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Using Surveys as Marketing tools.

  Promotional Tools designed as Surveys

Surveys are useful for gathering all kinds of marketing data, and when they’re completed they make great bird cage liners.

Oh, did you want clients to provide you with useful data?  Forget it… that’s not what they’re good for.  Unless you mail a bajillion of them, results are unreliable.

But surveys get high readership – so they can be pretty valuable. Let me explain a few unusual survey techniques while my wife is hanging around pretending to not watch what I’m doing, while she’s watching what I’m doing…

The survey as a promotional tool —  

Acquaint prospects and customers with your company, new products, or your services. Even reacquaint your old products and services – the important part is by simply reading your survey they’ll keep you in the top of their mind, and learn about your newest offers. As a promotional piece, you’re already ahead of the curve.

Survey Technique: The “Hidden-objective” survey.  

You may never have heard of this style of survey because… well, I created it several years ago for a client who used it and then went on to become a billionaire.  But that’s another story.

In the hidden-objective survey, success is not based around the answers.  Answering questions isn’t your objective. Your objective is to inform or advertise a new product.  In other words, your survey is a slick piece of advertising, designed to look like a survey.  Ever consider that?  No, most people don’t.  That’s why I get the big bucks.  Or I may, any day now.  Sigh…

Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s get back to watching TV.  Oh wait, there’s more. Let’s move on and I’ll pretend I’m working, as my wife is definitely watching.

As a direct marketer, the hidden objective of surveys I create for clients is usually to generate a phone call, or have readers request a phone call… in a way.

For example: suppose you’d like to introduce a new product to the insurance industry, your new LTCI (Long Term Care Insurance) that now includes coverage for massage therapy.  Yes, Grand Papa would love that.

So in the letter you send with the survey you ask the reader for a brief moment to take your quick 5-question survey.  No one minds a “Quick 5-question survey.”

To increase participation you could enclose a crisp dollar bill for taking the survey, but it would be much better if you sent that money to me.  Alternatively, tell the reader you’ll let him know the survey results, which will increase response.  Viola – instant permission to call — to share the results, fulfilling your objective.  And good for me, as I get the $4 from people who actually read this and send me a dollar, even though they get thousands of dollars worth of marketing advice.  Hrumph.

“Did you know the Jeff Dobkin agency offers long term care insurance that now includes massage therapy?

[ ] Yes     [ ] No    [ ] Please call

Does anyone in your family need long term care or massage therapy?

[ ] Yes     [ ] No   [ ] Maybe, please call.

So, here you can see we don’t really want an answer to these questions.  We just want to inform clients we offer Long Term Care Insurance, and it offers massage therapy.  And we’ve asked them to call.

Survey Technique: the “Key-Question” survey.  

This is where you hide one or two impotent questions, sorry, I meant “important” questions in the survey.  Fraudian slip.  Oops.  Another Freudian slip.  So anyway — most questions are fluffy and don’t matter, but one or two are specific “key-questions” that make the survey relevant.  Other questions only mask what questions you really want answered.

Survey Technique: The “Actionable Key-Question” Survey

We continue our survey with an actionable key-question:

Have you planned for care of your grandfather in his later years?

[ ] Yes     [ ] No    [ ] Don’t know

Are you worried about your grand parents as they get older?

[ ] Yes     [ ] No    [ ] Please call

You can see we are now asking a key question that if clients answer in ANY way we can take action.

The rest of the survey?  Who cares?  It may not matter, because if this question is checked “yes,” “no,” “don’t know.” or “please call” it worked!  We call them – which makes this survey 100% successful: it generated a plausible reason to make the phone call and a real live warm contact.

But since I have one question left, I’ll ask:

 How long has it been since you have had your insurance policies reviewed:

 [ ] One year [ ] three years  [ ] don’t remember

 This seemingly innocent question is really a super actionable key-question – and also gives us a “reason to call” if any of the boxes are checked.  I’d toss in a few more innocuous questions just to make the survey look more legit.

If you’re designing a survey, first decide on the objective; then design the survey to fulfill your objective.  If the objective is to call or be called, insert just one or maybe two highly relevant “key questions” that bring a logical reason to call the recipient.  Make the rest of the questions easy.

Oh good… my wife just left to pick up our dinner at the 7-11. Now that she’s not watching me I can go back to a few sites that I was…


Jeff Dobkin is a fun speaker whose motivational presentations include successful and useful direct marketing methods and easy to employ sales techniques. His articles on marketing have appeared in over 250 magazines.  Jeffrey has written 7 books on marketing and humor.  610-642-1000 rings on his desk. Please send him the dollar instead of putting it in your survey. Or better yet, buy his stuff – he needs the money.  Just kidding.  You don’t need to buy his stuff.  Just send the money.  Click here for the bookstore.


Jeffrey Dobkin is an writer, author and a pretty serious analyst on marketing strategy, catalogs and direct mail marketing campaigns.  His advertising and marketing agency specializes in making your phone ring through creating highly responsive letters, booklets and direct mail. His research and editorial team also writes catalog copy, corporate collateral, white papers, print ads, and website content.  610-642-1000 rings on his desk. Dobkin has written 5 books on direct marketing and two on humor. Call him to discuss how he can help your firm make your phone ring more frequently – 610-642-1000 rings on his desk.