Before you send that survey out…don’t


Last year I may have told more clients not to do a survey than I helped them to do one. I know it sounds crazy coming from someone who’s company makes roughly half of their revenue from market research, but it’s true. As someone who leads a firm of professionals that write, field, and analyze survey data I’m here to tell you don’t waste your time or money. At least until you’ve answered a few questions.

  • Do you have the money to afford hiring a professional company to write, conduct and analyze the survey results? In many cases outside firms charge  a significant amount of money. On the opposite side, if you try a free service with premade templates a few things could happen. First, your customers may be irritated because they realize you’re treatangry-monkeying them like second class citizens by monkeying around with a free survey. Second, you could make unsound business decisions based off of bad or incomplete data.



  • Do you have the time and resources to act on the survey results? This means once the results are analyzed and strategies are clear, do you have the resources (money, manpower, time) to act on these strategies? If not, don’t even think about fielding a survey. Can you imagine being a customer of a company that thinks enough to survey you, but then doesn’t think enough of you to do anything about your answers? That’s exactly how your customers will feel and guess what, they’ll leave in droves.
  • Is the question or questions you’re trying to answer “it would be nice to know” instead of “it’s vital we understand…”  Then don’t waste your time. These days, because the thought every company has of feeling pressured to survey their customers consumers are experiencing survey fatigue. Speaking of survey fatigue, if you’ve recently launched a survey, find a different approach to getting your answers. In-depth interviews or focus groups may be your best friend in this case.

I love surveys when they’re done right, at the right time and for the right reasons. Surveys are incredibly rewarding when deep insights are found within the results and those insights can be acted upon. I’m just asking please consider these questions before you decide to go ahead and send a survey to the customers you value so much.

There’s probably 10 more reasons not to launch a survey and if you need help answering these questions or want to be told not to do a survey (or maybe it’s a good idea!) shoot me an email or pick up the phone. I’d love to help your organization out.

img_4503Ryan Royal runs the day to day operations at Big Buck Research & Analytics, a full service market research and database analytics firm that levels the playing field for small and mid sized businesses. He enjoys living life as a husband, father and business owner. You can follow Ryan on LinkedIn, and Big Buck on Twitter, and Facebook or subscribe to the monthly digest!

In Order to Go Big, Start Small


By now every mid to large sized company on the earth is collecting customer data. Some do it better than others, and some use that data better than others. These giant companies didn’t just start with stockpiles of customer data, they had to start somewhere and so do you. There are many ways to begin collecting customer data, but no matter how you do it there’s a few things to always keep in mind.

Your customers are people just like you and me. We don’t like to be bothered with time consuming or invasive questionnaires after our very first interaction with a business. Sometimes in business I feel like we forget we’re just interacting with other people just like us. If you were at a party and someone came up to you to talk, I hope you wouldn’t bombard them with how awesome you are and then ask them random seemingly unconnected personal questions.

Keep it brief and simple, and in my opinion be upfront and completely honest with them about what you’re going to do with that information. Capture a first name and an email off the bat, don’t worry, they’ll be plenty of time to find out more about them. If you’re asking for that name and email, tell them that you’d like way to communicate with them about your business, special offers etc.

57% of consumers say they’re willing to share personal data in exchange for personalized offers or discounts – Salesforce “State of the Connected Consumer”

There’s no one right way to start collecting basic information from your customers. Look at how your customers interact with your business and use that. Do they shop online? Maybe they pay at a cash register. Whatever way they consume your information or buy from you there’s an opportunity to ask for some basic info.

If you look at collecting data as something you’re doing FOR the customer it starts to make a big difference. Think about how it will make shopping with you more fun, more efficient, and more rewarding for your customers! Once the data starts to pour in you’ll be able to tailor offers to each customer (just like every big business in the world) and they’ll feel like you understand them on a personal level.

More than half (52%) of consumers are somewhat likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize their communications to them – Salesforce “State of the Connected Consumer”

Not only that, but you’ll start to understand your customers better and realize what they have in common so you can start to market to non-customers that are similar to your best customers. This is yet another HUGE advantage that large companies have utilized…until now.

This patient measured approach will be the foundation for a great relationship with your customers as well as the roots of a powerful database that will allow you to interact with your consumers like large companies do. Your customers will now experience all the personalized comforts of dealing with a large business but with your unique small business approach and your marketing will be infinitely more efficient and profitable.

Additional resources if you’re interested:


Ryan Royal runs the day to day operations at Big Buck Research & Analytics, a full service market research and database analytics firm that levels the playing field for small and mid sized businesses. He enjoys living life as a husband, father and business owner. You can follow Ryan on LinkedIn, and Big Buck on Twitter, and Facebook or subscribe to the monthly digest!


Thinking about transparency

I watched a Simon Sinek talk last night about transparency and honesty, it got me thinking about something that’s been bugging me for a while now. I feel like as small business owners we think we have to act big and say how amazing everything is no matter how far that may be from the truth.

Deep down I used to fear that, despite our experience and references, if I revealed that we were a company ran by 2 people that happen to be married we’d be thought of as a fraud or another garage based pyramid scheme selling body wraps or diet pills. Sure we hire some awesome people we know when we have huge projects, but day in and day out? It’s mostly me sitting at my computer analyzing data, trying to schedule meetings, going to meetings, thinking, drinking coffee, writing, and working.

I’ve learned how much courage and conviction it takes to run your own business, and that there’s never a time when it’s glamourous. There’s a reason that you’re a small business owner and I am too. Sometimes I think part of it may be that we like punishment, but mostly I think it’s the reward of doing something. Really doing something.

I feel like when you’re honest with another small business owner and get past the bullshit we find out that we all struggle. At times I’ve got too much work, at times I’m grinding trying to find that next client. I’ve sat in my office and wondered out loud if I’m crazy, if I should pack it in and go back to the corporate life.

We’ve got a daughter who’s almost 2 now and she spends most days away from us while we work which sucks, but especially so on the days where it seems like nothing gets done. I know you know how it feels, every day, every moment away from our loved ones has to be worth it right?

We keep going though. I have faith that there’s more business owners just like me out there and we’ll find each other.  I don’t cure cancer, I’m not researching a way to end world hunger, if you are that’s awesome! As small business owners in our little part of the world we’re all just people, people that are trying to do something fulfilling together.

Well, my daughter is home today and just woke up from her nap. I hope some of this resonates with you and helps you realize you’re not alone.


Ryan Royal runs the day to day operations at Big Buck Research & Analytics, a full service market research and database analytics firm that levels the playing field for small and mid sized businesses. He enjoys living life as a husband, father and business owner. You can follow Ryan on LinkedIn, and Big Buck on Twitter, and Facebook or subscribe to the blog!



Great Expectations

No no no. I’m not talking about the Charles Dickens novel, I’m talking about your customers.

Time has a funny way of moving on no matter what we do, the same can be said about consumers; their tastes, preferences, opinions, and expectations are constantly changing and evolving. This is important to remember because what may have worked in the past, may not be good enough now.

It’s vital to the success of any business to stay in tune with their customers and deliver experiences that at a bare minimum meet expectations. The hope is by understanding what is expected you can take the next step and exceed it!


“The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.” – Roy Hollister Williams, New York Times and Wall Street Journal best selling author

I recently took my vehicle in for servicing and was very pleased at both the communication and the outcome of the experience. After I picked up my car, I received a text message to take a one question survey, and being in charge of a survey research company I’m always interested in participating. This is what I received:

Did we meet or exceed your expectations?

Look, I applaud their interest in keeping the survey short, and I’m glad they care about me and the rest of their customers. The huge problem is, if I answer “yes” then the company doesn’t have any clue whether they just barely met my expectations or they did an amazing job. The only answer that they can do anything with is a “NO” answer, otherwise they have no idea how well their service is doing over time and if there are any issues that need to be headed off before it becomes disastrous.

First Steps










If you’re reading the stuff I write then I’ll assume that you aim to do MORE than just meet customer expectations, you want to WOW them! How can I help you get there?

  1. Survey your customers to find what they expect from your company.
  2. Ask what they expect from companies in the same industry as yours.
  3. Identify weaknesses in what you’re delivering as well as strong areas your business has over the competition.

Once you start to see the results from your surveying then it’s time to go to work

To me this whole process is fun (I’m a dork) most of the time though, this is where our clients get excited about the project. The results start coming in, now they know what the heck is in their customers heads and we can address/capitalize on all of the data!

3 steps on how to move forward:

  1. Fix the areas where your business is under delivering on customer expectations.
  2. Identify how you can rise above the accepted “industry standard”.
  3. Craft your advertising and brand your messages around the competitive advantages you have.

As usual, I’ve kept it to the basics but each time I write one of these posts I do so in the hopes that it will help someone start down the path of running their business more efficiently and more profitably. I believe that understanding how your business is meeting expectations is a pillar in the difference between long term success and failure.

If you have questions about what we do or how we can help your business exceed customer expectations, shoot us an email:

Our solutions benefit from two approaches under one roof: survey research and database analytics. Whether you want to learn more about your competitors, your customers, your prospects, or your employees, our holistic approach will ensure your objectives are met with scientifically sound methods customized to get to the root of your business challenges– not just address the symptoms. 




From Retention to Acquisition

What happens after you start putting in the effort to actually make your current customers happy and keep them longer? I believe there’s a snowball effect of momentum, but just as important you’ll have the tools and systems in place to go out and efficiently find more people that would enjoy your business.

First Steps

We’ll work off of the assumption that since you truly care about your customers you’re surveying them frequently, following up on feedback, and fixing any areas of your business that appear to be causing a pattern of unhappy customers. (we covered these steps last week, in case you missed it click here)

Through the survey process and any other systems you have in place hopefully you’ve been gathering customer information. Data such as demographics, purchase history, issues or complaints, and any other information that makes sense for your business to track. If you haven’t been doing this, the best time to start is now.

Sifting through all of this data helps patterns and trends start to emerge. Maybe you had a gut feeling about some things or maybe had no idea but now you can make decisions backed by hard numbers.

A quick story:
I first met with our long time client Joe about 3 years ago and at the time he owned 5 donut shops. Joe’s business was humming along just fine but he felt as though he was constantly fighting the battle to find new customers. His approach was typical: send huge marketing blasts through Facebook, Twitter, email, even the newspaper and traditional mail.


He assumed that because each of his 5 locations were doing ok that sending the same marketing message from all of his shops was fine. He also “knew” that he better keep marketing because he had to keep finding new customers.

When Big Buck Research & Analytics got involved we refined his process of gathering customer data and feedback making it easy and effective for Joe and the customers.

At first glance we found distinct commonalties among Joe’s top customers, but digging deeper we realized that traits of his top customers differed by location. We also found that different locations had different response rates to his varied marketing efforts. 

We took these findings and turned them in to recommendations that Joe used to deliver targeted messages to potential customers based off of top customer traits. Each of his locations now knew who to market to and how to market to them. There was no more giant net or blind marketing blast. This sliced his acquisition cost and his marketing expense substantially. Additionally, Joe has the first steps in starting to scout new territories for his growing business.

Take it and run with it!


Now that you’re compiling and analyzing the customer data you’ve been gathering what can you do with it? Let’s look at just 2 of the many things.

  1. With customer data you’re able to tailor new offers or discounts to individual customers giving each consumer the individual experience which is expected in today’s age. This leads to higher satisfaction, increased spending, and longer lifetime value.
  2. By understanding who your customers are you’re able to form an exact marketing strategy to acquire new customers that are similar with your top customers. This cuts your acquisition costs dramatically by narrowing your field of focus and allows you to bring in new consumers that are most likely to stay with your company for the long haul.
Thank you for reading! I hope I’ve left you in a good place with my thoughts on looking at retention not only as the basic right thing to do for your customers, but also how it can lead to substantial growth for your business.

If you have any questions regarding retention or customer acquisition strategies shoot us an email!

Our solutions benefit from two approaches under one roof: survey research and database analytics. Whether you want to learn more about your competitors, your customers, your prospects, or your employees, our holistic approach will ensure your objectives are met with scientifically sound methods customized to get to the root of your business challenges– not just address the symptoms. 

Is retention the best growth strategy?

I’m sure just like every business person since the dawn of business your daily concern is finding new profitable customers. The thing is…you may already have them. That’s right, you’ve already done the hard work, you’ve acquired them as new customers, now just keep them!


I’ve heard many various reasons for companies choosing to focus more energy and resources towards acquisition leaving retention up to chance. I think a lot of our clients confuse acquisition with growth and therein lies a big problem.

Real, sustainable growth happens by perfecting your goods/services to the point where you’re increasing average time that a customer stays a customer and thereby increasing the lifetime value of your customers. This has a domino effect resulting in customers buying more, referring more business, and lowering acquisition costs – this is growth.


The Leaky Bucket

There ‘s an old metaphor in business about a bucket leaking water which represents losing customers. In order to keep the bucket full instead of fixing the leak you decide to pour more water in. Another leak happens and you need even more water.

Instead of fixing the bucket in the first place you’re exhausting yourself by running around constantly trying to find more water to pour in. You may even try catching the water that has leaked out in order to pour it back in!

The goal is to get to a point where your bucket has no holes, is overflowing, and you have to add more and buckets!

A quick story: 
We recently wrapped up a project for a client that provides a monthly recurring service to their customers. Before our client hired Big Buck Research & Analytics they were losing customers at what they considered to be an industry standard rate. The problem was that after a while as their company grew in new customers more and more customers left and acquisition costs rose and rose.

The first step in fixing it?
After analyzing the customer data we discovered a pattern of issues that led to some unhappy customers and also some consumer behavior and company behavior that could have tipped our client off that the customers were going to leave.

This allowed us to work with the client to fix existing issues causing customer attrition. We took it a step further and used the information to implement a customer feedback system that allows the client to stay ahead of any possible issues. Since we also found common behaviors that customers exhibited before leaving, our client is able to flag customers that exhibit these actions and make them a priority to deal with before they leave.

After working with us the clients’ customers are happier, stay with the company longer, spend more, and rave about the business to anyone that will listen.


Let me make a few basic suggestions regardless of your industry.

  1. Survey, survey, survey. Do it often, do it professionally, make it quick and easy for the customer and make sure you follow up! Surveying customers and not following through with their concerns is worse than not surveying at all.
  2. After gathering the data from your survey you’ll be able to identify any possible trouble areas as well as where your business shines. Most likely patterns will develop where customers reach the point of no return and this allows you to head that off.

Next time…

I’ll continue next week with how to take these 2 steps and use them to acquire new customers more efficiently, and how to increase the lifetime value of the customers you have!
Want to keep more customers and lower acquisition costs? Shoot us an email:
 Our solutions benefit from two approaches under one roof: survey research and database analytics. Whether you want to learn more about your competitors, your customers, your prospects, or your employees, our holistic approach will ensure your objectives are met with scientifically sound methods customized to get to the root of your business challenges– not just address the symptoms. 




We’re hoping your customers aren’t satisfied

Before you get riled up, let me explain. It’s not because if your customers aren’t satisfied you’ll come running to us for help, it’s because in order for you to succeed your customers must be more than just satisfied!

A “totally satisfied” customer contributes 2.6 times the revenue than a “somewhat satisfied” customer.

I would venture to guess out of all the products and services we use everyday, most of the time the satisfaction rating we have would fall somewhere between not satisfied and “blah” (read: satisfied) but what experiences make us feel “very satisfied” and how are those different?

To me the difference is when I’m wowed by an experience and what I receive or experience is beyond any expectation. Let me share a story:

A few years ago, my girlfriend and I were flying to Denver for a vacation. What she didn’t know is that I was going to propose to her. I made reservations ahead of time at a restaurant called Fruition, the person on the phone asked if we were celebrating a special occasion and I mentioned if everything went well I’d be engaged. (I’m so very lucky she accepted!)

image courtesy of Fruition

We arrived a little early to dinner and making sure my fiancé was wearing a ring the host congratulated us and offered a complimentary bottle of wine. She explained our special table wasn’t quite ready and offered us a private seat outside in the warm night air. When we were seated we were presented with menus that had “Congratulations Ryan & (my wife’s name)” printed on top. The food was out of this world, but what truly blew us away was the special attention each member of the staff paid us by knowing our names and congratulating us.

Being honest, I can’t begin to tell you how many people I’ve relayed that story to. Not just because it was such a fantastic memory of getting engaged and not even how the food was out of this world, but how the entire restaurant went the extra mile to make us feel special to them!

If that experience had just been satisfactory, would you have ever heard of it? As you see the difference between very satisfied and satisfied can result in word of mouth advertising, loyal fans, and brand advocates. But what can the difference mean in dollars?


Recently Harvard Business School took a look at the customers of Starbucks and what the difference between satisfied and very satisfied meant to the company. What they found, I think is an important lesson for all businesses.

Satisfied Customer:
isits 4.3xs/month
spends $4.06/visit
customer for 4.4yrs

Very Satisfied Customer:
visits 7.2xs/month
spends $4.42/visit
customer for 8.3yrs

Breaking it down, the difference between satisfied and very satisfied is an 82% increase in spending per year, and they are customers for almost TWICE as long.

Very satisfied customers are 6xs more likely to be loyal and repurchase and recommend your product than a satisfied customer.

How to get from satisfied to very satisfied

My company, Big Buck Research & Analytics has been helping businesses with market research & database analytics for over 8 years and we’ve found 3 basic ways to get you on your way:

  1. Survey your customers to find their expectations and satisfaction levels.
  2. Fix low scoring areas and find ways to exceed customer expectations at every turn.
  3. Be consistent with measuring and delivering.

Admittedly, these are elementary, common sense first steps. But I’ve found that this is a fantastic place to start regardless of the industry you’re in.

I would love to hear how you’re moving your company forward and any thoughts you have! Feel free to contact me or  Big Buck Research & Analytics any time with your questions.

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Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

We want to tell all of our subscribers, clients, employees, collaborative partners, friends, family and loved ones how thankful we are to have you in our lives.


We know how stressful balancing busy holidays with work and the tasks of everyday life can be so we thought we’d provide a few keys to making the most of this holiday. Here at Big Buck Research & Analytics we try put these in practice more than just once a year.
  • Unplug – This means leave the phone, laptop, and iPad  in another room ALL DAY! Believe us, you’re not going to miss anything more important than what is going on around you.
  • Breathe – Feel your toes on the ground, take a deep breath and actually breathe in the surroundings.
  • See – Look at the young ones and older folks gathered around you. Pay attention to how your annoying cousin fiddles with his glasses, notice the lines in grandmas face.
  • Smile – Our days are too short to stress over holiday planning and preparations.
  • Enjoy – Remember this moment that you’re taking the time to truly experience will NEVER EVER happen the same again.

We want to thank you all again. Enjoy yourselves, we hope you are able to take a few of these tips with you.

Increasing Profits Through Employee Engagement

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”  – former Campbell’s Soup CEO, Doug Conant.


Last week we looked at why many companies are looking to move past the typical employee satisfaction surveys and have begun trying to measure employee engagement.

This week we’ll look at a few ideas on measuring and improving employee engagement levels and of course what that means for your business.

3 Quick Takes:

  1. Increasing employee engagement leads to increased profits.
  2. Employee engagement strategies don’t have to be difficult.
  3. Taco Tuesdays and Hawaiian shirt Fridays are not the way to increased engagement.

How to gain high levels of engagement

Far too many companies think that adding a foosball table, a fancy coffee machine, funky office layouts, nap rooms, letting employees work remotely, allowing pets/kids at work, Taco Tuesdays, or Hawaiian shirt Fridays foster a level of high engagement. To us, none of these ideas or any similar to them do anything to encourage the right environment.

Businessman Wearing Cape --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Here’s what we’ve found does work.

  • Survey your workforce with intention, do not make the mistake of surveying just because everyone else is doing it. Design the survey with questions that yield responses that can be measured over time and can be acted upon. Ensure anonymity.
  • Don’t wait for the quarterly survey to give and receive feedback. Make it weekly or even daily!
  • Ensure that your company’s mission and culture are well understood by each and every employee.
  • Communicate clear and consistent objectives for the company, each department, and every employee. Relate individual goals back to company goals.
  • Recognize individual progress and achievements frequently.
  • Hire the right people that can live and breathe your company’s values.
  • Invest in professional development for your employees.
  • Scientifically select the right managers, coach them and hold them accountable for their teams’ engagement levels.
  • Encourage employees to talk about your business through social media.

Bottom line: Put your people first.

If you put the time and resources in, what do you get?


A workplace with happy productive employees is nice, but what impact do engagement levels have on bottom line business results?

Less Employee Turnover: Engaged employees are 87% less likely to quit their job, have 37% less absenteeism, and 48% fewer safety incidents.

Higher Customer Satisfaction: Highly engaged employees provide the best customer service. The quality of service that consumers receive is the biggest factor in their satisfaction levels. Satisfied customers stay with a company longer and purchase more over time.

“Zappos was built on the simple premise that to have happy customers, we need happy employees.” – Former Chairman Alfred Lin

Increased Customer Loyalty:  Satisfied customers interacting with engaged employees that provide excellent service and go the extra mile become LOYAL customers.  An increase of 10-30% in loyalty can be seen from employees that delight their customers. This means, lower acquisition costs and higher lifetime value considering in some cases as much as 80% of future revenue is from 20% of existing loyal customers.

Exponential Growth in Profits: As you can see by reducing employee costs, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty, profits will surely increase but by how much? Studies have shown that companies with a highly engaged workforce can expect 2.5 times the profit over those with low engagement levels and can outperform their competitors by 40-202%.

We’d love to hear what your company is doing to increase employee engagement levels! If you have questions about how Big Buck Research & Analytics works with our clients on this or any other project get in touch with us!

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Moving past employee satisfaction

Most businesses of course look at their customers and their satisfaction levels consistently to spot trends and keep ahead of any potential problems, but how many organizations look inside their own walls?

These days “employee engagement” is a term that’s hard to miss. Although it’s been around for some time it has certainly gained traction with the influx of millennials entering the workforce. Whether you run a small business or a large corporation business leaders are starting to look beyond traditional employee satisfaction surveys.


Employee satisfaction vs. Employee Engagement:

It’s crucial to understand that there is a distinct and important difference between satisfaction and engagement.

Satisfaction measures employees happiness with their job and responsibilities. Satisfied may mean they’re happy with their income, the work place and their day to day job, but this does not mean that they will go above and beyond the scope of their work to help the company.

Measuring employee engagement looks at how emotionally invested employees are in the overall company. A way to think about employee engagement is how willing are employees to go outside of their work and written job descriptions for the better of the organization? How deeply do they care for their company?

It is possible to have satisfied employees that are not engaged, but it is unheard of to have engaged employees that are not satisfied.

Why do engagement levels matter?

Of course we all know having employees that are satisfied and highly engaged is ideal, but companies know that it may take time and resources to ensure high levels of engagement. Is it worth taking a hard look at and maybe having to make some significant changes? We think so, and here are some statistics that support that.

  • Companies with engaged employees outperform others by up to 202%.
  • Highly engaged employees perform 20% better than their less-engaged colleagues.
  • Companies with a highly engaged workforce achieve twice the annual net income of organizations with less engaged workers.
  • Engaged employees are 87% less likely to quit their job.
  • Having engaged employees results in 37 percent lower absenteeism, 48 percent fewer safety incidents, 21 percent higher productivity, and 22 percent higher profitability.
  • The slightest increase in employee engagement —  let’s say 5% — can increase your operating margins by 7%.
  • 63% of workers worldwide are “not engaged.” 24% of these are “actively disengaged.” This means they are unhappy, unproductive and likely to spread negativity to their colleagues.

Join us next week


If the findings above strike you as hard as they hit most businesses, join us next week as we look at how to measure and improve employee engagement regardless of business size or industry.

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