Poll dancing



One firm’s quest for client hearts & minds

Part 1 of 3

Every empire has its bad days. When my revenue dipped 20%, I wanted to know if it was the Global Financial Crisis or something I’d said.

My wife suggested an online client survey. This turned out to be a very good idea.


I’d heard of SurveyMonkey, but worried that some clients might not dig the name. I did a quick search for ‘free online survey’ and found SurveyBob, which looked as simple as it sounded.


Aware that most surveys have poor participation, I decided to limit mine to just one question – multiple choice.

In addition to making it ridiculously easy, I injected a bit of fun by calling it:

The Feisty Empire Brutal Feedback Survey.

My sole question was the one thing I wanted to know more than anything:

Why hasn’t The Feisty Empire done more work for you lately?

In collating a list of possible responses, I combined my worst fears with educated guesses and shots in the dark:

  • You cost too much!
  • I’m using someone else.
  • Your work isn’t good enough.
  • You never call me for a chat.
  • I can’t justify the expense.
  • I’m pretty quiet myself.
  • I haven’t had the need.
  • I heard bad things about you.
  • I’ve learned to do it myself.
  • The recession is killing me.
  • I’m too busy with other stuff.
  • You never asked me!
  • I thought you’d closed.
  • I thought you were doing other things.
  • I hate your small business blog.
  • I’m giving someone else a try.
  • I’m not allowed to use you.
  • I know what you did last Thursday.
  • You never give me any freebies.
  • I want to pay for results, not time.
  • It’s odd that we’ve never met.
  • Change is good. I need a change.
  • I’d rather not say.


I made the response options informal and friendly, as if we were chatting on the phone. I overlapped to let people take their preferred approach to sensitive issues. I added ‘soft option’ escape hatches to tempt the twitchiest participants. And I included humour to keep it light.

SurveyBob’s interface was child’s play. Though the result wasn’t spectacular, it was quick, clean, robust and free.

At that point, my wife suggested that I add an open-ended question to garner feedback, so I did. Check the picture above to see what it looked like on the screen.



I pasted the emails of every client who hadn’t used me for three months into SurveyBob’s database.

I could have pasted my survey’s URL into my own email or website, but the online tracking functionality was too tempting.



In my covering email, I strove to neutralise participation barriers like time, complexity, confidentiality and general ‘heaviness’:


As the recession ends, I’m taking a critical look at my business.

I’ve created a two-question survey that will literally take you one minute.

Though you’ll be able to see the aggregate results, nobody will ever know your identity except me.

I’d be very grateful if you could please click the link below and give your frank responses.

You can tick as many boxes as you like.

With best regards and many thanks for your time.



One thing that makes me do online surveys is the chance to see the results. By offering this to my clients, I really laid myself open. What if all of them said I cost too much, then realised they all agreed?!

I then reasoned that if price weren’t an issue, such candour could be very good for my brand. So I bit the bullet and pressed SEND.



Within 48 hours, 18 of 41 clients had responded (44%).


I waited a few more days, before sending a follow up email:

Hello again.

I’m sending this a second and last time, just in case it ended up your spam folder. Please forgive me for bothering you if you’ve already seen and deleted it. If you haven’t, I’d really appreciate your response.

Best regards,

Paul. 🙂

This took the response to 24 (59%).

I viewed summary data online, then downloaded a spreadsheet to see who’d said what.

The results were fascinating, gratifying and very, very useful. Read all about them in Part 2!

Paul Hassing, Founder & Senior Writer, The Feisty Empire