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The Complete Guide To Surveys (With Examples)

Sumo Growth-studies

Today we’re going to discuss a topic most marketers ignore:


When you think about marketing, your mind likely goes to SEO, ads, conversion rates, etc. But surveys are a marketer’s secret weapon. 

Here’s the proof. Using a survey, I created a single piece of content that has generated nearly 100,000 pageviews: 

(By the end of this post, you’ll understand how to do this for yourself)

But surveys aren’t only great for creating unique content your audience will love. They can help you learn more about your customers, generate product ideas, and more.

In this article, I’ll share five survey examples that’ll have your mind spinning with ideas to help grow your business. Then I’ll tell you how to create a survey and distribute it to the right audiences. 

Let’s dive in!


How Surveys Can Help You Achieve Your Goals (With Examples)

Surveys can help your business in many ways; here are five examples and uses cases:

1. Learn More About Your Customers

You can never know too much about your customers. 

A survey is a great way to uncover insights you couldn’t find otherwise

The more you know about your customers, the more you can: 

  • deliver features and experience that match their needs
  • craft copy and content that speaks directly to your target audience
  • know where to market to potential customers
  • build stronger relationships

Here’s an example survey from Houzz to understand how COVID-19 impacted its users’ home improvement plans:

And a question from this survey:

Houzz used this to understand how a specific event (COVID-19) impacted its industry (home improvement). The results from this survey could help their business in a number of ways:

  • Planning content and editorial.
  • Determining how it can help contractors and architects to understand the state of their industry.
  • Learning about the needs of its users in the moment.

When creating a survey to learn more about your customers, focus on the insights that will help you achieve your business goals. 

If you want to increase your website conversions, you could survey customers to learn exactly why they started using your service. This will help you craft copy that will increase CTA clicks and conversions on your most-visited website pages. 

2. To Create Unique (Linkworthy) Content

Data often makes for great content. 

And one of the best ways to uncover unique data is to gather it yourself through a survey.

We try to do a survey like this at least once per year at Buffer, and it often results in incredibly popular and linkworthy content. 

In 2019, our State of Social report generated over 2,300 backlinks from 722 unique domains (and has since generated nearly 100,000 page views):

To be successful with this kind of content, you need to create a survey on a topic that’s interesting and newsworthy within your industry.

At Buffer, as a social media management product, we like to look at how businesses use social media and what they see happening in the year ahead.

When planning questions for a content-focused survey, plan them around the narratives you’d like to cover in the content piece. 

Think about:

  • What’s changing in your industry?
  • How are people measuring success?
  • What new products have taken off?

Plan your questions around these topics. For example, the Stories format has taken off on social channels over recent years, so in 2019 we asked brands whether they have tested Stories ads:

Next, we asked whether respondents planned to invest more in Stories ads during 2019:

This enabled us to tell a story about how Stories ads might be a big opportunity for businesses during 2019 in our final report:

3. To Understand Customer Happiness

A Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey is a way to measure customer happiness and how people feel about your business. 

An NPS survey usually consists of two questions. The first tends to be: “How likely are you to recommend [Business] to a friend or colleague?” And the follow-up question is usually open-ended to add context to your first answer.

Here’s an example from Disney+:

Due to their simplicity, NPS surveys are easy to put together and can help measure how your business is performing against customer expectations. 

Once you’ve run an NPS survey, you can use the results as a benchmark for future surveys. Because of the standardized nature of the survey, an NPS benchmark is also a great way to see how your business stacks up against others in your industry. 

4. To Validate New Product Ideas

Repeat customers are incredibly valuable for businesses. Expanding your product range is one of the easiest ways to increase returning customers, loyalty, and lifetime value (LTV). 

Often, businesses will start with one offering. For example:

  • Casper only sold one mattress
  • Away only had one suitcase option
  • Buffer was a Twitter-only tool

Tribe, a nutrition brand, only sold a single line of protein bars. Over time, it has expanded its offerings and now sells protein bars, energy bars, protein balls, electrolyte drinks, and shakes. 

