This post by guest blogger Sean O'Dacre appears as part of our series Small Business 500

tips for small businessEvery business owner understands that it's often vital to know what your customers want before you can provide it. But ask those same business owners what their strategy is for capturing this information from their customers, and faces tend to drop. With the advent of web surveys and questionnaires, any business big or small can afford to find out what their customers are thinking. Here are five secrets to help you keep your finger on the pulse of what customers want: 

1. Take advantage of customer touch points

Put a link to a customer satisfaction survey at the bottom of your email newsletter, or somewhere on your web site that makes visual sense. You can gather a constant stream of feedback and keep a pulse on your client base. A great time to ask for their opinion is immediately after they have purchased from you.

2. Just plain ask them!

What a novel concept! You may want to, on occasion, send out a direct mail piece or email message to your customers to ask how you can better serve them. This is an especially good idea if you haven’t conducted a survey yet and need a broad starting point.

3. Run a poll, and incentivize it with a cool prize

You are likely to get a higher rate of participation if you bribe, err I mean... incentivize participation in your customer survey. Think of a cool prize that your customers may want, then enter them into a raffle in return for filling out your questionnaire. It’s not a new idea, but it's still effective.

4. Pay for the answers

You can always design a survey to capture the data you need, and then hire a company such as CINT to provide respondents to complete it. This is a great tip for a new business that may not have an established client base.

5. Engage your customers with social media

If you haven’t broken into the social media arena for your business yet, what are you waiting for? Your customers are out there, talking about what they like and (perhaps more importantly) what they don’t like. Give them a place on your website to share their thoughts and comments and you'll be surprised what you can learn for free!

customer-touch-points Sean is a product evangelist at FluidSurveys, the web’s fastest growing online survey tool company. FluidSurveys offers a do-it-yourself online survey creator which empowers customers from around the world to create their own surveys and collect data from respondents. FluidSurveys allows customers to analyze results coming from all touch points including web, mobile, email, phone, social media and even traditional paper forms. 
FluidSurveys.com
@FluidSurveys

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