Understanding where your customers come from is one of the keys to making sure that your marketing is working and that it’s as effective as it can be. While online analytical tools can provide some clues, many businesses turn to surveys to ask their customers direct questions about how they first heard about their company.

But many of these surveys ask the wrong questions, or don’t structure the survey in a way that provides actionable information. After all, some of your customers won’t really remember the first time they heard about your product, especially if you rely on more than one marketing channel or SEO strategy.

The goal is not to get a statistically sound data set, but to draw out information that you can use alongside other analytical data. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the questions you should include in your “How did you hear about us?” survey.

Why do you need to ask customers ‘how did you hear about us?’

Before you start sending out your survey, take some time to get a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. There are several reasons for sending out surveys that may not be obvious at first glance, but that your sales and marketing teams will thank you for.

1. Keep your CRM up to date

First, customer surveys of any kind are a useful source of data for your CRM. Whether you’re sending out the survey to a first-time customer or to repeat purchasers, surveys allow you to collect new information that goes beyond the specific survey questions.

This includes contact details, such as phone numbers and email addresses, as well as analytical data, such as who opens your email and engages with the survey.

You can automatically input this data into your CRM, creating new customer records for those who haven’t yet made a purchase, and updating the contact record for those who are already in the system. Additionally, you can segment your list based on how people heard about your company and send them personalized follow-up emails.

Many CRMs allow you to integrate surveys directly into the platform, making it easy to send out new surveys at each stage of the customer lifecycle.

2. Supplement your online analytics

While companies that rely heavily on inbound marketing will have plenty of analytics to draw from, that data isn’t always easy to interpret. Sometimes a spike in traffic doesn’t have an obvious source, or doesn’t lead to a noticeable increase in sales.

Sending out surveys to customers who signed up, but didn’t make a purchase, or asking visitors what brought them to your site in the first place, can help explain the why behind your data. For example, if you know that a lot of your visitors are coming from a search engine, you can ask them for specific information, like what search terms they used.

Another case in which online analytics may not tell the whole story is when you host an in-person event. Sending out a “how did you hear about us?” survey to all ticket holders, or providing a unique survey link to attendees when they leave the event, can help you collect details from in-person customers who have never visited your website.

3. Conduct market research

Third, sending out “how did you hear about us” surveys can tell you more than just what sources drive customers to your site. It can also tell you what they were looking for. You can use this information to find out if your customers are happy with the options that are available to them, or if there’s room for meeting their needs with additional products.

If customers came to your website looking for one thing, but left with another, then that may mean that something’s working, but maybe not the thing that you expected. Maybe they find your software tutorials really helpful, but they aren’t actually interested in your product. In this case, they came looking for guidance, not to make a purchase.

You can use the information gathered in your survey to adjust your marketing efforts, to make more accurate sales forecasts, or to roll out a new product altogether.

Five things your ‘how did you hear about us?’ survey must include:

So, what questions should you include in your “how did you hear about us?” survey. The first question is self-explanatory, but some of the others might surprise you. Not only is it important to ask the right questions, but you need to leave room for the right answers.

Here are the five most important questions to include in your survey:

1) How did you hear about us?

This question is your primary reason for sending out the survey, so it’s important to get as much information as you can from it.

The biggest mistake that companies make with this question is to provide a limited set of answers or to allow for only a single response to the question.

In reality, customers often hear about products or services in more than one place, and they may not remember exactly which one came first or was most persuasive.

If someone’s interested in building a website, for example, they might search for useful resources on Google, and also listen to podcasts on web design. Or maybe they used a search term to find your website, but were already familiar with your product.

As a company, it’s in your best interest to know all of the advertising sources that are reaching your customers, not just one.

To dig a little deeper, you could ask “How did you first hear about us?” and then, “How else did you hear about us?” You can allow the respondent to check multiple boxes or provide a free text field for the customer to elaborate.

Drop down lists are easier to process, since they don’t require a manual tally, but it’s still important to make sure that the options are as specific as possible. If you advertise your product on a particular podcast or search engine, include that source on your list.

After all, it’s far more useful to know that your customers are finding you from a specific source than that they found you via “online ads” or “social media.”

