Last year I wanted to build a “decision engine” – a customizable WordPress plugin that would allow users to answer a few quick questions and arrive at relevant recommendations.
Those recommendations could be your own product or service offerings, or affiliate offers.
I even went so far as to have the project quoted out by a professional plug-in developer. The estimated cost was over $5000.
And I’m so glad I didn’t do it. Here’s why:
I discovered that Google Docs could do 90% of what I wanted for the low low price of FREE. The answer was their free Forms tool, which allows you to make custom surveys and embed them into your website.
The only downside was I couldn’t figure out how to redirect visitors to a customized results page based on their survey answers, so I just added an email input at the end and promised I would email them their results.
Almost as an afterthought, I added a final question that asked respondents if they’d like to subscribe to the email newsletter (and offered the free ebook that all subscribers get).
Initially I was hesitant about this bottleneck in the process, but the results speak for themselves. In six months since embedding the Google Docs survey, respondents make up 22% of new list subscribers.
These are incremental subscribers I might not otherwise have been able to capture. And beyond the new avenue for opt-ins, the survey has also provided a number of other unexpected positives.
- Providing a genuinely helpful service visitors love
- Incremental customer engagement – a chance to start a conversation
- Incremental affiliate sales
Of course, it did take some time to craft the survey questions and build out the response templates.
But now that the response templates are written, I can send out recommendations that look and feel like personalized emails (because they are!), and spend less than 10 minutes a week doing it.
Here’s how to get started with a survey tool of your own
The first step is to outline in Word or on paper the 3-5 questions your survey will have. They need to closed-ended so they’re quick to answer, but detailed enough to give you the insight necessary to make valid recommendations.
For example, I ask users on my Virtual Assistant site where they prefer their potential new VA to be located. This allows me to skip a possible follow-up question regarding budget or pricing because in general, everyone knows a North American VA will cost more than someone in India or the Philippines.
I would also avoid open-ended questions like “describe your perfect t-shirt” (maybe you’re running a clothing company). This can be stressful for respondents and hurt your completion rate. Many visitors will still be in the research stage of their buying process and may not yet have a clear vision of what their perfect t-shirt (or whatever) is like.
The basic idea is to gather enough information to start a meaningful dialogue, but not too much that visitors have to recount their entire life story to finish the survey.
Building the Survey
Once you’ve got your outline set up, you’re ready to build your survey.
First, go to Google Docs (now called Google Drive). On the left hand side, choose Create, and then Forms from the dropdown menu that appears.
That should take you to a new blank form, where you can start creating your questions. The initial screen will look something like this:
From there, you can enter in the questions you have from your outline. Multiple choice questions and checkbox questions work best.
At the end, you’ll want to make sure to add a text-entry question for people to enter their email address. Ask, “Where can I send the recommendations?” and check the box to make it a required question.
And here’s where you can get fancy with your newsletter sign-ups as well.
Add a multiple choice question that asks if people would like to join your mailing list and receive a free bonus (ebook, or whatever else you use to incent sign-ups). It will looks like this:
Google Forms allows you to add page breaks and to customize the “theme” of your survey as well.
When you have a survey you’re happy with hit Save and it will be saved to your Google Drive account.
The problem is you won’t have any way of knowing when someone completes your survey. A simple free add-on solves that problem.
It’s called FormEmailer.
Here’s how to set it up.
From your main Google Drive page, select your survey.
That will open up a spreadsheet of your (empty) survey results.
From there, go to Tools > Script Gallery.
In the search box, enter “FormEmailer”
Install the one by firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow the prompts.
Once the installation is complete, go back to Sheet1 of the Spreadsheet, which should still show your empty results. Click Tools > Script Editor.
Then choose Resources > Current Script’s Triggers.
Then you want to add a Time-Driven trigger onFormSubmit. It will look like this:
Testing Your Survey
From the spreadsheet view, select Form > Embed Form on a Webpage.
Copy the script that pops up into a page of your choice. You may need to edit the height and width to make it look right.
Find that page and test your survey. If all goes well, you should have a response notification in your inbox!
Use this lean marketing strategy to promote increased engagement on your site and generate more leads.
I also put together a short video which walks you through all these steps: