I’d like to take this opportunity to take a quick survey:

Do you want to make better email marketing decisions?

Do you want to give your readers more relevant content?

Do you want to have a leg up on your competition?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions then it’s time you learn a thing or two about collecting customer feedback.

It all starts with six questions:

1. Who will be reading your emails?

What I am about to tell you may be the single most important piece of email marketing advice that you ever receive …

Don’t write your email newsletter for you, write it for the reader.

It may seem obvious, but even the most experienced marketers sometimes lose sight of the fact that they are writing for an audience, not for themselves.

How do you make sure you’re doing that? Just ask your readers.

2. What information are your readers interested in?

Unless you want to spend all day sending individual emails or going door-to-door with a clipboard—the best way to get feedback from your email newsletter is to use a survey.

When creating your survey you want to start at the end, which is to say, start with what you’re hoping to find out and then formulate the questions around that goal.

Some of the topics you may want to focus on include:

  • Content: Is what you’re sending helpful or relevant to your reader?
  • Length: Are you saying too much? Are you saying too little?
  • Frequency: Are your customers feeling overwhelmed or under-engaged?
  • Readability: Is your newsletter easy to read?

3. How do you get the information you need from your readers?

Now I know “How?” is usually reserved for last, but when it comes to using surveys to improve email marketing results, how you ask your questions can be just as important as what you’re asking.

Here are some things you need to be aware of when formulating your questions:

  • Keep it short: Your customers won’t mind taking the time to fill out your survey, but they don’t want it to take all day. If possible, keep your survey to 10 questions or less.
  • Start smart: Your respondents are going to be most engaged when they start your survey, but it’s also when they are going to decide if your survey is really worth their time. Start with the most important topics and use shorter questions.
  • Know when to use closed- versus open-ended questions: Use closed-ended questions when you’re looking for a controlled and more specific response, and open-ended questions when you’re looking for feedback that is more general.
  • Pay attention to the order: Again, remember to put the most important questions at the beginning of your survey and also make sure the order of your questions makes sense.
  • Take action: If people are taking the time to fill out your survey, they’re going to want to see you put their feedback into action. Don’t just do a survey for the sake of doing one, listen to what your customers have to say.

4. Where should your survey “live”?

When deciding where to put (or send) your survey, you need to consider what audience you’re targeting and how you want it to be presented to them. Are you looking for immediate feedback, or are you just looking to provide a place for customers to share their thoughts, opinions, or ideas for your newsletter?

  • Email: There are two ways you can use email to get feedback on your newsletter. For the best and most immediate response, send a targeted email with your survey to your contact list. If you’re more interested in providing a place for ongoing feedback, you can embed a link into your email newsletter with a call to action like “Tell us what you thought” or “Share your feedback.”
  • Website: If you’re using your newsletter to drive traffic to your website, it can be a good idea to include a link to your survey on the site. This is particularly important for online retailers looking to drive sales.
  • Social media: There’s a good chance a lot of your subscribers are also fans or followers of your business. Sharing your survey on Facebook or sending it out as a “tweet” can help connect with some of your unengaged readers. (It’s also a great way to show your social community that you care about their feedback and will encourage them to join your list.)

5. When should you send emails to your readers?

Understanding “the when” means understanding the appropriate timing and frequency for sending your survey and collecting feedback. Keep in mind, when it comes to your newsletter, people’s opinions aren’t likely to change on a week-to-week basis. Sending a survey once-a-year can help you keep the pulse of your readership and stay ahead of any issues.

You may want to consider other times too:

  • When you try something new: Have you launched a new design or revamped your content strategy? Give it a few editions and then check in to see what people think.
  • When you see a decrease in opens and clicks: If you’re seeing a negative trend in your opens or click-throughs, a survey can help you find out why.
  • When you add new contacts: Sending a targeted survey to your new subscribers can help you learn more about their interests and whether or not you’re meeting their expectations.

6. Why do you need all of this information?

Collecting feedback from your customers will let you make better decisions, drive more relevant content, and overall improve the results of your email marketing efforts.

But it’s also about doing something a lot of businesses are forgetting to do: listening to their customers.

Do you use customer feedback to get better results from your email marketing? Let us know how in the comments below!