Five Tips to Creating Effective Online Surveys

Well-constructed online surveys delivered to the right audiences can be one of the primary tools for gaining insight into how to improve a product; understand perceptions of your company; or uncover a customer’s buying habits that can lead to increased sales. Want to maximize responses and minimize opt-outs? Then it’s key that organizations conducting surveys pay close attention to best practices. Customers (or employees if it’s an internal query) are your best assets, and properly-designed and administered surveys can provide meaningful feedback AND strengthen your relationships.

Here are five tips to ensure your efforts are successful:

  1. Define the survey’s purpose: Are you seeking input on your company’s customer service and ways to improve it? Are you looking for insight on which new logo best represents your business? Does your board of directors really want to know what drives employee satisfaction and retention? Limit your content to only what you need to know. Sneaking in extra questions because you’re “sending it out anyway” doesn’t benefit your response rates OR data gathering effectiveness.
  2. Short and simple: Respondents are pressed for time and don’t want to spend 45 minutes answering 30 questions. Rule of thumb: limit your questions to those respondents can answer in 7 minutes or less. You can include a mix of open-ended and multiple choice questions but make sure the wording is clear and concise, don’t use jargon and provide simple and straightforward instructions for each question.
  3. Test before sending: Before you send the survey to your audience, send a test to a few trusted, yet non-involved associates, so they can provide feedback on the structure, question flow, ease of understanding and length. Once they record answers, ensure they are properly captured and easily analyzed. Testing will allow you to make any refinements that result in the best product possible to your target audience.
  4. Know your respondents: A survey is only as good as the people responding to it. Before you send it, make sure your audience is made up of the appropriate target customers, confirm email addresses and titles and make sure your questions are relevant to their expertise or requested insight. Also, mail programs are increasingly scrutinizing “role-based” e-mail addresses such as info@companyname.com, so make sure your contacts include verified addresses connected to an actual name.
  5. Take action based on responses. Creating, disseminating and compiling results from a survey takes effort so once you analyze your responses, use that insight to make meaningful changes or apply the learnings to improve your organization. If your customers or employees have taken the time to provide their opinions, as a company, you have a responsibility to listen to them if it can help their experience with you or help you grow your business.

A well-thought-out strategy for designing and sending surveys can benefit just about every aspect of your business, from customer service to product/service enhancements to marketplace positioning. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be and you’ll be rolling in responses pretty quickly.

Social Media as a Customer Service Tool

Social media is an important component of any comprehensive marketing mix, but it should not be seen as a one-way platform to shower your audience in messaging. Instead, it should be embraced for the opportunity to forge deep, personal relationships with your target audience, on a one-on-one basis. This two-way flow of communication makes social media such a powerful tool, but it can also leave marketers vulnerable without a clearly defined customer service strategy in place.

According to a recent study from Sprout Social, 81% say that social media has increased accountability for businesses. Social is now not only an extension of your brand, but it’s tasked with enhancing your customers’ experience with it.

Here are some tips to help gauge your social climate and weather any potential storms:

Do a temperature check. Your customers have their own voice on social, and brand reviews are a big part of that. By turning on the review section of your Facebook page, you allow customers to give their opinion. Positive feedback speaks volumes about your company and what it means to customers. While it does leave you susceptible to negative reviews, it also allows you to publicly respond to those reviews in a transparent manner. More sensitive topics can be resolved privately in a direct message to the customer with a public response indicating that you personally messaged them to discuss further.

Forecast when you can. Social media is instant. It’s important to remember that your customers expect a response to their request or concern fairly quickly. Prepared statements to frequently asked questions are a great way to stay on top of this. No matter the industry, some questions will continue to pop up. Keep in mind, a bit of personalization, such as addressing the customer by name, goes a long way. Working with the client customer service team, keep a running list of responses for reference, so you can reply in a timely manner.

This approach has helped with the Lofthouse Cookies Facebook Page which frequently receives inquiries from its nearly 40,000 fans. The majority of messages and comments are asking about product availability in their specific area. Our response typically includes the following three parts: 1. Personal greeting; 2. Quick acknowledgement and thanks for their message; 3. CTA asking for more information such as their zip code and which grocery store they prefer to shop at. One succinct reply is best to stay organized and keep your customer on task.

Stay on their radar. If the comment or message warrants more than a quick response back, be transparent about that. Working with the client team, take the request up the chain of command indicated in your social policy. Reassure the customer that you are working on resolving their issue and you will let them know as soon as possible.  In these instances, it’s critical to circle back and follow up.

Jump in the puddles. Celebrate the victories and positive comments. Let your customers know you appreciate their business and encourage them to keep sharing! The power of community on social is big, especially with consumer brands. Prospective customers are more likely to walk away better informed on their buying decision if they see good feedback from others.

Responses to our retail customers vary by their positive message, but a play on words is always a way to leave a lasting impression. “We love getting these types of messages, the frosting on top of our day!”

