Have you ever had a pressing question you’d love to ask a room full of people? While that might sound (literally) like a good idea, it’s not the most effective way of gathering helpful feedback.
For purposes such as this, surveys are your best bet.
Surveys help you gather focused insights from masses of people, whether those people are customers, employees, or an entire target market. The answer or opinion of one person is hard to trust, right? Ask a large group, though, and the answers become clearer and more applicable across the board.
For survey answers to be effective and trustworthy, the survey itself must be created and distributed effectively. In this article, we’ll cover what a survey is, popular types of surveys, some survey creation best practices, and a few survey examples to get you started.
Keep reading to learn more, or use the chapter links below to jump to a specific section.
What is a survey?
A survey is a research method that gathers information, data, and feedback through a series of targeted questions. Most surveys are conducted with the intention of making assumptions about a larger population.
Whether you want to publish a report full of hard data, gather feedback from an event, or better understand how your customers feel about your product, surveys can help you get the job done.
But before we dive into survey creation, pause for a moment and ask yourself these few important questions:
- What is the goal of your survey and what answers are you looking for? (We'll talk about some survey questions and survey creation best practices.)
- How do you want to build and distribute your survey? (We’ll cover some survey creation tools.)
- Do you think your type of survey has been conducted by other organizations before? (If so, we’ll provide some survey examples and templates to get you started.)
Let’s expand on goals below.
Defining a Survey Goal
Think of building a survey like a construction project. You wouldn’t start haphazardly knocking down walls or pouring concrete right away, would you? No, you’d step back, take a beat, and create a thorough blueprint of your end goal.
Similar to other business initiatives, goals set a clear directive so you can tailor your questions to get the answers you need.
With surveys, you have to take it one step further. It isn’t enough to say the goal of your survey is to learn what prospects think about your product demo. No, a good survey goal also includes a reaction to your goal.
For example, to create an actionable goal, I’d refine the above sentence to say: “The goal of my survey is to understand what portions of my product demo were least helpful so that we can improve our demo to meet the questions and concerns of our prospective customers.”
See how this goal not only includes a more specific objective but also states how I can use the results to influence an initiative, campaign, or process? Setting goals like this provides a clear roadmap for the survey creation, distribution, and collection process.
Types of Surveys
From collecting feedback on new hire training to measuring how many people in your industry use Facebook, there are literally thousands of purposes for surveys.
But as a marketer, salesperson, or business owner, which types of surveys would be most helpful? Let's review a few.
1. Customer Feedback Survey
Ah, the ever-elusive mind of the customer. If only we could know what they’re thinking, right? Well, surveys can help you get one step closer to understanding this.
Companies run customer feedback surveys to better understand how a consumer discovered their product, how customers think they could improve their products or services, or how satisfactory their customer support experience is.
Surveys with questions like “How easy was it to solve your problem with ________?” or “How did you discover our products?” are probably evaluating customer feedback.
You can use customer feedback surveys to drive growth. These types of surveys gather data that can influence marketing campaigns, customer service processes, product development, and website user experience.
2. Net Promoter Score® Survey
How many of your customers love your product or service enough to brag about it to their friends? This is where the Net Promoter Score (NPS) comes in handy. You can establish your NPS by surveying your customers about their opinion of your product and brand.
Surveys with questions like “How likely are you to recommend our product to a friend or colleague?” or “What does this company do really well?” are probably measuring for NPS.
NPS can also be used to measure how likely your employees are to refer your company as a great place to work.
With word-of-mouth marketing directly responsible for 19% of purchase decisions (and almost 30% of all technology purchases), your customers are by far your best marketers. Capturing accurate data around who in your circle is marketing for you is a great way to measure your potential reach and exposure.
3. Market Research Survey
To reach new customers and prospects, you must have a solid understanding of trends and happenings in the industry. Running surveys outside of your own database also pulls you outside your company bubble, giving you a true and accurate understanding of the marketplace as a whole.
Surveys with questions like “What problems would motivate you to purchase _______?” or “What is your typical budget for _______?” are probably looking for data in a specific marketplace or industry.
Market research surveys educate your marketers and salespeople about the behaviors, preferences, challenges, and purchase decisions of a specific audience.
