The Real ROI of Surveying Your Audience

I want to talk about something that’s been on my mind lately as we look at the data of our current sales campaigns, as well as at the future clients and the sales campaigns that come with them. “Data” has been a buzzword lately in both the marketing and tech sectors, and for good reason. Data give us an incredible insight into our audience: what they’re thinking or feeling, how they engage with our media and how we can further leverage this audience to create new revenue streams for the company.

While we’re specifically in the publishing industry, data can and should be applied to any business in any industry.

Specifically, in this article I’ll show you how to crunch the numbers to determine what the real ROI of surveying and data mining is, and I’ll also show you how to create a nice little campaign/offer that you can use to start collecting data for your business.

There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started!

This first part of this is being able to calculate the ROI of the data that you’re collecting and of course this comes in two parts. You need to know what the campaign is going to cost you and you need to estimate the amount of revenue that you may be able to produce if you do this well.

If you’re in the publishing or marketing industries, you know the kinds of conversations you have internally or with clients when you’re looking at purchasing marketing. If you run a business, these are some of the questions you might ask before you make a purchasing decision for marketing. Here are some questions I’m frequently asked:

  1. How many people does this go to?
  2. What are the traffic/CPM/CPC/Open rates?
  3. Can you give me in-depth demographic information?
  4. Why should we advertise with this publication as opposed to another?

The first two questions are very straightforward to answer. If you’re dealing with something online, you should have metrics built right into your properties either through your newsletter service or through your ad server/Google analytics. The third and fourth points start to get a little bit fuzzier.

For business in other industries, you’re going to have your own set of questions that are specific to your industry and to your customers. In marketing, demographics are hugely important. If you sell countertops, your top question might be “do I offer the right warranty?” I don’t know what those questions might be and half the challenge of these types of campaigns is figuring out what questions will have meaningful answers.

In my industry, if I’m only dealing with a website, I can mine a lot of data from Google Analytics and hopefully build a good customer profile based on this. I’ll get things like locations and if I’ve done a good job setting up analytics, I may get advanced interest reporting. The good thing about this is it offers me a nice bird’s eye view of traffic, but the problem is it doesn’t let me know what my audience/customers have to say about it.

More challenges come when you’re not specifically looking to sell advertising on a website.

If you create printed media (like us), you need to gather your data from other places. If you have a product or service business that isn’t doing e-commerce sales, then you’ll also need to look to other sources for your data as well.

The reason Google Analytics won’t deliver the results you need if you don’t do e-commerce is that even if the account is set up to track interests, you’ll be receiving complex data on both customers and non-customers. When you try to translate this into new revenue opportunity, your data will be skewed with the information from people you’re not servicing. With e-commerce, you can filter those results down to just those who have purchased from your website.

The easiest way to collect data while dealing with these challenges is to run a survey. There are freemium platforms on the internet that can be used to host and distribute your survey, such as SurveyMonkey. We always use Mailchimp for our email distribution. Mailchimp is free up to 2,000 email addresses.

If your audience is large enough that you’re looking for new revenue sources, then you should have an email list already in place to send a survey to. If you don’t already have an email list, your first step is to build one. For a big enough sample size, you’re going to want a list of at least 2,000 because there’s a good chance your open rate will only be 20 percent or lower when you actually send this out. Twenty percent of 2,000 email addresses is only 400 and then you still must factor in the amount of conversions you have from the email as well as the landing page/survey completion ratio.

With a good email, chances are you’ll have an open rate of about 20 percent, an email conversion rate of about 70 percent, and a completion rate of 80 to 90 percent. At the end of the day, this will leave you with 224-252 completed surveys, which is an extremely small sample size from which to be making important decisions. Furthermore, if you drop the ball on any one of these three steps then the number of completed surveys can fall below 100 and make the entire campaign a waste of your time and money.

The larger your sample size, the less likely you are to make a bad or misinformed decision, which is why you want to survey as many people as possible.

Anyone with experience in sales or marketing knows that no customer is going to fill out a survey they got in their email just because you asked them to. Traditionally, focus groups always paid their participants and to keep a large sample size, I’d recommend doing the same.

You don’t have to give $100 to every person who fills out the survey, but if your business primarily runs on repeat customers then you might offer a coupon towards their next purchase (this would probably be the least effective, especially if they weren’t already planning their next purchase).

You can also offer gift cards or cash – even a $5 Starbucks card would convert traffic very well. While this works best, if you have 500 completed surveys it does become expensive.

One of the ways I’ve accomplished this in the past is by offering a contest giveaway, usually in the range of $500 or so. Something of similar value to an iPad would work well. After all the surveys are back, all you need to do is simply have a draw and mail out the prize to one person.

If your audience is of a decent size, this will give you the best ratio of completed surveys per dollar spent.

Long story short, you’re now able to calculate the cost of your survey campaign and determine the ROI it will bring you. If the campaign costs you $3,000 after the labor you’re going to be charging out to the employees managing the campaign, and it inspires you for one new product offering, chances are you’re significantly ahead. Furthermore, you may have a leg up on your competitors who haven’t been so in tune with their customer base.

Even if you don’t pull a new product out of this survey, you will absolutely gain some interesting insight that might help you refine current products or close deals faster. You can also take your survey data or cookie the participants and create retargeting campaigns based on that through Facebook or Google.

For those of you who sell marketing (like me), for only $3,000 this survey campaign now allows me to have high-level conversations with advertising agencies and is very likely to lead me to some five-figure advertising sales. With all these data, I can also be very confident that I’m selling my client a product that they’re going to benefit from. That’s almost more important to me than creating the new revenue.

I hope I’ve illustrated the value of mining these data from your customers or audience and given you a couple ideas on how you can create your campaigns and execute them effectively. Of course, after your survey is complete the real task is interpreting the data in a meaningful way that ultimately enhances your business.


Thoughts? Leave a comment below!