Boost SMB Awareness with Branded Surveys

Want to increase awareness and reinforce your reputation as an advocate for and thought leader among small and midsize businesses (SMBs)? Consider a branded or “thought leadership” survey. A range of SMB marketers, from ADP to Wells Fargo, use surveys to boost awareness, brand perception and sales.Bredin has been helping leading marketers develop successful branded surveys in the SMB space for more than 20 years. Here’s Founder Alice Bredin on branded survey best practices:


How can a thought leadership survey build credibility with SMBs?

SMBs are increasingly turning to their vendors for tips and advice on managing their business. According to our latest research, vendor websites are now the No. 1 destination for SMB owners seeking advice. And the best advice is built on the kind of unique and actionable data that surveys can provide.

A survey can also generate great media exposure, since reporters and editors are always looking for new data and interesting stories. In fact, many marketers use thought leadership surveys almost exclusively for public relations and awareness. Surveys enhance your reputation as an industry expert and reinforce your position as a small business advocate, which in turn drives awareness, brand perception, site traffic, leads and sales.


What are the keys to developing a good survey?

First and foremost, you need a theme that’s consistent with your brand. Here are some examples:

American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor: Business outlook / financial management
MasterCard SpendingPulse for Small Business: Sales
SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard: Hiring
Symantec Disaster Preparedness Survey: Business continuity

Start by listing the topics that SMBs could see your brand as an expert on. Be sure your theme is unique by checking what other companies in your industry are doing. Finally, be sure the topic is compelling to SMBs. And don’t narrow the topic too much, since you’ll need some room to develop an interesting story.

When you field your survey, collect demographic data so you can segment responses by key subgroups such as industry, number of employees, location, age and gender. Don’t use your survey, though, to test product plans, segmentation or other internal research goals. Instead, consider including two or three provocative questions that relate to your company and your products or services. This can add color and help you get media attention.


How often should I conduct a survey?

A one-time survey can be valuable, especially if it addresses a timely topic, but you’ll get a bigger payoff with a periodic survey. That way, you can identify trends, which can make your story more compelling to reporters. As you build a “brand” for your survey, you’ll be more likely to receive media coverage.


What other results can a survey generate?

A press release is just the first step. Survey data can also be the basis for a wide range of content such as articles, blog posts, checklists, infographics, interactive tools, motion graphics, videos and webcasts. This content can be a great asset to support your search marketing efforts and fill the top of your sales funnel. You can also use the data to support your sales force directly, for example by educating them on SMB pain points or industry trends.


How should I promote my survey?

When you pitch your survey results to the media, be sure you’re targeting the right reporters and bloggers. Focus on small business media, not industry-specific or general business reporters and bloggers. And when you pitch your story, don’t push your products or services. That’s a quick way to burn a bridge.

Distribute your press release and content through every marketing channel at your disposal, including your website, email newsletter and social media. Line up a spokesperson who can talk to reporters and add perspective to the data.


How can I expect to benefit?

The media coverage you receive depends in part on the quality of your survey data and story line, your timing and the effort you put into media outreach. While the media exposure can be much more cost-effective than an ad campaign, you may find that you drive more site traffic and leads from the content you develop from your survey data than from the media coverage.

Keep in mind that branded surveys deliver both easy-to-measure (such as media impressions and site visits) and hard-to-measure (such as brand perception and loyalty) benefits. A well-designed, sustained and strongly promoted survey is a highly cost-effective component of an overall SMB marketing strategy.


Let Bredin help you plan and execute a branded SMB survey, develop related content and boost your SMB awareness and sales.


About Alice Bredin

Alice is America's foremost small business expert, with over 20 years of experience in the small business market. She has provided highly practical, actionable advice to countless entrepreneurs through her books, syndicated newspaper column, radio commentary and advice on small business forums on AOL, the Microsoft Network and elsewhere. Her unique insight into the needs of this audience has made her an invaluable resource to leading SMB marketers.