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Why use polls in marketing

Why should you ask your customers what they think? What do they know?!

Diane Hall


people looking over a product online

Ask ten people a question and it’s highly likely you’ll get ten different answers. Why would anyone want to muddy their carefully-written marketing strategy with the thoughts of the buying public?

Of course it’s important to listen to your customers if you want to provide the things they seek – we’re being facetious. But, we do have a point – too many opinions can confuse the issue at hand. Additionally, one of the first rules in business is understanding that you will never be able to please everyone.

So, how do you get useful information from your target audience without opening up the floor to every thought they’ve ever had?

One way is by using a LinkedIn poll (particularly if you’re B2B - or a Facebook poll if you’re B2C, perhaps).

When creating your poll, define the ‘answers’ to your question or query that you believe to be relevant and place these in the form/framework provided by the specific platform. Make sure to include an ‘Other’ box as a response option…you never know, an absolute golden nugget that you’ve not thought of may rear its head.

Polls can reflect the public’s general consensus by clearly highlighting one response. However, you could see an even split between two or more responses. If this should be the case, consider doing away with the lowest scored responses and reframing your question in a follow-up poll, and drilling down further with the responses that saw a reaction.

Use polls to determine people’s interest in an event before you begin shelling out deposits to venues and caterers. Or design a poll to test the water and eliminate options if you’re rebranding and have a few different visions. 

A poll could come in useful if you’re not seeing the level of sales of your product/service that you expected – whilst critique from your customer base, peers and business network (and maybe even perfect strangers) may bruise your ego a little, such feedback will save you a lot of time and money by cutting to the chase and side-stepping any assumptions you may be making. In this instance, create your poll with general responses, such as ‘priced too high’ or ‘unable to find a need for this’, to pinpoint where you may need to carry out more research and/or competitor analysis.

Framing responses via a poll saves time in the long run. Asking ‘what’s wrong with my offering?’ as an open-ended question could see a raft of unrelated, unhelpful answers, which is what makes polls such instantly helpful, insightful tools. For some people, it’s too difficult or time-consuming to consider what their answer should be when faced with a blank sheet, as opposed to simply agreeing/disagreeing with something already suggested.

You don’t just have to make polls about you/your product – you can use them to define what challenges your buyers are currently facing. Maybe they’re saving their pennies and not making any unnecessary purchases (for example, many people are spending conservatively at the moment, due to job uncertainty and other issues the pandemic has thrown up); a lack of sales may therefore be down to buyers’ circumstances and have nothing to do with the appeal or quality of your product. How would you know this, though, without asking?

If a poll has helped you reach a conclusion in the past, consider repeating the process a few months down the line. Because things change. People’s circumstances change. The market can change. 

Market research is as crucial to a business as ever. The benefit nowadays is that we can use tools such as online polls to gather valuable consumer information rather than standing outside a shopping centre with a clipboard, like people would have done in the past.

Polls, when used well, can provide a mine of useful information; however, resist the temptation to create too many. Asking everything from ‘What should I do next?’ to ‘What’s better than sliced bread?’ may give the impression that you lack any knowledge or insight about your industry…!

So, what are your thoughts? Are polls for you?

Tweet your response to @intheknowemag. Answer ‘A’ if you think: Absolutely! ‘B’ for ‘Nah, it’s not my thing’ or ‘C’ for ‘I use something different to gather this sort of intel...’

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