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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Tips for Creating Online Surveys that Yield Good Information and Good PR

Online surveys are a convenient way to obtain feedback from customers, prospects, and employees. However, it takes skill to construct a survey that will provide you with useful insights. And, it takes skill to construct a survey that leaves participants feeling good about your company. Here are some tips, followed by information on three free online survey services.

Before you begin

  • Who needs to know what, for what purpose? What will you or they do with the results?
  • Which target group can best provide the information you need? How can you get contact information for that group (lists of customers/prospects; purchased lists; or lists you build)?
  • Who will manage the project?

What questions will provide you with the desired information? (Keep it Simple--KISS)

  • Ask two or three demographic questions so that you can contrast answers for different segments (e.g., industry; respondents' titles or roles; location; age; or experience.).
  • Use "why" and "how" questions to gain unexpected insights. (e.g., Follow "Which vendor will you choose next time?" with "Why will you switch vendors?")
  • In multiple choice questions, consider also providing an "Other" option as you can rarely anticipate all answers. To gain unexpected insights, follow with "Explain."
  • Place critical questions in the first half of the survey as some will not complete the survey.
  • Avoid two-part questions as respondents may agree with one-part, but not the other. (e.g., "Did you do online research for intelligent personal assistants, such as Amazon Echo, but then purchase it in a store?")
  • Avoid loaded questions, such as "Do you agree that our Amazon Echo outperforms Google now?" Note, too, that "outperforms" is too general to be meaningful.
  • Keep it short. People abandon surveys that take more than 10-15 minutes to complete, even when you provide incentives. Make every question count.
  • Supplement with phone interviews or in-person interviews so that you can explore issues raised by online surveys.


  • Test whether the questions make sense and whether the survey logic works.
  • Send an email that identifies your company and outlines the purpose of the survey and use of the insights. Tell respondents how long the survey takes. Do not be deceptive.
  • Provide an incentive, such as a drawing, cash, a charitable donation, or a summary of findings.
  • Give respondents a 7- to 10- day deadline. More time won't result in more completed surveys.
  • Send a reminder after a few days, along with the survey. They may have deleted your first email.


Constructing a survey that yields useful insights is challenging. Regard surveys as a point of contact with your target audience. If you launch a poor survey, people won't complete it, plus it will reflect poorly on your company. Finally, respondents expect you to do something about the issues they raise. After all, they have expended time and energy to answer your questions.

Survey Services--all are mobile enabled

Qualtrics ( ) -- basic service is free. Surveys related to Customer, Employee, Brand, and Products. Qualtrics offers 100 Responses; 10 Outgoing Emails; 8 Question Types; One Active Survey; (Upgrading will enable multiple active surveys); Unlimited Questions; Summary Reports & Filtering; Survey Logic & Randomization; and Online Reporting.

Survey Gizmo ( basic service is free. Survey Gizmo offers well-constructed templates for various types of surveys. They provided my company with superior phone support.

Survey Monkey ( -- basic service is free. Survey Monkey provides seven types of templates and dozens of sample questionnaires. They also provide lists of respondents ($100 for 100 completes, 10 questions, their list).

Copyright © 6/17 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.


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