Jan/Feb 2007

Everyone Has an Opinion: Using Online Surveys to Reach More Supporters

by Chuck Anderson, Founder, R3 Strategies

If there is one thing I've learned about people, it's that everyone seems to have an opinion. Perhaps more importantly, most want to share their opinion with others. (Those who know me best would say I'm foremost among these!)

So, I ask: Why not put this human nature to good use? Online interaction provides a tremendous opportunity for soliciting personal opinions from your supporters and potential supporters, and even offers a chance to gain more than just their initial feedback on particular issues.

If you are not already using an online survey tool such as Convio's to capture important data on constituent interests, you should. This was one of the biggest selling points for me when I first began working with the Convio software platform. Not only can our consulting firm aggregate trends and group opinions on specific issues, but we also can interact on a personal level and attempt to build issue profiles for individual supporters.

But wait, there's more!

Can simple issue-based surveys be used to grow your email file? My experience has found that surveys are by far the most effective manner with which to capture new users for email communication.

Remember my premise that everyone has an opinion and is eager to share that opinion? By providing even a simple one or two question survey on your homepage, you can immediately begin a personal interaction with a new user who visits your Web site.

There are a few critical aspects in making a survey appealing to new visitors. The survey:

  1. Must be relevant to your issues;
  2. Must be timely and current; and
  3. Must be of some importance or urgency.

If done properly, these "front-end" matters will successfully draw potential supporters into taking your survey. However, you must also be sure that the "back-end" is built to capture the proper data and lead the user to opting in to your email list.

Be certain to ask for some personal information, but not too much. First and last name, email address and ZIP code are a minimum. Address, phone number, etc. might be too much. Requiring a username and password will definitely turn away most "newbies" from your survey.

Include an option for survey-takers to opt in to receive email communications from your organization, and consider presetting the email permission to "opt in". We have found that more than 60 percent of first-time visitors completing a survey will keep their email permission for "opt in" and begin that ongoing relationship with an organization. Just imagine: 5,000 new users completing your online issue survey could bring more than 3,000 new email addresses into your file.

But don't stop there

What a waste it would be for you to do nothing with these email addresses for weeks or months. Equally bad would be dropping them into your regular email channel just like everyone else.

New supporters should be treated with honor and respect, and even some tender care. Consider sending a series of two or three welcome messages over the first month or so introducing them to your organization and trying to find out even more about how they want to participate.

I encourage you to keep looking for new opportunities to utilize online surveys. This type of approach has infinite horizons as we seek to attract and keep new supporters through our online channels.

Chuck Anderson founded R3 Strategies in 2005 to partner with conservative and ministry oriented clients; providing strategic advice and campaign management to drive results from their Convio investment.

Everyone Has an Opinion: Using Online Surveys to Reach More Supporters | Convio