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Trade Random Acts of Customer Marketing for Always-On Surveying

Are you a New Year’s resolution type or a hardcore habit-former? 

Resolutions rely on that burst of January energy to start going to the gym or eating more vegetables, but in most cases they don’t have the staying power to last more than a few months. On the flip side, you sustain habits by building momentum over time to make them stick for good.

Unfortunately, too many companies treat customer marketing like a resolution rather than a habit. They scramble to complete ad hoc requests a few times a year, which provides immediate insights but lacks the scalability and constant relevance their GTM team needs.

The CEO here at UserEvidence, Evan Huck, knows it doesn’t have to be this way:

Evan Huck
CEO, UserEvidence
“You can procrastinate and then panic, or you can source reviews and feedback along the way.”

During my onboarding, I wanted to learn from our leaders about what it takes to ditch the start-and-stop survey life and build an ongoing survey cadence. Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder Ray Rhodes and VP of Customer Success Myles Bradwell — along with Evan — shared their takes on how to gather customer insights through always-on surveying. 

Let’s get started.

Find the friction in each stage of customer surveys

To start things off, where do survey efforts get stuck? Each phase of the process — capture, curate, and distribute — has its own friction points; here’s how they all break down.

Phase 1: Capture

Plain and simple, the capture phase is when you survey your customers. Maybe you’re using a tool like Google Forms or sending a G2 survey. No matter what, you get your results in a nice, neat .csv file or spreadsheet. 

As Myles explains, the biggest challenge in this phase is getting long enough lists, citing the importance of volume when surveying: “To get statistical proof, you need a good number of people to take your survey so you can say the things you want to say.” Experts typically cite a sample size of 100 as the bare minimum for significant results, while Typeform recommends gathering at least 400 responses when possible.

Not everyone who receives your survey will complete it — not even close. The challenge is to pull a list large enough to capture the number of responses you need to make meaningful claims about your product. 

Phase 2: Curate

After sending your survey, your next step is to turn that content into something useful; to curate it. As Myles explains, “You take that .csv file and turn it into beautiful, on-brand assets, like testimonials or statistics.”

According to Myles, one of the biggest friction points here is “analysis paralysis.” 

Let’s say you asked your customer base in a survey how much time your product saves them. 

You could average that time-saved response across all of the answers you received and report it as a general statistic, or you could filter responses to report a more targeted statistic about a specific segment. Maybe you look at time saved by small businesses versus enterprise businesses or by customers in a specific region.

“There are 100 different ways that one question can produce assets,” Myles says. As a result, some teams create a generic asset that they plan to improve over time, while others let overanalysis keep them from producing useful content right away.  

Phase 3: Share

This phase puts your on-brand content in front of customers to drive sales and retention. “It’s cool to have some nice assets, but they mean nothing if no one’s using them,” Myles says. 

This phase is where Myles sees the biggest friction point by far: the clash between sales and marketing. 

Marketing often owns the vision and execution for the research. But each team that could consume the content — CS, demand gen, product, and especially sales — tends to want different things. 

Maybe sales is focused on selling to customers in a specific industry and region, so they only want stories for that audience. Or marketing might create content promoting a new feature, but sales won’t use the assets because people aren’t buying it.

Myles Bradwell
VP Customer Success, UserEvidence
“If sales and marketing aren’t collaborating on the survey itself or the assets they want to have produced, they’re definitely not going to do a great job of collaborating on how it’s going to get distributed.”

Reframe your understanding of different survey types

Do any of those friction points sound a little too familiar? You’re not alone. 

But a sustainable, always-on approach can right a lot of common survey wrongs.

Before I break down this ongoing approach and how your team can practice it, let’s recap the different survey types you might use across three key categories.

1. Foundational surveys: Cast a wide net

If you’ve ever sent out an annual survey to gain feedback from your entire customer base, you’ve used a foundational survey or census. 

As Myles explains, “The census is a great foundation of surveying to build your other survey programs on top of.” Census surveys bring in general customer insights that can spark additional questions to ask or topics to research. 

From NPS programs to product-specific surveys, each customer typically gets these surveys at the same time, regardless of how long they’ve been a customer or where they are in their journey.

2. Advanced surveys: Collect in-depth data

Sometimes, you need a data deep dive with a niche subset of your audience that goes beyond standard surveys about ROI or product value. Advanced surveys tend to go a layer deeper than standard surveys because they do things like:

  • Gather in-depth customer testimonials and ask for extended interviews, referrals, or video stories
  • Capture interest and information for a customer advisory board 
  • Connect with a closed-lost customer who was a good fit for your product about why they didn’t buy

3. Customer journey surveys: Capture feedback individually

Now for the good stuff. Customer journey surveys gather feedback on the customer experience at specific, strategic moments in a customer’s lifecycle. Those moments might include: 

Instead of asking every customer the same questions at the same time — regardless of where they are in the lifecycle and regardless of their current CSAT — you survey customers based on their current point in their journey. That’s what always-on surveying is all about. 

