20 essential questions brand managers need to ask their customers

24 successful entrepreneurs and brand managers share the 20 most important questions that businesses should be asking their customers.

Are you launching a survey soon to find out what your target group really thinks about you, but are you not sure how to ask? We’ve asked 24 successful entrepreneurs, brand managers and our own team of experts what questions every brand manager should get answered by their customers. 

If you had a direct line to your customers, what would you ask them? Market research offers the opportunity to uncover a wealth of insights — information you can use to enhance your product or service, improve your marketing or gain a competitive advantage.

However, to obtain the most useful intel, it’s critical to ask the right questions. As such, we asked several respected experts to identify the top 20 questions to include in a customer survey and explain why they’re important.

How to use brand survey questions

Simply launching a survey with all these questions could lead to some pretty chaotic results, that really don’t tell you anything. Pick questions based on the goal of the survey; you may be interested in brand perception and how customers view your brand qualities against your competition. Or perhaps you are more interesting in brand awareness or brand recognition and want to see that grow overtime, and this can have huge impacts on growth of market share. It could be to serve a rebranding process, where your brand’s image or company name is under evaluation. Whatever the goal of your brand survey is should dictate the questions you want to include.

When creating your brand survey, also remember to ask the right demographic questions to better understand how your target audience reacts to your brand differently to others. Furthermore, you should uncover how far along people are in their buying journey with you, as this may impact the results. All of this provides more valuable insights and additional context for the answers so you can craft stronger and more targeted campaigns based on the results, and be confident in the outcome.

“Have you purchased/used [XYZ] before?”

Bret Bonnet, Quality Logo Products: “It’s important that you qualify all prospects before considering their results for your study. You want to make sure you’re talking to the right audience, so obtaining demographic information is important too.

These questions tend to significantly reduce your audience size, but if you’re performing market research for, let’s say estate planning, do you really want to include a 16-year-old student in your test group? Probably not.”

How to do brand tracking in-house

If you’ve been relying on a research agency for your brand tracking, we’ll explain how you can be empowered to do it yourself – and what you can do when you have brand health data on-demand.

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Would you recommend us to a friend?

Lisa Kenny, SynGro: “This Ultimate Question, as founded and described by Fred Reichheld, is designed to measure customer loyalty and is the question behind the Net Promoter Score.

If a customer makes a personal referral to someone they care about, it is very likely they are a loyal customer and promoter of your business. It encompasses not only what a customer thinks, but what they feel too. NPS is a customer experience metric that holds value to any company.”

Tom Smith, Insights from Analytics: “The reason this question is so important is it lets you know where you stand with the customer and where to begin the conversation.

If someone’s a “detractor,” you need to fix their concern or be prepared to lose their business and have them vent about you on social media.

If someone’s a “passive,” you need to determine what you can do to move them to “promoter” versus letting them slide back to a “detractor.”

Finally, if someone is a “promoter,” you want to get a testimonial, referral, or them talking about you on social media.”

How would you describe our brand to a friend?

You can define your brand on paper, but to know if it translates correctly to the real world, you’ll have to ask your customers. You might be surprised to hear what words they use to describe you. This type of question is critical for brand perception survey.

This can serve as a great follow-up question after the NPS. Finding out how someone would describe your brand in their own words lets you see what stands out most for them, and if that’s aligned with what you focus on. 

Asking for a description can help you determine how your brand’s personality is perceived. Moreover, it will show if customers are more focused on things like product features, price and availability, or if they can’t help but mention what you stand for and what your vision is. 

Is it obvious what our brand’s purpose is?

New companies pop up in the market, or the existing ones innovate until their products are basically alike. If you’re not looking to start a fight for your customers’ attention using price, it’s good to know that brand purpose is increasingly important to consumers when making a purchasing decision. 

Having a strong brand purpose that aligns with the views of your target customer can strongly increase the likelihood that they’ll buy from you — so it’s important that if your brand has a purpose, it’s immediately obvious what that purpose is.