As with more traditional marketing efforts, it’s critical to have a game plan for social. A clearly defined strategy will keep the team on the same page, working together to provide the best customer experience for your fans and followers.

See examples of Celtic’s client work here.

Improve Your Website SEO with a Blog

In recent years, SEO has changed the game for marketers as a focus area that can no longer be overlooked. Unfortunately, it can feel at times as though the rules to the game of SEO are always changing. If your website is in need of a boost to score some “points” with Google and improve search performance but you don’t even know where to begin, consider adding a blog.

A blog can help your site by both improving the experience for your visitors and offering a lift “behind the scenes” to increase SEO. Here are just four of the ways a blog can improve your website’s SEO:

Build links
Inbound links – those links coming into your site from an external website – are seen as a “vote of confidence” by search engines and are a key component of how they rank your site. External websites will be more likely to share and link back to your page if you are creating strong content that is relevant to their readers. However, be cautious of trying to game the system – search engines value quality of links over quantity.

Longtail keywords
Blogs provide a great opportunity to capitalize on industry trends and topics in real time, incorporating the key words your audience is likely searching for at any given moment. While there is certainly value in the use of short tail keywords (shorter and more general, i.e. “pickup truck”), you can make a greater impact on your search performance with the use of long tail keywords (more specific, i.e. “red pickup truck 4WD”) that better address a specific audience need and have less competition in the game.

Original content
Search engines reward sites for featuring both original and regularly updated content – two obvious benefits of blogging. According to HubSpot research, B2B companies that publish 11 or more blog posts per month receive nearly three times as much traffic as companies posting 0 or 1 blogs per month. Regularly updated content keeps a site more interesting and engaging to visitors, and can help your site climb to the top of the Google “leaderboard.”

Grow your network of internal links
Internal linking is just what it sounds like, putting in links that take the user to another page within the same site. Internal linking is important because it can keep users on your website for a longer duration of time, and help search engines crawl your site, potentially boosting search performance.

Keeping up with the latest SEO best practices can be challenging with the ever changing set of rules. But while you may not be able to stay on top of every recent trend and recommendation, it is important to implement at least some baseline SEO tactics to keep your site competitive in search rankings. Creating and maintaining a site blog is one such tactic that can go a long way toward improving your search performance and winning over your audience with a better overall website experience.

See examples of Celtic’s client work here.

Building a Successful Social Media Program

There have been some epic social media fails by corporations. American Apparel posted an image to celebrate the 4th of July on its Tumblr stream with “#smoke” and “#clouds.” Unfortunately, their young employee used an image of the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding, thinking it was fireworks. A Chrysler social media contractor tweeted an offensive and profane message about Detroit drivers on the company page instead of his personal page. It was retweeted by thousands before it could be removed.

All companies can learn from these high profile errors when it comes to strategy for their social accounts. Best practices start with a clear governance policy and procedure ensuring all of the proper pieces are in place. A strong governance policy must establish a hierarchy within the team and ensure that incoming and outgoing topics are reviewed and escalated through content criteria. Planned messaging must be reviewed to flow with trending stories. Finally, lead decision makers must commit to being available to determine a response to negative items quickly.

Celtic creates social content for the TreeHouse Foods brand Lofthouse Cookies, providing information about new cookie varieties, nut-free choices and celebration ideas. We also monitor visitor comments and customer service requests, escalating responses for any pertinent or timely issues.

Here are three governance ideas:

  1. Don’t rely on a single individual to be responsible for content: make it a team effort with increasing levels of responsibility.
  2. Be creative without being offensive: consider your audience, wording and any cultural ramifications. Turn gaffes into opportunities to emphasize how on top of social media your company really is.
  3. Streamline access to customer service, legal and compliance resources so you can act quickly and appropriately.

Crisis on Line One. I’ll Transfer It Now….

Only half of all chief executives participate in crisis training, according to PR Week. Usually, it’s these same individuals who will find a microphone in their face in times of company crises. NPH, a nonprofit group with orphanages in Central and South America, found itself in the midst of crisis when the Haiti earthquake struck. Even with a crisis plan in place, NPH executives were hit hard emotionally as they had to announce the death of two staff members. During challenging times, being “crisis ready” is even more crucial as emotions and ongoing family sensitivities weigh heavily on the demands of the staff. Key for any executive? Be prepared and act quickly.

At Celtic, we host mock press conference training to prepare our executives for the tough questions. It helps them finesse ways to stay on point when the media hits hard.