Lastly, market research surveys allow you to expand your authority on a subject matter, become a go-to resource for industry data, and generate backlinks from high authority sites. In fact, it’s been proven that original research increases website traffic as well as social shares.
Take HubSpot’s State of Inbound report, for example. This report is a go-to resource for marketing and sales trend data. Featuring insights on sales strategy, marketing challenges, technology trends, and more, the State of Inbound report provides benchmarks to help companies evaluate their performance, identifies overarching trends in how companies market and sell, and reveals insights on changing consumer preferences.
So, we've talked about a few popular types of surveys that you might conduct. Now, let's discuss how to build out those actual surveys. (You can find the section on actual survey tools below.)
Survey Question Types
Surveys are a lot more complex than simply asking a question to a group of people. To collect accurate, reliable results, your survey must be created and written with care. The types of questions you use can influence how they're answered and how you can use your survey data.
In this section, we'll review the different types of survey questions, why you might include them in your survey, and some examples.
1. Nominal Questions
Nominal questions ask respondents to "name" or label variables and don't typically include any quantitative data.
You would ask nominal questions to produce counts or percentage-based data, such as "48% of our customers follow our company Instagram."
Yes/no questions are the most basic type of survey question — they simply ask respondents to answer yes or no. They also leave the respondent with little flexibility or variability in their answer, so use them sparingly and only when seeking absolute answers.
Example: Do you follow HubSpot on Instagram? Yes / No
Multiple choice questions
Multiple choice questions ask respondents for a single answer among an array of options. They still limit respondents' answers, though, as they can only choose one answer from your fixed list.
Example: On which social network do you most frequently engage HubSpot content? Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn / YouTube
Checkbox questions are similar to multiple choice, but they often ask respondents to "check all that apply," leading to multiple answers for one question. These questions add flexibility to respondents' answers.
Example: What HubSpot accounts do you follow on Instagram? Hubspot / Hubspot Life / HubSpot Partner / HubSpot Academy
2. Ordinal Questions
Ordinal questions ask respondents to order or rank variables. Like nominal questions, ordinal questions can produce counts or percentages; they differ from nominal questions, however, in the way you order the answer options.
Note: Multiple choice questions can also be ordinal questions.
Drop-down questions are like multiple choice — respondents can only choose one answer — but they must often choose from an ordered or pre-arranged list. This type of question is also used when the question has a long list of answers, such as demographic questions that ask for a city or state.
Example: What is your income level? $0-25k / $26-50k / $51-75 / $76-100k / $101k+
Ranking questions are like checkbox questions — respondents consider all the answers in the list — but they must order the variables per the question. This type of question is helpful when collecting feedback on multiple products, services, or variables at once.
Example: Please rank the HubSpot blogs based on how often you read them. Marketing / Sales / Service / News & Trends / Website
3. Interval/Ratio Questions
Interval and ratio questions provide the most precise data analysis and allow you to calculate averages, medians, and even standard deviation.
You would ask interval or ratio questions to measure satisfaction, discomfort, happiness, and more.
Ranking scale questions
Ranking scale questions are like ranking questions, but the answers are on a fixed, comparable scale. Ranking scale questions typically feature three and 10 answers on a scale of numbers, satisfaction measures, or the like.
Example: How satisfied are you with HubSpot's free CRM? 1 — Very Unsatisfied / 2 — Somewhat Unsatisfied / 3 — Neutral / 4 — Somewhat Satisfied / 5 — Very Satisfied
Matrix questions ask respondents to rank multiple variables on a scale. These variables are typically related in some way.
Example: How satisfied are you with the different HubSpot blogs: Marketing, Sales, Service, News & Trends, and Website? 1 — Very Unsatisfied / 2 — Somewhat Unsatisfied / 3 — Neutral / 4 — Somewhat Satisfied / 5 — Very Satisfied
Textbox questions are completely open-ended. You would use textbox questions to ask for names, feedback, or answers that vary too much for pre-set answer lists (like in multiple choice or drop-down). Remember, you can provide textbox questions
Example: Tell us your favorite HubSpot blog post. __________________
Survey Creation Tips
While every survey will differ depending on its purpose and goals, here are a handful of survey creation tips that can help any survey be as effective as possible.