Set the cadence for always-on surveying

If you don’t have an always-on strategy for surveying your customers, you probably send out sporadic or project-based surveys — maybe an annual survey blast to your customer base or a quarterly push for G2 reviews. 

These one-off projects are stressful, but there’s another problem: “If you send one survey to all customers, you could be hitting people that just deployed, are 11 months in, or are six years old,” Evan explains. “Surveying them at the right point in their journey or lifecycle matters.”

Here’s the alternative: Remember those customer journey survey milestones we listed earlier? Use those moments to create an ongoing, individualized survey cadence:

  • You ask about why they bought… right after they buy
  • You ask how onboarding went… once they finish onboarding
  • You ask how much value they’re getting… as soon as they do XYZ in the platform

“It’s about finding these important moments in your customer’s journey — positive, negative or otherwise — that are the right times to gather certain information,” Myles explains. Timing is everything.

via GIPHY

Why always-on surveying wins

Because you’re sending a timely, personalized request, always-on feedback tends to drive more responses than the broken “survey project” approach. Think about it — are you more willing to complete a survey:

  1. When you receive an email blast that went to thousands of customers? 
  2. When you get a personalized invitation to respond based on something you just did? 

The answer is B all the way, right? 

You don’t just get more responses; you get better, more relevant results because you’re asking about something that happened recently instead of months ago. 

And if those benefits aren’t enough, always on-surveying creates a sustainable ongoing workflow for your team, effectively eliminating those quarterly or semi-annual stress spikes. Instead, your library of content is always growing, and each GTM team consistently has what they need to connect with customers.

How to rally your team around always-on surveying

Always-on surveying is not the norm, so it’ll take a leader (such as yourself) to make a change in your organization. If you’re sold on always-on feedback, take these four steps to unify your teams around this approach and dive in.

1. Lean on platform data and relationships to find key moments

When you’re building an always-on cadence, your first step is to identify the key customer milestones in your product when users derive a ton of value.

“Find the proxies for happiness and engagement — opportune moments in the customer journey,” Evan advises. Those are the best times to gather testimonials and other positive proof points. 

Be sure to also look at platform data to reveal when customers are getting things done and gaining value. You can lean on product experience tools like Pendo for additional customer intel here.

Another goldmine for knowing when to gather feedback? CSMs and sales reps. “They know when customers are happy,” Evan says.

2. Sync up to make the most of each survey

The idea of an always-on strategy might sound like you’re constantly bugging customers for feedback. But in practice, an always-on cadence actually prevents overcommunication.

Case in point, with UserEvidence, you can add a link to your latest survey in emails that your CSMs and AMs are already sending during key moments in the customer journey. This limits the one-off, sporadic emails your customers would otherwise receive from random people across your company.

Ray explains that any siloed survey efforts put customer satisfaction at risk; it’s just a clunky, bad customer experience to have multiple teams reaching out to the same customer, each of them wanting something.

Ray Rhodes
Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder, UserEvidence
“Every customer touchpoint is a valuable one, so make the most out of every interaction.”

As you build your always-on strategy, talk to sales, product, and CS about the data they want and how they want to use it. When you know the questions everyone has, you can create a coordinated survey cadence that doesn’t overwhelm customers.

3. Take a cohort-based approach

In the research world, a cohort study follows a group with a common characteristic — like when they were born or graduated — and surveys them periodically over time. At UserEvidence, we’ve essentially built a cohort-based survey cadence around three primary milestones with our customers:

  • Right after customers become customers. We ask why they bought and what competitors they considered.
  • After users complete a project. We ask about the publishing process and how they plan to use the content.
  • Eight months in. We ask about product value, ROI, time savings, and likelihood of renewal.

This sequence for each customer “cohort” lets us capture relevant feedback on an ongoing basis. “We’re always closing new customers,” Evan says. “So every week, we’re getting new stories coming in, and we get a much more consistent spread versus huge spikes in customer insights.”

Trade reactive customer marketing for always-on-surveying

The functions on your GTM team (and your customers) deserve better than a vicious cycle of ad-hoc customer marketing. The always-on approach lets you rest easy for the long haul, knowing each function can access an ever-growing library of customer stories that answers objections, deepens relationships, and builds trust.

Here’s hoping your survey efforts last longer than the typical January commitment to the treadmill and that both become year-round — better yet, lifelong — habits. 

If you want help building an always-on approach to capturing, curating, and publishing customer insights, we’ve got your back at UserEvidence. Our platform lets you gather valuable feedback and turn those insights into content at scale — book a demo today and see for yourself.

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