I bet there are things you want to know about members, prospective members, and those who are no longer members. You probably want to know what they like and don’t like. Which events are favorites, which are not. Why someone joins, why they stay, and why they leave. The easiest way to find out the answers to these questions is through surveys but should you be using surveys at the chamber? Or is survey burnout just too rampant?
The Problem with Surveys
The problem with surveys is not in the survey itself. Although some of them are ridiculously boring. The problem lies in the number of surveys people receive over the course of a week. This week, I have seven. Not including reminders for the surveys I haven’t taken yet. This adds to an already full inbox for most people. Surveys and their corresponding emails can become a source of irritation.
Survey Solutions and Alternatives
But even if surveys are annoying, that still doesn’t quench your desire to find out how to offer more favorably personalized offerings to members and soon-to-be members. If you don’t ask them what they want, how will you know?
Inbox surveys can be boring but survey methods needn’t be. Here are a few things you can try to creatively get the information you want:
Humor. This gets attention. Consider making a JibJab video to let people know the survey will be in their inbox soon. Make sure the email communication is entertaining as well.
Ping Pong. At your next event, place three large containers at the exits. Label one “awesome”, one “what I expected”, and one “might be busy washing my hair next time” or some other funny phrases. Then have paper snowflakes or leaves, pompoms, or some other item your attendees can vote with by placing them in the container that corresponds with their feelings about your event.
Bulletin Board or Whiteboard. If you get a lot of foot traffic at your chamber, place a bulletin board or whiteboard in your vestibule and ask a question. Leave a pen so passersby can answer it.
Sticker surveys. Similar to the idea above, ask your question on posterboard and ask people to vote by applying stickers to the side they agree with. There’s something whimsical about stickers and putting your mark on paper is a lot more fun than checking a box.
Mobile apps. One of the easiest ways to guarantee responses to your survey is to master the timing. Use an app and request participation while people are at your event or meeting. You can use a QR code to direct them there without having to type in a URL.
Table Tents and QR Codes. Use table tents with QR codes at events and in your lobby to help people access your survey quickly and easily when they’re already waiting or thinking about you.
Social Media Crowdsourcing. If your survey is to help on something that you could allow for mass voting, consider posting it to social media and asking everyone to participate and share. For instance, if you are choosing between two new events to offer next year, encourage the community to spread the word (and the social media survey post question). Remember, those who help select something are often those who will support it when the time comes because they will feel like they helped get it established.
Quizzes. It’s possible to replace a survey with one of those fun quizzes you always see on Facebook. You’re still getting the data you want and it’s entertaining for the people giving you the answers. For instance, you could create a quiz that asks “What celebrity are you most like?” and then ask questions about the chamber events and their preferences. Based on the choices they select, you can tell them what celebrity or character they are most like. Then give them a short paragraph as to why that is the case.
Ambassadors. Use ambassadors to collect the types of information you’re interested in through conversations, not impersonal surveys. The benefit of this is that they can ask more probing questions if necessary. If you decide to go this route, keep the number of questions to a minimum and ask them in a conversational style when it’s convenient. Do not task them with marching into the business when it’s busy.
Tradition. Create a tradition of an annual survey or Question Wednesday where it becomes an expectation. If you opt for a “one question, once a week format,” make sure the questions are not always serious and centered around the chamber. Some weeks should just be for fun. Mixing it up this way will get more people involved.
Focus. If you decide your survey is much too important for any of these fun ideas and you select a traditional survey format, try to have a few questions in there that could be of value to your larger community. That way you can publish the results. If you share things your audience would be interested in, there’s a chance you’ll get a larger response because a greater number of people will want to see the results.
Things to Keep in Mind If You Do Use Surveys
Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with trying surveys at your chamber of commerce. But there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- Keep them short. No one wants to spend twenty minutes answering repetitive questions.
- Don’t lead the witness. Give some thought as to how you ask the question and what type of answers you expect (fill in the blank, multiple-choice, ratings). If you lead the recipient, you may end up with skewed results.
- If you get answers, act on them. Don’t ask for someone’s opinion, only to ignore it. That doesn’t mean you should act on every suggestion. But if you keep hearing the same thing over and over consider that a solid takeaway and actionable item. Even if you choose not to act, every response should be analyzed and correlations should be drawn. Maybe you’ll discover one demographic prefers this, while another this. You can then use those findings to customize your offerings accordingly.
- Allow them to unsubscribe or pick the way they hear from you.
- Minimize all friction in answering. Don’t ask for information that isn’t necessary. If you don’t need to know who voted on what, then don’t ask for a name. Don’t use multiple clicks to get there. Make participation as easy as possible.
How to Effectively Create a Survey for the Chamber
If you decide to use surveys, and you’re ready to keep in mind the above things, then you can start building your chamber survey using these ideas:
- Decide what you want to know and from whom.
- Based on that, figure out the best way to reach them. For example, if you want to reach members and you’re having a giant member appreciation dinner coming up, asking them in person may be more effective than sending an email. Perhaps you can use voting software and ask questions as part of the pre-event entertainment, displaying real-time results.
- Ask only what you need to know in the shortest number of questions. This is not a psychological assessment. You don’t need to measure the accuracy of answers through redundancies.
- What percentage of your sample size responding will be adequate for your uses? How will you increase that number if you don’t get it on your first ask?
- Decide whether multiple answers or votes will be allowed. How will you ensure it’s one vote per person if that’s what you decide?
- Decide whether you will post the questions to social media and/or have a multi-pronged approach or just send each survey through one source?
- Test your survey among staff or board members before sending it out to your target audience. If you have enough testers, try A/B testing different looks or the way you ask questions to see if that skews results or participation. For truer results, don’t tell them it’s coming but circle back after a few days to make sure they received it. If they didn’t respond, ask them why in person. This group will be more honest with you than your members but their answer will likely reflect some of the same issues.
- If you’re sending the survey by email, tell them how many questions it is or how long it will take. People are more apt to fill out short surveys and letting them know it’s short ahead of time should increase your response rate. Use a catchy subject line.
- Consider offering an incentive for filling it out. There are plenty of incentives that don’t cost you anything like offering a shout-out on social media for completing the survey.
- Consider posting your survey in multiple places including a link to it in your signature or as a pop-up on your site. This should not be done if it is essential that you hear from everyone only once as in the case of a traditional vote.
Whether you ultimately decide to use traditional surveys for your chamber is up to you. If you decide to do so, and you don’t receive the response you thought you might, try one of the fun alternatives. Sometimes it’s not the ask but how you do it that matters.