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SurveyMonkey is one of the world's most recognizable online research platforms, growing in its offering and aiming to reach more brands in the future. Ahead of speaking at Web Summit in Lisbon, its chief executive Zander Lurie took time to answer some questions from The Drum on its development plans for the future, among other things. 

How is SurveyMonkey developing as a brand – what does it stand for and wish to stand for going forward?

We believe that curiosity is a superpower which moves businesses forward. It is the curious executive who asks questions of her customers and employees – she adapts, innovates and grows. This single trait will determine which firms will thrive and which ones will stumble: we've published research and presented on the topic.

Our journey started with curious individuals within organizations sending surveys and using their credit cards to leverage the speed, scale and expertise they get with SurveyMonkey. This next chapter for us is about powering curious organizations that can use SurveyMonkey to listen to the diverse voices and opinions of the people who matter most to them.

Whether it's a scrappy startup testing new products and ad campaigns, or a multinational corporation looking for ways to create an inclusive culture for their employees, we can help them collect the people powered data they need to make the right call. We enable people and companies to measure, benchmark and act on the opinions of their most important constituents.

Our recent IPO was a great opportunity to showcase the power of our software platform and the expertise we deliver to our enterprise customers. We've been in business almost 20 years and collected approximately 47 billion answers on our survey platform – it's no wonder we have brand awareness in our largest target markets of approximately 79% (according to a recent poll we conducted on a third-party survey platform). Now more than ever people want to have their voices heard. Operational data doesn't tell the whole story...listen to the people. If you're in business (selling goods, services, education, healthcare), you've got to ask the right questions, understand the data, and take action. Otherwise, your business will be disrupted by a competitor who's more attuned to your constituents.

We now have over 16 million active users across more than 300,000 organizational domains, including 98% of the Fortune 500 companies. Our customers, spanning 190 countries and territories, collect an average of more than 20 million answers a day to help them improve their customer service, employee engagement, patient satisfaction, market research and more. This is curiosity in action.

How are marketers using SurveyMonkey to help their decision making?

Companies have a problem turning information into action. A study by IDC projects that by the end of 2025 only 15% of global data will be tagged, and of that, only 20% will be analyzed and approximately 6% will be useful. We believe these studies indicate that organizations struggle to find actionable insights from big data alone.

With SurveyMonkey, startups like Helix Sleep or Billiecan get real-time product feedback from existing and potential customers to come up with innovative features, make optimal pricing decisions and launch targeted marketing campaigns. Enterprise customers like Box can use our solutions to empower every employee to focus on customer success with data and marry our survey insights with other business systems to build a 360-degree view of the customer journey. I'm inspired by the creative ways customers use our products every day.

There's just a major difference between what can be gathered from the surface (for example, social media listening tools or product reviews or tracking usage, location, etc.) and the rationale behind the decision process when you ask a customers, "Why do you like (or dislike) this product or campaign?" You can't truly understand what people that matter most to your business are really thinking unless you ask them the right questions at the right time.

In addition to collecting data on what happened, (e.g. your latest sales numbers – a lagging indicator), marketers need data about why things happened. That's the data that helps inform your next call.

A great example is data from our new survey on Consumer Trust: when we asked people in the US, UK and Canada if lack of diversity in advertising would make them lose trust in a brand, we learned millennials cared a lot more about it than older generations. In the UK survey, for example, 19% of millennials 18-34 years old said this would influence their trust compared to just 7% of people over 35 years old. So, if you are planning a new advertising campaign and your main customer base is millennials, you better know this matters to one in five of them.

We can help marketers have these conversations at scale with thousands of their customers to inform their decisions, create campaigns, measure customer experience, and more.

How does the platform support marketing efforts?

Our research shows that 63% of consumers think marketers are selling them things they don't need, so listening to customers is more important than ever to support marketing efforts and priorities.

We use our survey expertise to create templates that marketers can easily use, from various customer experience templates (one of our top use cases) to the new customer centricity template that can help assess customer centricity in your company. We've also used billions of survey questions and nearly 20 years of learnings from deploying surveys and engineered it into our technology and products with the launch of technologies like AI-based SurveyMonkey Genius that can help create a better surveys and achieve higher response rates.