Before it launches any new products, Tribe runs a survey to learn more about what its existing customers are looking for. 

Here’s an email introducing a recent survey:

By reaching out to customers and surveying their needs, Tribe gains valuable insights into what its customers look for in a breakfast product. And by bringing customers into the process, it creates a closer bond and relationship with those customers. 

5. To Help Customers Find The Right Product Or Plan

Pricing isn’t always as simple and straightforward as you’d like it to be, especially if your business sells multiple products or has different plans.

Sometimes, the best way to ensure customers find the right product or plan for them is to run a quick survey before they sign up (this can help reduce churn, as a higher percentage of people will find the best solution for them).

LinkedIn does this really well within its user onboarding flow for Premium plans. First, it asks whether you’re interested in Premium for business or personal use:

Then it asks what you’d like Premium to help you with: 

After a couple more questions, it recommends a plan based on your needs:

This helps alleviate confusion and helps people find the right plan. Without the survey, looking at the full range of plans available could feel a little overwhelming:

The survey cuts this list in half. Though going from four options to two might not seem that huge, it likely results in much higher conversions and lower churn for LinkedIn. 

How To Create A Survey In 3 Steps

1. Understand Your Target Audience 

An important and overlooked survey creation aspect is understanding the exact audience you want to reach.

If your business sells running accessories, and you want to research new products to stock, you don’t want to survey people who aren’t running enthusiasts.

Get as detailed and focused as possible with your survey for valuable results.

Say you’re a B2B business that sells cleaning supplies. Instead of saying, “we want to survey small businesses,” be as specific as possible.
We want to survey small businesses:

  • With at least three office locations
  • In the state of Ohio
  • That operate in financial industries

Try to match your survey audience as closely to your ideal customers as possible. 

2. Write Great Questions

A great survey starts with great questions.

Once you know who you’re targeting, it’s time to figure out exactly what you want to learn from them and how you want to learn it.

There are five common survey question types:

  1. Multiple choice: These questions offer preselected answers and ask respondents to either select one (single-answer multiple choice) or several (multiple-answer multiple choice) answers to the question. These questions commonly include an “Other” option for respondents to share their own answer if none of the options feel right. 

  2. Rating scale: Like the NPS survey, rating scale questions ask respondents to select their response based on a scale of 1-10. Example: “How productive did you feel today?”with 1 being unproductive and 10 being very productive. 

  3. Ranking: Ranking questions ask respondents to rank options in terms of importance to them. Example: “Which marketing channel is most valuable to your business?”, with options like Email, Social Media, Search as possible answers. 

  4. Dichotomous: Dichotomous questions can only have two possible answers. These are great for getting clear data points from your survey. Example: “Does your business currently have a documented marketing strategy?” The answer to this question is either yes or no. 

  5. Open-ended: Open-ended questions are great for gathering qualitative feedback. They can be harder to analyze than the other types of questions on this list, but the information they provide can be incredibly valuable. Open-ended questions tend to take longer for respondents to complete, so try to use them sparingly (a survey of 10 open-ended questions will have low completion rates). 

When compiling your survey, try to use a mix of these questions to keep it interesting for your respondents and to gather the most usual answers possible for your business. 

Use these tips when writing your survey questions:

  1. Keep it simple: Avoid using complicated language or jargon your respondents might not understand. 

  2. Ask one question at a time: Don’t use two questions at once. “Do you own marketing budgets and how often do you review your budgets?” should be two separate questions (even if you have an open-ended answer). 

  3. Avoid loaded questions: You might have desired outcomes in mind but don’t write loaded questions that might guide your respondents in a certain direction. Asking “why do you love Sumo?” assumes 1) the customer loves your brand, and 2) pushes them to give a positive answer. A better question would be: “How do apps like Sumo help your business?”

And finally, before sending out your survey, test it with other employees to ensure it’s easy to follow and simple to complete, or even send the survey to a small portion of your list. When you’re creating a survey from scratch, it can be easy to miss details or wording that might seem confusing. Always get your surveys reviewed by someone else before publishing them. 

