Using survey tools to impact the lead-nurturing process

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Surveys often are considered a post-sales tool, to measure a customer's satisfaction and propensity to make a repeat purchase. As such, surveys are usually relegated to a supporting role in the marketer's toolkit.

I'd like to shift your perspective on this proven marketing tool and provide suggestions for how surveys can positively impact the lead-nurturing process.

Let's start with an analogy. Every couple of months, there seems to be another article about the indisputable value of e-mail as a direct-marketing tool. Despite the flash and sizzle of new mobile and social media-powered campaigns, marketers continue to leverage e-mail as a primary marketing channel because it's measurable, results-oriented and can be personalized. Few marketers can say the same today about mobile or social media tools.

In the same regard, it's time to start viewing surveys as an opportunity to sustain a conversation with a prospect—including driving customized offers—and not simply as a means to close the loop on a transaction.

Further, the e-mail analogy has even greater potency, in that surveys and e-mail can work together in a classic direct-marketing mode.

Consider a b-to-b prospect who is driven to a company's Web site and downloads a white paper. After several days, the company's marketing automation software is triggered to send a personalized e-mail to the prospect with a brief survey that asks for feedback on the white paper.

Possible survey questions the recipient can select from are: • I looked at it briefly but I need to take a closer look • I read it in great detail and it was brilliant • I read it in great detail and it was average • I don't plan to read it at all as my needs have since changed

The recipient's response dictates how the vendor engages next, and helps influence a more personalized follow-up message based on the prospect's feedback.

For example, if a prospect looked at the white paper and thought it was brilliant, the marketer then can send an e-mail with a limited-time offer for a discount product or services.

In this way, you are creating another opportunity to have a discussion, and get closer to a sale. Surveys are a critical component of a closed-loop feedback system whose value can extend beyond direct marketing to product development and partnership strategies.


In addition to the white paper example above, surveys can be used to get input on attendance at an event or qualify interest. Surveys also can be used to better understand prospect pain points, in order to fine-tune messages and better customize future offers.

An e-mailed survey also could request that a prospect identify channel preferences for receiving new-product information, or inquire about what information would be most helpful for influencing a purchase decision, be it a white paper, webinar, demo or some other channel.

To positively impact the sales pipeline, survey tools should be tightly linked with a centralized marketing automation system that captures history and preferences in order to enrich the multidimensional marketing view of a customer or prospect.

By capturing feedback and responses to previous survey questions, direct marketers can use those data to influence the next steps in the lead-nurturing process and, ultimately, accelerate conversions to the pipeline.

Yes, social media is all the buzz today, and mobile marketing is grabbing attention as well. But in practice, few b-to-b marketers are fully proficient at analyzing the unstructured data generated by mobile or social media channels, much less at tracking and measuring those channels to make them part of a completely integrated campaign that drives a conversation with a prospect.

By comparison, surveys are proven, reliable, measurable tools that can help sustain dialogues and deliver customized offers that drive sales.

It's time to dust off these traditional direct-marketing tools and make them work for your modern lead-management programs. The results may surprise you.

Stephan Dietrich is president of enterprise marketing software provider Neolane Inc. ( He can be reached at