Small Business News: Polling: It’s not just for politics
The value of polling was discovered in the early 1800’s when it became an important tool used in predicting the outcomes of U.S. presidential elections. Today, however, it has evolved to help organizations of all kinds better understand the needs of their top commodity—the customer.Polling, done right, can provide invaluable insight into customer opinions, preferences and desires. It also communicates to the client that you value their opinions and want to meet, or better yet, exceed their expectations. A win, win! If this is sounding intriguing, read on for some helpful tips on implementing polling in your small business.

Types of polls
Polls can be achieved through multiple channels—mail, phone, in-person, etc. However, the trend is moving toward online polls because they are fast, they are inexpensive and they provide real-time information. Dan Beltramo, cofounder and COO of digital metrics company, Vizu offers several pieces of advice on effectively using online polling:

  • Poll more than one audience. Make it your goal to understand multiple perspectives.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the same poll regularly. Use it to track trends.
  • Think about new questions and new ways to use data from those questions.
  • Know that polling takes time and it may be a while before you have a solid understanding of an issue.

Formulating questions
Before getting started, remember that a good poll starts with a great question—one that both engages the customer and provides meaningful information you can use.

Your polls should contain questions that are strong, compelling and informative. Make sure the focus is on areas of customer satisfaction relative to your product or service. Here are some guidelines your team can follow when formulating questions:

  • Multiple-choice questions are the norm, but yes or no questions are fine, too.
  • Polls are meant to be quick. Keep questions brief.
  • Polling questions should have one part only. If a question becomes too complex, consider a survey instead.
  • Be as specific as possible. If your question requires a time frame, be sure to note that.
  • Be objective. Asking something like, “How much did you like the show?” assumes the person responding liked the show … and they may not have.

Get polling
Once you have great questions that will garner great data from your clients, it’s time to get started. Here are some ways to poll your customers:

  • Email:  There are numerous online survey tools complete with templates you can use to poll your clients via email. Many of these tools are low-cost, easy-to-use and customizable—check out PolldaddySM, SurveyMonkey® or LimeSurvey. Offer incentives such as a coupon for a free fold-up tote, travel mug or sports bottle for users to complete the survey.
  • Website:  Your website can be a great polling tool. Add a box with a polling question to your homepage and regularly post questions and solicit opinions. Encourage participation by holding a monthly drawing that gives participants the chance to win an MP3 player or gift basket.
  • Direct Q&A:  Don’t forget the power of good old conversation. Talk to your customers whenever the opportunity presents itself. Ask them meaningful questions to help uncover their needs and do so regularly. This offline method of polling combined with the online methods above is a great way to get a complete picture of your customers’ needs and expectations.

And finally, do something with the information you uncover. It is important not only to measure your findings, but also to implement change with them. Polling gives you the opportunity to tweak and adjust aspects of your business to better meet the needs of your customer. This fast, cost-effective and valuable tool can be a great way to gain insight into those who support your business—through their eyes. For more information on this topic, check out our Blue Paper® entitled Polling 101.

Opinion Poll.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Aug. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

Online Polling, Once an Outcast, Burnishes Its Image.” Online Polling, Once an Outcast, Burnishes Its Image | WSJ.com. Wall Street Journal, 7 Aug. 2010. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

Online Polls: How Good Are They?” BusinessWeek, 4 June 2008. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

Polling 101.” 4imprint.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2013.

Gordon, Kim T. “Deep Insight Without Deep Pockets.” Entrepreneur.com, 27 Aug. 2007. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

Samuel, Alexandra. “A Telling Victory for Online Polling (and Tech Adoption).” Harvard Business Review, 9 Nov. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

Basics of Survey and Question Design.”  HowTo.gov, 6 Sept. 2012. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.

10 Tips for Writing and Delivering Effective Poll and Survey Questions.” Adobe Connect User Community, Feb. 2009. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.

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