You can learn a lot about your customers and prospects from the data you already have in your CRM, email marketing solution, and other sources in your organization. And you can get a much clearer picture of them when you combine that data with deep behavioral data. You can use that understanding to personalize the experience people have with your company on your website, mobile apps, emails, in-person channels, and more.

But sometimes, the best way to learn something specific about a person is just to ask.

Gathering explicit data about someone is generally done through the use of a survey. But you have to be careful. Too many questions will only annoy your customers. They’re just trying to go about their business — they don’t want to be interrupted time and again with questions that don’t seem to add any value to their lives.

We’ve all taken long surveys before, so I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Knowing the right questions to ask your customers – when the time is right to ask – is critical.

Consider Your Golden Questions

Coined by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D. in Managing Customer Relationships: A Strategic Framework, golden questions are “designed to reveal important information about a customer, while requiring the least possible effort from the customer.”

To clarify this concept, let me take you through one of the examples from the book. Assume you work for a pet food company, and you want to identify which shoppers offer the highest potential value. In other words, you want to find the serious pet lovers.

You could craft a detailed survey, asking specific questions about a person’s purchase patterns — questions like “Do you spend more than $20 a week on dog supplies?” But what you’re really trying to understand is which shoppers treat their pets like part of their family. So cut out the specific questions and ask the golden question instead: “Do you buy your pet a holiday gift?” That question tells you a lot about how a shopper relates to his pet and which specific marketing campaigns will be relevant to him. All with a simple yes or no question.

Keep in mind that the most important aspects of a golden question is that 1) it tells you something meaningful about a person with minimal effort and 2) that you actually use the answer.

Real World Examples

Let’s walk through an example of both the question and the end result. The value that an Evergage customer receives from our platform varies depending on the industry the customer is in. We use several different methods for determining a visitor’s industry, but if we don’t know it, we ask! “What is your industry?” is a golden question for us.

golden question

We store this information for use in the future. We analyze how different segments interact with the site and identify which content they tend to engage with most. And we use this segmentation to better target future campaigns.

But, most importantly, we act on this information in the moment to show visitors that, by answering this question, they’ll make their own current experience more relevant.

For example, if a visitor selects “Retail,” she will see this homepage experience with a retail-specific image and copy, a testimonial from a retailer, retail customer logos, and other promotional content oriented toward retailers.

golden question

But if she selected “Financial Services,” the copy, background image, testimonial and logos would all be related to financial services instead.

golden question

That’s the power of a golden question in action.

Here’s another example. A fashion retailer deploys a similarly quick and visually interesting golden question on its site in order to better understand its shoppers. Visitors are shown a few images of activities — such as yoga, hiking, DIY crafts, etc. — and asked which they enjoy doing in their free time.

The theory behind the golden question is that shoppers who prefer hiking will favor certain product categories over visitors that prefer yoga. Instead of asking a lengthy survey with questions such as “how often in the past year have you gone hiking?” the retailer cuts to the chase with a golden question.    

Bringing It All Together

How can you put a golden question into action on your site? First, think long and hard about what you are trying to learn about your customers or site visitors and how you would treat each person differently based on what you learn. Answer a few questions like:

  • What’s a question that visitors don’t mind answering, because it’s simple and not overly personal?
  • What does each response tell us about a person?
  • How would we use the answer to deliver an experience that provides greater value to a customer than a generic experience?

The resulting question should be simple and easy to answer with minimal thought or effort.

Then, you just need the right technology to help you:

  1. Display a golden question on your site, either to everyone who visits right away, or only to visitors that have taken a specific action or spent a specific amount of time on the site
  2. Automatically segment a visitor based on her answer to the question
  3. Store her answer in her unified customer profile (whether she is known or anonymous)
  4. Deliver an appropriate experience to her based on her answer (in the moment and/or at some point in the future)

Final Thoughts

Your customers don’t want to answer a long survey packed with an overwhelming number of questions — especially if they don’t see any value for themselves in it. There are certainly times when you want to ask these types of detailed questions. But they’re not as helpful in the world of personalization.

To learn something meaningful about a person in a short amount of time, you need to find your golden question. But they’re not necessarily easy to come by. You have to think beyond all the obvious questions you could ask and get creative. The result will be worth the effort.

To learn more about Evergage’s survey and personalization capabilities check out this blog post and request a demo today.