If you need to know what your clients really want, sometimes you just have to ask. Online polls and surveys are quick ways to collect market research for your business. However, getting useful feedback requires asking the right questions and providing a quick, convenient method for survey participants to submit data.

The odds of your online poll being scientific are about zero. But that doesn’t mean the answers aren’t very useful. Polls and surveys can help with a range of small business problems and questions including:

  • Evaluating customer satisfaction
  • Determining the need for your products or services
  • Determining the need to expand to additional locations
  • Analyzing interest in an existing or new product

Online Survey and Poll Question Types

Short Answer: Using a blank text box, allow respondents to provide their own answers to your survey question. Coupled with a well-written question, this is a great method for getting feedback without guiding answers.

Multi-Point Rating: Responses for this question style typically run from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree” with an additional opt-out response like, “N/A” or “Does Not Apply.”

Numeric Rating: Numeric ratings are most commonly set from 1-5 and are another way of determining how well your respondents like an aspect of your business. Note that using and odd-numbered scale allows respondents to take a neutral stance, while even numbered scales force clients to lean more to one side or another.

Multiple Choice: Let’s say you want to add a new type of muffin to your menu, but you only have the ability to make three different flavors. An open question survey wouldn’t help much. With multiple-choice questions, you can have respondents pick their favorite of the available choices.

Rank Choices:  Ranking available options gets survey takers to sort available options from good to bad or like to dislike. Looking to take a muffin away from the menu? Ranking surveys can help you find which flavor will be missed the least.

Survey and Poll Writing Tips

  1. Write simple questions. Muddled questions result in muddled feedback. So don’t ask a series of questions in a single poll prompt. Use everyday language and do your best to avoid ambiguous words and phrases.
  2. Don’t pigeonhole your respondents. When using written responses instead of a likability scale, provide several options that run the gamut and leave an “other” prompt for clients who wish to write their own response.
  3. Don’t force readers to answer every question. You should provide a way for respondents to opt out of a question—either by making all answers optional or by providing a “not applicable” selection on each question.  Forcing answers only leads to skewed results, and skewed results are a complete waste of time.

Free Survey Resources

In most cases free  surveys are limited in function. You might find that it’s necessary to purchase an upgrade for surveys that go beyond the basics. That said, here are some places to get started creating free online surveys.

<center [stextbox id=”info”]This post is part of the March Word Carnival — a monthly group blogging event specifically for small business owners. (It’s the most fun you’ll have all month!) Check out the rest of the fabulous carney work here.[/stextbox]

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