Don’t forget to give these insights more context. Combine this question with another one that asks people to describe what your purpose is, to see if it actually matches with what you were aiming for. If people think you have a very outspoken brand purpose, but it doesn’t align with what you had in mind, it’s time to change your messaging.

What problem/s are you trying to solve?

Kenneth Burke, Text Request: “When you know the problem, you can address it. And as you figure out more of your customers’ problems, you can build a more robust (and valuable) product or service that solves everything.”

Kay Nordenbrock, KN – Consulting & Copywriting: “I work in inbound marketing so creating accurate buyer personas is crucial to creating targeted content. When asking this question, often people are willing to talk about what obstacles are in their way to reach a certain goal. With that information, I am able to create content that helps these people or businesses get to the core of their problems and eventually solve them.”

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls: “If you can help customers fix their biggest problems then you will always be a partner, not just a vendor. I have customers who have come back many times looking for help over the 16 years since I started a global branding firm. It’s because they know we care and that we love solving their problems so they can sleep well at night.”

Can our product or service improve your life?

Dylan Macdonald, Organised Health Technologies: “Regardless of how good you think your idea is, if your customers or a potential market are not interested, it simply won’t work. Organised Health asked this very question and, based on the results, we slightly pivoted our target audience.

You have to listen to what people are saying. If that means changing your idea or perhaps completely discarding it, it has to be done. Give your customer base what they want and rewards will come your way.”

Dan Salganik, Visual Fizz: “At the end of the day, unless you are able to make your customer’s life a little easier/better/more efficient, you are probably not providing them with something they should spend their money on.”

Kelley Lauginiger, American Freight: “Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or even our own individual experience as consumers, we know products are purchased based on a level of safety and comfort the consumer is feeling. If a consumer doesn’t feel the product solves a need, they won’t feel pushed to make a purchase.”

What was your first reaction to our brand?

First impressions are incredibly important, no matter how many retargeted ads you throw at people who quickly left your website. 

In a world where we are constantly scrolling, swiping and shopping, our attention span has become incredibly short. In 2000, we were at about 12 seconds. That’s right, even back then you didn’t even have time for a quick elevator pitch. And it’s gotten worse: only twenty years later, we struggle with holding our attention for only 8 seconds. 

Meanwhile, more marketing messages than ever are being fired at us. So, how do we decide which brands we like, what ads we click on, and why we bounce off a webpage in a matter of seconds?

Knowing you literally have no time to lose when trying to reach your customers, might show you that a touch of mystery in your marketing efforts should be used with care. By asking what first caught someone’s eye, especially someone who in the end chose to buy from you, will help you create stronger brand messages and engaging content that will lure leads into that buying journey. 

If you were in charge of this brand/product/service, what’s the first thing you’d change?

Want to know what would make customers come back, stay or buy in the first place? Make them the CEO of your company. In their minds, at least. 

Nobody’s perfect. And nobody knows better what your customers want than your customers. Your customers will very likely have things they’d change about your brand if they were in charge, whether it’s a small tweak to a product description through to a complete brand refresh. 

By asking them to tell you the first thing they’d change, they’ll prioritise and tell you the thing they feel is most important. 

What are your biggest pain points with the current market offerings?

Sophie Knowles, PDF Pro: “Asking this question highlighted the functionalities that were lacking in my competitor’s products and allowed me to conduct further tightly-focused market research targeting these gaps. By doing so, I eventually succeeded in building a platform with functional features that were otherwise missing in the market, thus solving a problem for users and differentiating my product from a sea of competitors.”

Britney Kolodziej, JAM Marketing Group: “The answer to this question can be game-changing. For instance, my client who is a life coach originally thought that her clients were craving someone to talk to, someone that would listen.

But after asking this crucial question, she found her clients were frustrated with previous coaches and therapists that only allowed them to talk and air out their feelings. In fact, her clients wanted her to not only listen, but also provide a structured game plan of what they should do at each turn.”

Adam Pearce, Blend Commerce: “The reason this question is important is that unless your product is truly 100% unique, your product will be compared to how the need you are fulfilling is met by other businesses.

When we started our business to provide Shopify store design and marketing, we asked this question. By far, the biggest finding was that customers hated the poor communication and lack of ability to discuss a project over the phone before committing. Based on this, we made this one of our key USPs, and use this in all of our branding and marketing.”

Dr. Ameerzeb Pirzada, Z Dental Studio: “We run a dental clinic and we’ve had huge success by asking this question. We tend to bring the change they want to see, whether it’s lowering our rates or changing the environment. Not only does this give our firm a huge boost in clientele but this enables us to evolve for the better.”

Why do you buy from us?

Adam Watson, Hollywood Mirrors: “I survey all our customers twice a year and this is the most important question I ask. Whatever reasons they give, you no longer need to guess what your customer wants. You can then make these important points and USPs more obvious in your marketing and communications. This should result in increased sales and customer loyalty.”

Mike Wolfe, Delgado Stone Distributors: “When we asked this question in 2016, we expected price to be the number one reason people bought from us. It turns out 74.3% of the responses were related to service and communication.

This prompted us to invest more into technology that helps our team communicate with customers in a timely manner. We believe it is why we have expanded into new markets in 2017 and experienced excellent year-over-year growth.”

James Nowlin, Excel Global Partners: “Answers to this question give us data about how our marketing is performing. We can separate which messages reach consumers and which ones do not. The data also tells us which features of our product or service appeal most to consumers. When we launched a new integrated accounting solution, we used the data to further improve the features that have the most impact on consumers. We made our software completely seamless and automatic and marketed it as such and it was a huge hit.”

Cristian Rennella, oMelhorTrato.com:  “When we did our first market research, this question allowed us to understand how a potential customer would search for our service on the internet and this is the way we have generated millions of dollars in revenue positioning us in search engines with the same exact keywords that the users really use for search.”

How would you rate your last experience with us?

Last impressions are just as important as first ones — if not more. If you know that for most companies, it’s easier and cheaper to get clients to come back, than to start a new sales cycle with a new, you’ll want to invest as much time in your after sales, thank-you pages and shipping updates as in your content marketing and what not. 

Don’t lose your attention to detail once the deal is closed. This question will help you determine if your sales process is contributing to your brand image, or rather cutting it short. 

The image your customers form of you as a company, one they’d possibly return to for their next purchase, is still being formed after they buy your product, or even after they receive it. Those are extra moments in which you can reinforce your mission, vision and values, making sure you’re the first one they think of again for a second purchase. 

Where do you buy our products/services from?

Do you know which customers are most likely to buy from which distribution channels? Are you matching the needs of your target customer? This question helps you figure out if your brand marketing activities and sales channels are aligning with where your customers are actually spending their money.

How would you describe our product?

That’s right, don’t just ask how they would describe your business, ask about your products and services too. This gives you even more insights in the buying reasons your customers have. You could identify gaps here, or undiscovered markets full of people who would love to use your product, but don’t feel addressed with the way you market it right now. 

How much would you expect to pay for [XYZ]?

Price testing is an important part of launching a new product, but it’s never too late to consider whether your product or service is meeting price expectations in the current market. You could be losing potential customers by making your product too expensive, or missing out on profit margin if you’ve massively undervalued your service. Check out our full price testing survey template for an even more thorough analysis of whether the price is right.

How can we do better?

Kimmie Marek, 7 Charming Sisters: “Every brand should ask their customers how they can further meet their needs. This can be tricky in a non-service based industry. For our e-commerce jewellery business, we segmented our email list to our VIP customers (as defined by frequency of purchases) and sent an opened-ended survey.

We came back with some great suggestions including a more robust rewards program, early access to sales and promotions, and suggestions on content they would like to see more of. 

This not only gave us valuable insight to better serve our loyal customers but it also increased engagement with our VIP customers and they felt a part of the process to better their experience.”

Jameson Slattery, Colorescience: “This is a great open-ended question. Consumers, especially those that purchase your products, each are connected to your brand in different ways. By asking what they want to see, you are able to get a sense of the way your consumers connect with your brand.