We also have targeted solutions built for some of our top use cases like SurveyMonkey CX for measuring customer experience, TechValidate for gathering customer testimonials and, ultimately, building customer trust, and our SurveyMonkey Audience that's available in more than 60 countries and can help reach potential customers to test prototypes, ads, pricing and generate great data-driven content.

Netflix, for example, creates viral campaigns generating a continuous flow of marketing content based on our SurveyMonkey Audience surveys, including data-focused media coverage around the world. GoPro uses our Audience panels in more than a dozen countries, including emerging markets where they are growing quickly, for global brand awareness studies. That's how they are able to understand opinions from India or China or Japan as these markets are becoming extremely important.

What is the most audacious project that the platform has attempted to date?

Probably our transition to the enterprise space with the new mission to power the curious. In July of 2017, we gave SurveyMonkey a brand overhaul as a reflection of how much the company has changed in the last few years becoming a brand for both curious individuals and businesses. It also signified that we were entering our next phase of growth. We conducted extensive research and conversations with our customers who said that SurveyMonkey helps them "unleash creative thinking."

Our new mission to power the curious stemmed from those conversations and research too. We did way more than overhaul our branding and our logos (although our Brand team did come up with the great new look that is bold and modern!). Our People Powered Data positioning opened a wider category for us to compete with our enterprise-grade platform and serve businesses globally.

As the company has grown internationally working with various cultures as a result, what has been  the overriding through line that keeps each office distinctly SurveyMonkey? 

Across our six offices and between 800+ employees, the one thing that ties us together is our culture of curiosity. We seek to create an environment where everyone — no matter their background — feels empowered to ask questions and challenge the status quo. When this is the case, the entire business (and customers!) benefit. For us, curiosity has become a requirement rather than an afterthought, because we know that creating an environment where it can flourish, will ultimately determine the future success of your organization.

It helps us develop some of our best programs — including most recently the mission and pillars for our new corporate social responsibility program SurveyMonkey for Good. We used our IPO as an opportunity to create it and asked our employees for feedback. Our new vendor benefits standards came from employee questions. This inclusive culture which I also see as an antidote to arrogance in today's corporate environment also helps us serve our very diverse customer base globally. Our culture is a strategic competitive advantage as we scale our global business.

What new resources are being planned for the near future to add to SurveyMonkey's offering, both free and pro?

Here are a few areas we are focused on:

Collaboration: our customers, especially the enterprise teams, want to be able to collaborate on surveys, so we've added new features that let team members share and edit on-brand surveys together while allowing users control over who sees the results. Teams will soon become available worldwide, in 16 languages.  We've also integrated with popular third-party collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams, allowing customers to do polls and work together on surveys right in those products.

Integrations: there are 17,000+ apps created with our APIs, and we continue investing in integrations, so that enterprise teams can marry, say, CRM data from Salesforce or Oracle with their survey data for a deeper understanding of their customers. I mentioned how our customer Box uses Salesforce integration. There's also an example of how a marketer would use an integration with IBM Watson: after a product launch, you send out a survey to your customers and then create a dataset directly from the survey in IBM Watson that connects customer sentiment with other business-critical data like website traffic, email performance, and market share. Several data visualizations later, you could determine that, for example, there is the strong negative sentiment in some parts of the world and then use sentiment analysis of open-ended and unstructured text to reveal the issue like, say, an issue with the understanding of your pricing.

AI: speaking of AI, we continue developing new AI-based technologies and feature, from SurveyMonkey Genius to auto-tagging of open-ended responses in SurveyMonkey CX. We've just updated our Word cloud feature that uses AI to do the work for our customers by effortlessly drawing important insights from open-ended responses.

Mobility and taking conversations to where the customers are: we launched QR codes, so marketers or retailers can capture feedback from their customers anywhere – we've actually used this feature during our activation campaign on IPO day where several thousands of Times Square visitors responded to questions from influencers like Serena Williams, Draymond Green, Jeff Weiner and Arianna Huffington. People were launching surveys on their mobile devices from QR codes on billboards and street ads, sharing opinions in real time. Our enterprise customers can also use the new SurveyMonkey Anywhere app available worldwide in 16 languages to collect responses to surveys when the internet connection is spotty or unavailable. This is great for field survey use or conferences.

Read about the research conducted by SurveyMonkey focusing on the trust in brands and purchasing behavior of millennials, revealed exclusively to The Drum.