 pounds of our certified organic cuisine.”

This company could have ran a TV ad campaign with stock farm footage of dewy mornings and hay bales being loaded into trucks and a ruddy-voiced announcer reading lines like, “We’re working a little harder for you.”

That would be telling. It would be hype. I would argue, it wouldn’t have been as effective because it wouldn’t be real. It wouldn’t win over today’s skeptical customer.

Pamela Jesseau, Senior Director of Marketing, MECLABS, is the person who gave me this newsletter and suggested this blog post. She described it like this: “I spend twice as much money on these eggs because they tell me about their truck. I’m never going to buy another egg ever again as long as The Country Hen is on the shelf. I want to find out what is next. I feel like they are my hens, too.”

After reading the newsletter, I wanted to share some insights from The Country Hen with you to help improve your own content marketing. So I reached out to Kathy Moran, the signatory of the newsletter, to get some background and tips for you.

As with any marketing department we write about, they aren’t perfect by any means. They still have work to do on their digital side. But I thought it would be helpful to hear how they create content with a small team and limited budget. Her responses were so good and real, I didn’t even pick up my editing pen.

Read more…

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Erin Hogg

Email Marketing: Unique send times for micro-personalization [Video]

August 15th, 2014

According to the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study, email was the top channel for driving significant traffic to an ecommerce site. For companies in the $10 million $100 million range, it drives nearly 80% of the traffic.

However, if you are not sending your marketing emails at the most optimal time for your audience, you’re leaving revenue on the table.

This is not a new challenge. But timing the right message to the right person at the right time remains a critical aspect to effective email marketing.

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014, Dave Sierk, Consumer and Small Business Strategist, Dell, took the stage to share several case studies showing how Dell leveraged a GIF-centric campaign to achieve a 109% revenue lift.

You can see Dave’s full presentation from Summit for that story, but in this MarketingSherpa Blog post, see how Dell created unique send profiles for each of its customers to personalize email marketing efforts on a micro-level.

 

While composing a creative and engaging email is a great start to driving traffic and, hopefully, conversions, sending it at a time that does not match customers’ email viewing habits could mean your efforts are wasted when that email never gets opened.

dell-send-times

 

Watch this brief excerpt from Dave’s session to see how the team personalized email send times to adjust to customer’s consumption habits and drove an 8.2% increase in unique click rate.

Read more…

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David Kirkpatrick

Email Marketing: What is the best day to send an email?

August 12th, 2014

For this MarketingSherpa Blog post, I thought I would examine some email research. This chart from the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Report focuses on the effectiveness of sending emails on different days of the week:

 

Looking at the results of this survey, you can see a wide range of effectiveness, along with a few clear patterns. Tuesday and Wednesday look pretty good, but Sunday looks to be the least effective.

What’s left off of this highly aggregated data is the fact there is no “best” day – or time of day – to send emails that works across the board for all email marketers.

The reality? Testing your email sends is paramount to effective email marketing. What might work for one industry, or business category, or maybe even your direct competitor might not – no, make that probably won’t – work for you.

Your email list is unique to your business (unless you’ve bought the entire list, and if so, shame on you). Only by testing your sends and tracking open rates, clickthroughs and other engagement metrics will you learn what works best for your list.

Read more…

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Allison Banko

Mobile Marketing: 3 tips from ModCloth on mobile app engagement

August 8th, 2014

Seldom do I condone a selfie.

Nothing makes me want to cut a slice of humble pie for someone more than a pointless, self-taken snapshot. If you’re doing absolutely nothing but think you look darn good, it’s pretty clear you’re pulling for some strokes to the ol’ ego.

In the driver’s seat of your car? Not a photo op. Working at your computer but having a great hair day? Don’t click the cam.

However, I do think there are some exceptions — and perhaps even necessary occasions — for a selfie. If I run into Jennifer Aniston on the street but no one’s there to take the pic, you best bet I’ll hold up my iPhone and do it on my own.

While my iPhone’s photo album doesn’t have celebrity-accompanied shots (I’m working on it), it’s not selfie-free, which brings me to my other exception: fashion.

Putting an outfit together or buying a piece of clothing is often stressful. I can look in the mirror as long as I want to see if I think a shirt looks funny or if my shoes go with my dress, but there’s nothing better than a second opinion.

