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The Consumer Survey Is Dead?

Digital ConversationSerious question: is the customer survey dead?  Outside of linear data collection, I argue that there’s more insight to be gained from what customers say about you to others than what they say about you to you.

Collecting survey data is like counting the number of followers a business has on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll add more numbers to your pile of data but have you really learned anything? As a basis for strategic planning, surveys are notoriously fallible because they can be easily skewed to dictate an outcome; surveys rarely include context or external situational factors that more accurately indicate the customer’s opinion and attitude. To even attempt to glean some insights from customer surveys, marketers must consider the data collection method, visual layout,  respondent effort requested, question wording, question order, format, structure, behaviors to be measured, etc. Even with all that information, one must accept a margin of error based on the sample size, accuracy of data input, etc.

Influencing the Conversation

Marketers are waking up to the fact that they don’t control the online brand dialogue, which creates (or re-creates) the brand’s public perception and persona, so they’re forced to sway the conversation instead of controlling it. Influencing the overall message – or the voice of specific people within the conversation – requires more insight than that which surveys provide. To have an impact on brand dialogue or brand sentiment among a business’ audience, marketers must use text analytics to understand the undertone of conversations and what’s truly driving them. Surveys may provide indications of current trends but that same data also prevents analysts from reading the trend currents.

Further, proper use of text analytics in social conversation monitoring provides better direction on how a business brand may insert itself into the online dialogue. Without real-time sentiment analysis, brand missteps are too common an occurrence as witnessed in the recent Starbucks Twitter debacle. Public relations firms and PR professionals using analytics tools must take a more active role in the marketing process by inserting the audience’s intent and sentiment into pre-campaign planning.

Conversation Analytics in Sales & Marketing

PR and marketing teams must begin to lean heavily on tools such as Mantis’ PulseAnalytics™ to build more convertible lead funnels.  Visualizing what is driving the sentiment and tone of conversations among prospects will enable businesses to better nurture those prospects in the sales funnel and increase sales conversion ratios. Further, the growing popularity of the Social CRM practice and software requires more than the collection of prospects’ social profiles; Social CRM methodologies must include textual and contextual analysis of the conversations among those being monitored to become an actionable sales and marketing tactic.

For marketing and customer-service professionals, segmenting and analyzing the conversations of existing customers provides true insights into the real customer experience and customer intent. Surveys may report the share of wallet received from a customer or their stated intent to re-purchase in the future; however, those results cannot be relied upon as accurate indications of a customer’s future action.  Sentiment analysis is a more accurate indication of a customer’s true satisfaction and loyalty. Happy customers are not automatically brand advocates; loyal customers are not brand advocates by default. Customer advocates have an emotional connection created by their overall experiences with the brand, the product and the employees they’ve engaged with. Surveys may help identify those customer sub-sets but text analysis of their online conversations will aid marketing and customer-service teams to more effectively drive them from “satisfied customer” to “brand advocate”.

Be it for customer acquisition or customer development strategies, surveys have become dinosaurs in the marketing world.  Text analysis, not customer surveying should now be the standard operating procedure for customer insight, market research and product development,

Do you agree? Is the survey as a marketing analysis tool dead? Join the debate in the comments below.

Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego


Join the Conversation

Is Traditional Market Research Dying? | Our Take &
Is Traditional Market Research Dying? | Our Take & 5pts

[...] of our clients recently came across a blog post written by Sensei Marketing titled “Is the Consumer Survey Dead?” In it, the author, Sam Fiorella, discusses how more insight can be garnered from observing [...]

RebeccaTodd 5pts

Yes Sam!!! I feel the same, but didn't have the eloquence you've shown here. Saving this one!

chieflemonhead 5pts

Great post, Sam!


In my opinion, I think that the "survey", like "traditional advertising", must evolve. The value of a survey is to give lagging indicators - as responses usually come from a place of a past experience. The value of lagging indicators don't come from a single survey or a single point in time. This information has to be gathered over time - the amount of which would depend on the industry and the topic - in order to demonstrate valuable insight.


For example: The performance measures for the operation of an agency is a lagging indicator for the overall economy that impacts the agency's clients. Clients tend to sign agency contracts months or even a year in advance. Therefore, even if the economy spirals downward as it recently has, the client will be impacted but the agency will not, until the following year. By that time, it is possible that the client's economy begins to rebound but because they had been caught in the economic turmoil, they may have not renewed for future business. This is a B2B example, but similar examples can be shown in the consumer space.


All this to say: there is still value to surveys, but if used in isolation, the data and insight generated will not be valuable for future strategies. There is a wealth and incredible value to sentiment analysis, qualitative data analysis in real time afforded to us via the social space. I really appreciate the mention of Mantis' program; I will look into this more deeply. A good social listening and insight analysis tool is hard to come by!


Thanks for the post.


dbvickery 5pts

Wow, Sam - see this is why you are such a well-known blogging personality...I never could have written something this good! Thanks for mentioning Mantis Pulse Analytics. I agree that you have the virtual "firehose" of consumer input via social channels versus a flawed and small sample size with returned surveys. If doing a survey, then it needs to be more tightly integrated in social channels to at least increase the sample size. However, consumers are much more likely to praise or rant independent of any "structure" offered in a survey.


Before you start getting a lot of readers talking about "sentiment analysis is flawed and has trouble picking up sarcasm/etc." - let me agree with the naysayers. It is very difficult to pick up sarcasm, and no sentiment analysis tool will be perfect. The best you can hope for is a product that allows you to correct the initial sentiment analysis...and perhaps even "learn" from its mistakes for future scoring. You then get a more accurate sentiment analysis. Also, even if fallible, sentiment analysis - and the ability to easily segment consumers/topics as you've described - still provides you actionable intelligence to make business decisions. Intelligence you didn't have earlier other than through the smaller survey/focus group results you describe.


One last note: Some companies still want those survey results incorporated in their sentiment analysis, so we have incorporated survey results as separate datasources with Pulse collections. As one guy put it at a recent conference I attended "big data is the new algorithm". Get a huge sample size and the ability to quickly segment it, and it can only benefit your business decisions as you quickly identify trends and sentiment!


I look forward to the comments on this post, Sam!


  1. […] of our clients recently came across a blog post written by Sensei Marketing titled “Is the Consumer Survey Dead?” In it, the author, Sam Fiorella, discusses how more insight can be garnered from observing […]

  2. […] recently read an excellent blog post titled The Consumer Survey is Dead by Sam Fiorella, which was published about the same time I participated in a #CXO Twitter chat […]

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