- Keep your survey simple. Don't ask anything that doesn't directly relate to your survey goal. Ask for one thing per question to get the most accurate, pointed answers and to not lose your respondents' focus.
- Sell your survey. Write an intro to your survey to explain why respondents, whether prospects, customers, or members of your target audience, should take your survey and help.
- Use Ranking Scale questions whenever possible, and use a consistent scale. Ranking scale questions collect answers that can be compared and contrasted across the board — as long as you use a consistent scale. Use these questions whenever possible to gather important feedback from a large group of people.
- Give respondents an "other" option. For multiple choice and checkbox questions, give respondents the option to add their own answer in case your pre-provided answers don't apply.
- Add a survey progress bar. Your respondents are likely busy. Once they start your survey, they'll probably want to know how many questions to expect. A survey progress bar can give them this information and allow them to anticipate how long your survey is.
- Speak your respondent's language. Like in your marketing copy, your survey should use language that your respondents' recognize and connect with. Avoid using internal jargon or technical language.
- Test your survey internally first. Before you share your survey externally, ask your team or some coworkers to walk through it first to make sure your questions make sense and aren't biased or misleading.
- Make sure your survey is responsive and viewable on multiple devices. Your respondents should be able to read and take your survey on their smartphone, tablet, or website.
Survey Template Examples
Before putting a pen to paper (or cursor to document), start with some research on whether or not a similar survey exists, such as a survey example or survey template. Lots of companies and organizations run surveys of similar themes, and finding a sample survey can help save precious time and energy.
If you’re taking the DIY route for your survey or simply need inspiration when building your survey within a tool (we cover our favorites in the next section), we’ve compiled a short list of common samples and templates. These should help jumpstart your survey creation process.
The HubSpot Research Team uses QuestionPro to host our surveys. This leading tool offers over 300 sample surveys and questionnaires written by expert researchers. Whether you’re looking for example questions or inspiration for your survey design, QuestionPro is a good place to start.
Check out QuestionPro’s survey templates here.
SurveyMonkey is an authority in the survey creation and design space. Their experts have written up over 200 templates for their most popular surveys. Comb through these sample surveys and get started building your own in minutes.
Check out SurveyMonkey’s survey templates here.
Mopinion offers both free and paid packages for creating surveys and analysing the results. They also recently released the Survey Marketplace, an in-depth library of survey templates that caters to various online goals including improving customer loyalty and customer experience, mobile performance, user experience, email campaigns and more. It’s the perfect way to learn more about the ingredients needed to create and employ powerful online surveys.
Choose from one of their eight survey template categories and access nearly thirty live template examples, a list of benefits for each survey, and advice on which questions to use.
Check out Mopinion’s survey templates here.
SurveyGizmo offers free and paid survey creation plans. They also offer a library bursting with free sample survey templates. Simply add your company’s branding or tweak a few questions, and you’re ready to go.
Check out SurveyGizmo’s survey templates here.
Now, what if you’ve already chosen to build your survey and you need program-specific templates? We’ve got those for you, too.
Word Survey Templates
Microsoft Word is a great resource and word processor tool. But building stuff from scratch in Word can be a bulky process. Here are a few Word survey templates to get you started.
Excel Survey Templates
Microsoft Excel makes data management and analysis simple, so it might make sense for your team to create and host your survey within the platform to begin with. Here are a few Excel survey templates to jumpstart that process.
Check out Microsoft Office’s Excel templates here.
Many organizations choose to distribute their surveys via email. Whether you’re creating your survey or using a tool to do so, email is an option, especially if you’re sampling your customer database.
While you can’t embed an entire survey within an email (so we can’t provide you with any email survey templates), there are some tactics you can employ when inviting your recipients to take your survey.
- Personalize the invitation. Customized marketing, including content and email, has been shown to boost engagement and click-through. Personalizing your survey invitation can help your recipients feel recognized and valued, thus further encouraging them to answer your questions.
- State your email intent or purpose. Don’t keep your email list in the dark. In your survey invitation, state exactly why you’re reaching out to them and how they can help you reach your goal.
- Provide an incentive. Your recipients’ opinions matter to you. Let them know how you feel by providing an incentive in exchange for their survey response. Whether in the form of a discount or exclusive perk, honest and thorough answers are well worth a small gift.
- Display one question from the survey. Give your audience a taste of what kind of survey they might be answering. That way, they can choose if they’d like to participate before entering (and possibly leaving) your survey.
A note from the HubSpot Research team: While email marketing is alive and well, don’t abuse your list for the sake of survey responses. Because your subscribers likely signed up for something other than a survey, respect their wishes and reserve your list for only the most pressing issues.
Survey Creation Software and Tools
Choosing the right survey creation software that best equips your team and goals can be intimidating, especially given the sheer number of available tools. If you’re looking for help with survey design, copy, organization, and distribution, survey creation software is a great solution.
We’ve created this survey creation software roundup of some of HubSpot’s favorite tools — featuring some we use and some with which we integrate — to help you make the best decision for your company.
HubSpot Service Hub
HubSpot Service Hub software builds organization, efficiency, and happy customers into your customer service team. It also helps you identify those happy customers with the intuitive customer feedback feature.
HubSpot Service Hub makes it easy to send surveys to your customers so you can understand what they think and feel about your product or service. The tool will also help you choose the right format for your survey and track your surveys so you can improve your customer experience over time.
SurveyMonkey (Integrated with HubSpot)
SurveyMonkey is one of the best free survey creation sites. The tool is easy to use and provides plenty of pre-written sample surveys and questions. It even allows you to check your data up against industry averages to establish benchmarks and make sense of your responses. SurveyMonkey is a great option for those just starting out and looking to scale their survey needs.
Typeform (Integrated with HubSpot)
Typeform generates gorgeous surveys that are easy to both create and answer. With a tagline reading “turn data collection into an experience,” Typeform promotes a friendlier experience than most, allowing brands to create a survey that’s seamless from their overall brand standards.
Due to its versatility and affordability, Google Forms is used by organizations of all kinds (as is the entire G Suite). Simply create a Google account and access the survey templates and questions available in the Google Forms library. The tool makes it easy to create a Google Form survey from scratch, too.
Survicate (Integrated with HubSpot)
Survicate is a multi-faceted survey software, offering feedback tools that collect everything from website optimization and customer satisfaction surveys to complex customer insight processes. Survicate's templated surveys also integrate with numerous marketing applications.
SurveyGizmo is a data collection and insights platform that helps organizations make better decisions across the board. From feedback to assessment to research, SurveyGizmo provides targeted solutions to its customers — who range from stakeholders to business owners to market researchers. SurveyGizmo is a good choice for larger companies looking to integrate surveys into most of their initiatives and processes.
QuestionPro (Used by HubSpot)
QuestionPro is a free survey creation site that we use here at HubSpot. It offers an online survey platform, responsive survey design, and niche audience samples. The tool also offers sample survey templates and standard question types to make the survey building process easier.
AskNicely (Integrated with HubSpot)
AskNicely is a feedback application that works primarily with the Net Promoter Score metric. The tool offers one-touch surveys that specifically inquire about a customer’s experience and likelihood to recommend a certain product or company. You can add follow-up questions depending on a respondent’s answer, trigger surveys to release after specific events, and easily integrate your contacts with your CRM software (attn: HubSpot customers!).
Wootric (Integrated with HubSpot)
Wootric is a customer feedback tool that helps you capture metrics like Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction indicator (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES). It also educates you on how to use these metrics to monitor customer sentiment, understand the business impact, and inform decisions that boost revenue and retention.
Feedier is a feedback collection tool that has found a way to combine highly-interactive forms with visual data insights that draw experienced user stories organized in dynamic timelines. You can go beyond surveys and feedback collection tools by getting actionable data that will help you boost your knowledge of your users and customers and connect with them at every touchpoint.
Over To You
With countless templates, samples, and tools, survey creation is an initiative every organization should add to their to-do list.
Whether you’re collecting consumer data, establishing a new Net Promoter Score for your brand, or getting a feel for industry trends and changes, surveys can help you gather accurate and honest feedback from your audience. And this feedback is the key to fulfilling the goals of your company and the expectations of your customers.
Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Aug 26, 2020 11:55:00 AM, updated June 15 2021