I can get that second opinion by taking a photo of myself in the outfit, texting it to my girlfriends to weigh in. What do you think of this top? How does this skirt look with these earrings? Should I buy it? All of my friends and I do this.

Fashion retailer ModCloth, a brand my wallet knows all too well, integrated this selfie behavior into its mobile app. I learned all about it when ModCloth’s Chief Technology Officer Udi Nir chatted with me in the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE.

 

Udi co-hosted an IRCE session in Chicago titled, “Mobile Commerce: Get Ready Today for Tomorrow,” where he gave me the scoop on ModCloth selfies along with how crucial it is to have a strong mobile presence.

“It’s really important because that’s where our girl, our customer, is,” Udi told me. “We are wherever she is. If we want to serve her, we have to be in all those places she wants to access our site.”

On the marketing side, mobile unlocks new opportunities for marketers to reach customers in ways and at times they couldn’t have before.

“Mobile basically provides us new moments of found time,” he said. “Those two minutes in line, a few minutes on the bus or whatnot that weren’t able to be used before.”

ModCloth has channeled its mobile focus into its app, which has helped the company achieve both entertainment and engagement among its customers.

One particular feature is the app’s Style Gallery, a place where ModCloth customers can upload their outfit photos to show how they’ve styled their clothing to give others inspiration, Udi explained.

modcloth-style-gallery

  Read more…

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Daniel Burstein

Content Marketing: Encouraging sales and upsells at the point of purchase

August 5th, 2014

Many marketers think of content marketing as a top-of-the-funnel activity. This could include a video to build brand awareness, or an e-book to grow the email list.

But what about using content to encourage sales and upsells at the point of purchase?

On a recent trip to Maine, I came across a great example of point-of-purchase content marketing, although I’m not sure the content’s author would have labeled it as such.

 

How to eat a lobster

how-to-eat-lobster

 

This is a great example of where point-of-purchase content marketing can help: when you have a product that novice customers might not know how to use.

For a tourist who has never eaten a lobster, a placemat like this could be the tipping point between:

  • Buying the less expensive (and easier to eat) lobster roll or lobster meat salad or something more familiar like a steak

or

  • Buying the premium-priced product with the higher margin – lobster

No one wants to order a lobster (or any product) and look like a fool because they don’t know how to eat it. They are less likely to order because they don’t see the value in it.

That’s why this placemat is true content marketing, by my definition. This isn’t an overt sales piece; it was executed in a way that teaches someone how to do something.

Even for myself, as I have eaten a lobster before and was going to order one anyway, it helped me enjoy it more as a refresher for exactly how to eat the lobster since it had been a few years since I’ve eaten one.

 

Opportunities for point-of-purchase content marketing

The great opportunity for point-of-purchase content marketing is this:

When a customer needs to be taught about the product to make a
decision that is better for them.

This likely falls into two major buckets: product education and product differentiation.

Read more…

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Regina Love

Social Media: Leveraging visual marketing on Instagram and Pinterest

August 1st, 2014

At this year’s Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, sat down to discuss the growth and value of visual social media with Jason Miles, Co-founder, Liberty Jane Clothing, and Aime Schwartz, Digital Marketing Manager, King Arthur Flour.

Aime shared the importance of identifying what makes Instagram different from your Facebook and Twitter efforts. The goal is to showcase your value to multiple audiences through images, and think about reasons why people should engage with you and your brand.

Showcasing your value means being transparent, and with images, you can convey trust much better than just with words. (Want to learn more about trust through transparency? Watch a replay of Michael Norton, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School, speak at Web Optimization Summit 2014.)

In social media, we’ve all heard that adding an image to a post will drive more traffic, and together, Aime and Jason presented ways to leverage images on social media, regardless of the product or service.

“The research shows that even on Facebook, pictures get more engagement than normal posts,” Jason said.

 

For example, one way to be creative with the photography, Jason suggested, is by using the 80/20 rule – the happy balance between uploading meaningful posts alongside your product images.

As you think about where to start with Instagram and Pinterest, make sure you conquer one platform before expanding and jumping onto all of them. Also, don’t forget to provide plenty of social sharing options on your website to allow users ample opportunities to gravitate toward their preference.

Read more…

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