3. Build The Survey

Creating surveys is pretty quick and easy. There are some great tools out there to help you; my two go-to tools are:


I tend to use Typeform for bigger, external surveys where we’re looking to generate responses from customers or audiences new to our business.

Typeform has a free plan, but its paid plans offer really powerful features such as custom designs, survey logic (so you can ask follow-ups based on how respondents answer questions), and unlimited questions.

Google Forms

Google Forms is a great free survey tool. It offers a range of question types and customizations and automatically creates spreadsheets from your answers for easy analysis. 

How To Get Responses To Your Survey

Without responses, creating a survey is a waste of time. Too often, distribution is an afterthought. You need a clear plan on how you’ll promote your survey.

Here are four ways I promote surveys to generate relevant and valuable responses.

1. Post In Relevant Communities 

No matter your niche, there is bound to be a community focused on your business area somewhere online. These communities are a great place to connect with survey respondents.

To promote our State of Social survey, we partnered with a popular social media marketing group on Facebook called “The Social Media Geek Out.”

This post helped generate hundreds of survey responses from our target audience.

But be warned, newcomers who join communities and start promoting their own content right away usually aren’t often welcomed too warmly. Here are two strategies to get the best survey responses from existing communities:

  1. Join ahead of time: Become an active participant in each community long before you plan to ask for help. This results in greater trust, and often more support within the community. 

  2. Work with community founders: Spoiler alert… Our post in “The Social Media Geek Out” worked so well because Matt, the group’s founder, posted it for us (we paid for this). If you want to get the most out of communities, paying for sponsored posts or working with founders to get your survey out there can bring in many more results than simply posting and hoping for the best.

2. Email Your Subscribers (And Customers)

Your existing subscribers and customers are one of the best sources for high-quality, relevant survey responses.

Every year at Buffer, we run an editorial survey to learn how we can improve our blog. This survey is sent to our blog newsletter subscribers:

When you’re emailing your existing audience about a survey, it’s important to highlight what’s in it for them.

Rather than simply saying, “here’s how you can help us,” try to offer benefits to your audience too. For example, with our editorial survey we mentioned that responses help us “keep producing content that is relevant and useful” for our audience.

Your existing audience will also know and trust your brand more than people who aren’t familiar with you, so these people will be more likely to complete your survey and give you valuable answers.

3. Offer Rewards

Believe it or not… people aren’t sitting around all day waiting to fill out your surveys. So a little encouragement can go a long way.

Offering a reward is one of the best ways to encourage people to take action and respond to a survey.

Here’s how Patch, a house plant business, uses rewards to encourage people to take its post-purchase survey:

Vouchers and discounts are a great way to get more people to take your surveys. But you also don’t have to offer financial incentives. You could think about offering these to your survey respondents:

  • Early access to new products
  • Exclusive content
  • Q&As with your team

With our State of Social survey, we once offered respondents exclusive access to the results before we released them publicly. 

4. Partner With Other Brands

Partnerships are one of my favorite marketing tactics.

Partnerships let you reach new audiences through brands that have already gained their trust.

For example, an email to Sumo blog subscribers from Sumo is more likely to generate responses than a campaign from a third-party targeting Sumo’s audience.

Whenever I run a survey that isn’t specifically about Buffer, I try to find a partner that has a similar audience that we can collaborate with to generate more survey responses.

For example, on the State of Social surveys, we’ve partnered with:

  • Social Chain: A global social media agency
  • Social Media Week: A series of global marketing events and meetups
  • Product Hunt: A community of tech early adopters

Each of these brands has a similar audience to Buffer and enable us to extend the reach of our survey.

Create Your Very Own Survey Today

So there you have it: Five survey examples and use cases to help take your business to the next level. 

Whether you’re looking to create your next standout piece of content or learn how to improve your products or services, surveys can help. 

So get started today and unlock the power of surveys to grow your business.