User Insights with Surveys

One thing I’ve always tried to do is make sure I listen to the people who are using our products or services. Having read Brad Feld and David Cohen’s book ‘Do More Faster‘ I printed out one of the signs mentioned in the book and stuck it on the Lightning Tools Office Wall:

You are Stupid – Listen to your Customers – Or you will have none.

Another good comment from the book is around never needing to have another original idea yourself. If you are listening to your users and people around you they’ll give you the ideas and feedback you need to build something useful.

Last year we sent out a survey to everybody who had downloaded something from Lightning Tools. We asked some general questions about what components of SharePoint they were using and various things like that. It was certainly a useful exercise, giving us some useful insights and also gave us a good blog post as we discussed the results.

We wanted to put together a survey again this year but as we wrote down the questions they were pretty similar to last years ones and weren’t particularly inspiring. Flemming Madsen, who’s a good friend, advised us to begin with the questions we want answered as a company. The components of SharePoint that people were using was interesting, but it wouldn’t really help us make decisions over the next 12 months at Lightning Tools. We wanted to be finding out:

‘Are people going to be using SharePoint Online?’

‘Are people’s usage of SharePoint going to increase over the next 12 months?’

‘What external APIs do people want to integrate SharePoint with?’

We called these our ‘Internal Questions’

These can really help us drive our decision making and help us figure out what to focus on. So we then created and based each of our questions in the survey so they would help us answer our Internal Questions.

We also needed to be able to filter the results coming back. Generally you can divide the visitors to into two groups.

1, Those that use SharePoint in their business

2, Those that provide products or services around SharePoint

We need to be able to filter filter the results into these two categories because it is possible that they will give completely different answers. When creating your survey think about how you will want to filter your answers and create questions that will allow you to do this.

The last thing we asked on the survey was to rate Lightning Tools on a scale of 1 to 10, and also if they had any general feedback to provide us. The rating is good as it will give you an overall feeling for what people think of you as a company. If anybody rates you a 1 or 2 they have obviously had a bad experience with you and this is your chance to try and resolve it. The general feedback field turned out to be a real gem for us. People have written some lovely comments about how great our products are, how brilliant our support is etc… This is great to share amongst the team as it is real motivation and proof you are doing the right things.

Finally, people get bombarded by emails, questions and tasks every day. We wanted to give people an incentive to spend 5 minutes completing our survey so we offered a prize to one of the survey participants.

This helps with two things:

1, Include in the email what the survey is, and what they can win – this increases the open rate of the email

2, It will increase the number of people who will complete the survey.

You need to give something away that your audience really wants right now. At the moment for our tech crowd it’s the iPad. In 12 months time it might be something else. We were concerned that people would start the survey, enter their email address and not complete the rest of the questions. Thankfully this hasn’t happened though with the survey completion rate being 95% as of writing.

So here’s an overall summary…

Steps to create a great user/customer survey:

1, Create your Internal Questions

2, Create your survey questions and make sure each one helps answer the Internal Questions

3, Ask questions that will allow you to filter your results

4, Allow people to provide general feedback on you

5, Give away a prize as an incentive to complete the survey

What tips do you have for creating great customer surveys?

Focus – the word for 2011

I always struggle a lot with focus. Not only during the day to get my important tasks done while Twitter, Facebook, Skype and email notifications are pinging around – but also on the bigger picture stuff.  The main problem is I have too many ideas. Most of these ideas I think are going to be the next big thing – and so want to start working on them straight away. But before I’ve seen something through to a satisfactory level to call whether the idea is going to take off or not, quite often I am distracted by some other idea that is new and shiny.

This can also be reflected through my years when I was employed by other people doing software development. For 5 years I’d be swapping jobs every 6-9 months. Each new gig felt like the dream job with new projects and challenges but within 6 months it felt like the same old thing and I was ready to move on.

The biggest shame of this looking back is what could have been achieved over the last 3.5 years with Lightning Tools. I feel we’ve done really well growing the company organically and up to a team of 10 people. But if I hadn’t been distracted by a few side projects such as 3 Good Shots and Connect Via Books I’m sure we could have taken a few bigger steps forward.

Do other entrepreneurs act and feel the same way? May be it’s impossible to focus on the same thing 12 months of the year and these little side projects are a good way to free your mind a little and still keep up your development skills. I certainly have made sure I have learned new things with each side project I’ve taken on so it certainly hasn’t all been for nothing.

So this is the year of focus. I’m not going to work on anything other than Lightning Tools this year. Rather than setting goals for the year, I prefer a shorter timespan as it is easier to track and manage progress. Here they are:

1, 4 Marketing Partners signed up for Lightning Tools

2, Trial product download target set for March

3, 2 Press releases a month

4, 6 SharePoint PodShows recorded

5, 1 Office Admin Assistant employed

6, 9 Case Studies on the web site.

If you feel you can help with any of these, drop me an email! I’ll keep you up to date with how things progress.