Remember these three key factors for your leadership team:

  1. Let the severity of the crisis determine your tone and prepare your statements using honesty but don’t be too formal – human emotion makes you seem real
  2. Stay on point and practice possible questions with your PR team – don’t be afraid to say” I don’t know but will find out”
  3. Don’t answer questions that ask you to give your opinion on the situation – reiterate the facts and stay on point

Game Plan for a Content Marketing Strategy

While marketers are embracing the importance of regular content updates on their websites, not all are doing so with a defined strategy. According to the 2016 Content Marketing Report, 76% of marketers are creating more content than they were one year ago, but only 32% have a documented strategy in place.

It is essential that companies have a “game plan” in place built around purposeful content. The content should match marketing strategy and current events, maintaining relevancy for the user.

After developing multiple websites for Ardent Mills, the largest flour miller in the United States, Celtic developed content strategies with their team to ensure regular updates to the sites. Content calendars map out the plan for all future updates including home page callouts, internal page updates, blog/news updates and campaign-specific landing pages. Here are three things to consider when planning your content strategy:

  1. Keep the voice and key messages on your site unified with other outward marketing efforts and communications on behalf of the brand to deliver a consistent experience for your audience.
  2. Review detailed analytic reports to understand how users interact with the site and identify ways to help drive traffic to target actions.
  3. Forecast any planned promotions, anticipated company news or seasonal factors/key industry events that impact the business.

Keep Social Content Fresh

We’ve all seen it. The website with press releases over a year old or the social site with content posted last year. Your brand looks tired and your company behind if your content doesn’t remain fresh. A good rule of thumb is that your customers treat content management as they would a loaf of bread in their cupboard at home. If it’s been there too long, they won’t eat it.

When incorporating tactics such as blogs and website articles into a content marketing strategy, keep it fresh or toss it. New content on a website will boost search performance and give your audience incentive to come back. But if the most recent posts on social or your blog are still offering “Holiday Tips” in April, your visitors will quickly see that “news” has become little more than an afterthought. If you aren’t able to refresh this content regularly, you are better off removing the old content all together before it becomes stale. If you don’t have the resources to maintain new content in every social site, choose just a few – even if that means all you can maintain is your website – and keep it fresh.

Content strategy across platforms needs to be a budget line item in your marketing plan. B2B marketers are continuing to embrace the benefits of content marketing, with one recent study reporting that 86% are employing content marketing strategies in 2015. At Celtic, we have a social content team that works to deliver the “voice” for our clients to their social and web platforms. By properly creating content and publishing timelines, brands benefit with increased search performance and engagement with their customers. Those same tactics can backfire without sufficient commitment and execution.

Tag You’re Not It

In the age of digital and mobile content publishing it’s a fight to the front of the line to ensure that your company’s content is seen and stands out among the rest. So what can give your content the edge it needs to be in the forefront of web searches? Tags.

The answer is simple, but effectively executing the use of tags…not so much. Tags and hashtags have become all the rage in the last year, but there is a fine line between including strategic keywords in your media and frivolously tagging every semi-applicable word. Well-researched hashtags have the ability to increase the quantity and quality of visitors to your content, while merely tagging the same types of words for each blog post completely defeats the purpose of categorizing the information.

For example, on our own Celtic Chicago blog, we have chosen to do away with traditional tags completely and opted for a cleaner design and more purposeful navigation experience by featuring four distinct categories in the top navigation of our homepage. It is here where visitors will be able to accurately determine the broader topic that they wish to read about. Our writers are cognizant to include the “keywords” and “tags” within the titles of the posts or prominently throughout the body copy.

There is a time and place for tags and although an abundance of tags is not the most effective choice for a blog post, it is the most prominent method used to categorize information on Twitter. On Instagram hashtags allow your post’s content to build a community, while establishing unique details/trends specific to your account.

Before hash-tagging away, ask yourself what is the purpose of your post’s content and how does it relate to your company’s service. Also, think about your users and audience and how they respond to and interact with tags and categories of information. This will give you a good gauge of how many, if any, tags should be used on a specific piece of content.

In the age of digital media, less is sometimes more and for our blog, tags…you’re just not it.

Social: Is There a Policy on That?

The potential exposure of social media is not something any company can ignore. Just ask Domino’s Pizza or Chrysler. The rogue employee can change the future with one quick “send.” Yet 67% of companies say they do not have a social media policy.

Celtic creates social policies using three key components:

  1. Social Message Dissemination
  2. Social Policy for Employees
  3. Crisis Management Response

A policy must define acceptable posting and how to handle negative information. It should create a process for developing content consistent with the brand.

Business Thought: Branding the Brave

“Committed to quality service” isn’t a brand. It is what you have to do to stay in business. Lots of companies make a feeble attempt at branding. They use common language without putting any teeth into the promise.

Real branding is bold. Compare how you feel when you hear “great customer service” to “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Which one would you rather stand up and shout?

Branding takes guts. Courage. And a willingness to truly stand for something. It is a commitment that you make to your clients/customers, your employees and your vendor partners. Imagine what is possible if your company is willing to step out on that limb and begin to shout something of significance. Then make it your brand.