2) Who referred you to us?

This question is most useful if you’re developing a referral program, or if your customer has answered “a friend” in response to your previous question.

It also gives the customer an incentive to reply, because you can offer an explanation for asking the question: because you want to send a thank-you to their friend.

This strategy should only be used if you genuinely intend to follow up with the person who referred them; after all, it’s easy for them to find out if you don’t.

If you do, then this strategy offers two main benefits:

First, it helps you find out which customers think highly enough of your products that they’re sending more customers your way. You can send them a free gift or a special offer, or, if they have a substantial online following, make the relationship official and turn them into a brand ambassador of social media influencer.

Second, it shows your new customer that you value your existing relationships, and encourages them to refer your product to their own networks.

Including this question in your survey -- and making good on your promises to send a thank-you -- shows your customers that you don’t take them for granted.

It can also help you determine whether your word-of-mouth referrals are coming from friends and family, or from professional contacts and coworkers.

If several customers list the same name, then that may mean you have a passionate advocate out there or that your product is generating some buzz in their industry.

3) Which search terms did you use to find us?

Figuring out how your customers found you requires a little detective work. After all, the most immediate source -- a link they clicked -- may not be where their search began. It’s only the most recent link in a chain of search engine results or social media posts.

Maybe they read half a dozen articles before stumbling across your website and buying your product. Still, it’s useful to know what initiated their search. What did they open up their search engine to find? What problem were they trying to solve?

Instead of asking your customers which search engine they used, dig a little deeper and ask them which search terms they used. This is key to making sure that your website is optimized for the most common keywords and search terms your visitors are using.

Some survey tools, like SurveyMonkey, let you search for these keywords in the text responses to your survey questions, making it even easier to analyze the results.

4) Were you able to find what you were looking for?

This question serves two purposes: it helps you determine whether or not your product or service is what your visitors came to find, as well as whether or not your website was easy enough for them to navigate in order to purchase a product.

Remember, just because a customer buys a product doesn’t mean that was the product they were looking for. They may have bought something else that caught their attention, but are still on the lookout for something that you aren’t offering yet.

Or, maybe the product they really wanted was hidden on another page of your site, and it was only poor UX design that prevented them from finding it.

This question is particularly useful if you’re struggling to convert visitors to your website, and can’t figure out why your visitors are leaving empty-handed. By asking customers whether or not they found what they were looking for, you can take steps to improve your sales funnel and ensure that future visitors don’t give up halfway through.

5) How likely are you to recommend our company?

This is one of the most common customer satisfaction questions, and it can be used at nearly any stage in the customer lifecycle. This question asks for an answer on a scale of 0 to 10, which can be used to determine your Net Promoter Score.

This score helps you assess your general customer satisfaction level, as well as to see which customers are satisfied, disappointed, or ambivalent.

You can send it in response to a specific action -- such as after a purchase or following a customer support request -- or as part of your “how did you hear about us” survey.

Those customers who respond with a 9 or 10 are considered “Promoters,” and can be prompted to leave a positive review of your product.

Customers who respond with a 6 or less are considered “Detractors.” They might be willing to offer constructive feedback if you follow up with an apology and a “How can we improve?” email, or you may be better off removing them from your list.

Those who are in the middle are “Passives,” and are on the fence about your company. Their feedback might be the most valuable, because they can indicate what steps you need to take in order to turn them into more engaged customers.

They might be swayed by a special offer, information on upcoming products that are more aligned with their needs, or more guidance on how to use your product.

Automate your referral surveys for the most useful marketing data.

These are just a few of the questions you can ask to gather more valuable data from the surveys you send to your customers. To make the most of your survey data, use a CRM to automate the survey process from start to finish.

With a CRM like OnCourse, you can send specific surveys to different segments of your customer base to get the most accurate and actionable data.

Plus, you can integrate your CRM with online survey tools like SurveyMonkey, making it easy to create surveys and analyze your responses.

From market research to customer satisfaction, surveys provide additional insights into your customers’ needs than you can get from analytics alone.

Reach out to the team at OnCourse today to request a demo and find out how a CRM can help streamline your surveys and act on the results!