Do they want to see more communication? Products? Support? Without asking this question it is difficult to get a feel for this type of thing. A company doesn’t always need to churn out new products to grow their brand. If your consumers want to see something other than products, make it happen.”

Natasha Kvitka, Gift Baskets Overseas: “This question lets us improve customer retention by making the process of buying and using the product continuously smoother. It is also beneficial for content, social media, and promotional efforts: we know (after developing the features and services requested by the customers) what benefits to communicate to the audience, and in what words.

Using this approach, we learned that in some locations users were primarily looking for free shipping for their international gifts and were willing to compromise on other aspects of the delivery service. So we knew how to develop the service in these locations and what to advertise to the customers.”

What do you think is our best quality?

No, you’re not fishing for compliments or wanting to show off: this question can actually help you identify why people consider you or buy from you. The next step? Double-down on that — or step it up in other areas, depending on the outcome of the rest of your survey. 

What people like about you most isn’t necessarily the reason why they purchase your products, but it certainly does help: consumers are more and more buying from the heart, not from the head. 

Which competitors, if any, did you consider when shopping for [XYZ]?

Danielle Kunkle, Boomer Benefits: “This question yields so much data. Sometimes you think you know who your competitors are, but answers to this question will often surprise you. We’ve uncovered competitors we didn’t know we had. We then use the answers to investigate those competitors online and see how their brand and their website compare to ours i.e., what are their search engine rankings, how successful are they on social media, where else do they appear online and ultimately, the big question, what can we learn from this competitor?”

Thinking about companies that provide X, what companies come to mind?

Neal Kreitman, ABN Partners: “This question is for unaided recall and can be followed by a second question for aided recall, “Are you aware if any of the following companies provide X?”

The combination of these two questions, explains how well you are known by your target market. It should be analysed by looking at current customers and potential customers, separately. The responses to these questions tell us how much marketing we need to do and whether it should be mass marketing or specifically targeted.

It is also often used to determine the effect of advertising. For one client, I administered a survey prior to and after running television advertising, we saw a significant increase in awareness after the TV advertising campaign.

As time went on, the advertising was stopped. As we continued to administer the survey, we watched brand awareness significantly decline. Senior management began discussing the need for TV advertising.”

Where, on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being high) would you rate us on the following attributes?

Linda Pophal, Strategic Communications: “The most important thing for businesses to know about their brands is how well aligned their *desired* brand attributes are with audience (prospect, customer, employee) perspectives. The way we’ve done this is by asking this question. We provide a list of desired brand attributes — generally between 5-10, which would include things like “high quality,” “innovation,” “customer service,” etc.

This type of feedback is very important because, as we all know, companies don’t define their brands — consumers do. Knowing how consumers are currently defining your brand, and comparing those perceptions to your desired brand identity, can help you spot opportunities for improvement as well as areas of strength that you can capitalise on through your communications.”

How would you feel if you could no longer use our product/service?

Let’s get into some qualitative data on how people feel about what you do — specifically, how they’d feel if they couldn’t use it anymore. The answer to this question will give you valuable insight into how important your product or service is to your customers, how much they value it, and how easy it would be for them to replace.

Conclusion

So, there you have it; the 20 burning questions brand managers and business owners want answers to! It just goes to show that you don’t have to ask hundreds of questions to get key data for your business.

With a decent sample size, the responses to these 20 questions can give you reliable insight into everything from how you’re currently performing and what you could be doing better to who your competitors are and how you compare.

This is invaluable information for developing your business strategy and, with an online customer survey, it can be at your fingers in next to no time.

Want to keep tabs on your brand health? Check out our guide to bringing brand tracking in-house:

How to do brand tracking in-house

If you’ve been relying on a research agency for your brand tracking, we’ll explain how you can be empowered to do it yourself – and what you can do when you have brand health data on-demand.

Get your free copy

Sam Killip

Head of Attest Customer Expertise (ACE) 

I have spent years doing what I love most - making things easy and understandable for the people I work with.

See all articles by Sam