Completely Useless Online Surveys

Posted by Trevor Owens on

I see a lot of teams at Lean Startup Machine use online surveys incorrectly and get results that are for the most part, completely useless.

The first problem with online surveys is that they are faceless. When doing customer development you have to understand who the person is to understand his pain and motivations. Segmentation is critical and without knowing who you’re talking to you’re missing out. The second problem is that online surveys lack a lot of information the customer could be providing you with. Remember 60-70% of communication is non-verbal, and entrepreneurs can’t read between the lines when reading survey responses. Most customers don’t know what they want and generally can’t articulate their purchasing motivations or pain. The third problem is that survey’s don’t provide context and can be interpreted wrong by both the surveyee and surveyor. Someone once wisely said, "Surveys assume you know the right question to ask." Surveyee’s many times don’t answer truthfully or correctly because of nuances in the way questions are asked (or they are apathetic). As for the surveyor, is it good that 30% of people confirmed what you thought or bad that 70% of people didn’t? The final problem I want to discuss is that online surveys aren’t very good for follow-through with prospects. If you’re good at custdev, you don’t just get information you also build a relationship with potential customers and bring them further down the sales funnel. An in-person interview allows you to get to know someone to the point they’re more likely to help you again if you ask. You can also make them feel invested in the product through feedback whereas survey’s are low involvement and low investment on a customers side. As a result the follow-through will tend to be less successful. As you can see, relying on online surveys results in the early stage of custdev could send a team down the wrong path entirely.