“We’d love to hear from you!” “Your feedback is extremely valuable to us.” “How’d we do?” Whether post-purchase, following an event, or dodging clipboard-toting data collectors in your local mall, these are common phrases we hear soliciting survey collection, or more broadly, marketing research. How often do you take one of these surveys, and if you’re a company, do they really matter?
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I used to have no hesitation deleting an email from my inbox prompting a survey. When survey pop-ups would appear on a site I was visiting, I’d quickly exit out to continue browsing. I would associate surveys with time, and with seemingly less and less of it, I couldn’t see the value in completing a survey.
In my last year of grad school, my predisposition against surveys took a 180-degree turn, however, following a course in marketing research and opportunity analysis. I soon became the tablet-wielding data collector I so often avoided, standing in a restaurant and asking customers for a moment of their time as they waited for their orders. My course took me through the marketing research process, from defining a problem to exploratory research, data collection, and data analysis.
Understanding the value of survey research from both business and consumer viewpoints, I now willingly take surveys that come my way. If your business has a marketing dilemma or opportunity, a survey may be the tool to guide your decision—if conducted properly.
The Importance of Surveys
Surveys offer a scientific framework to marketing decision making. Whether planning for a $5 million 30-second Super Bowl commercial spot, changing branding, or creating new menu offerings, businesses need information to make these big and costly decisions. Surveys help us understand our demographic’s characteristics, wants, and needs. They provide the data we need to ground the creative side of marketing with scientific analysis.
As consumers, surveys are important to ensuring our voices are heard, whether that’s in requesting new products or service offerings, or providing feedback to improving our experiences.
Following the Process
To get the most valuable information out of a survey, you must follow the marketing research process—simply brainstorming a few questions and uploading them to SurveyMonkey won’t cut it.
The process starts by defining a problem or opportunity your business is facing that requires a decision. Exploratory research follows, and this can include literature searches, depth interviews, secondary data collection, case studies, benchmarking, focus groups, and of course, surveys, which are built to test hypotheses about your chosen problem or opportunity. Analysis of the data set follows your survey, where trends are discovered and hypotheses are proven true or false. It is a lengthy but valuable process that can offer guidance to a firm’s marketing decision making.
Increasing Response Rates
As important as surveys are to your firm, your customers may not understand the value in completing them, an attitude I clearly once held. A low response rate can affect your research results, so to overcome this, consider the following tips.
- Incentivize your respondents: Every time I make a purchase from one of my favorite retailers, my receipt is accompanied with a URL directing me to complete a survey that will enter me into a weekly drawing for a $250 gift card. I take this survey almost every time I shop at that retailer because the incentive makes it worth it. Consider what your sample pool will value. For a B2B service firm, maybe it is a free one-hour consultation. For a quick-service restaurant, it could be a free beverage. Incentives create an exchange in the consumer mindset: I’m giving you my time for something in return. There is a lot to consider before offering a survey incentive, but it can be a great tool in boosting response rates.
- Keep it brief: Nothing deters me more from a survey than length. The longer a survey, the greater risk you face of respondents dropping off or outright avoiding taking it. You may have 30 minutes worth of questions you’d like to ask your survey pool, but are all those questions necessary? A shorter survey can provide a higher response rate and ensure greater reliability in response.
- Ensure confidentiality or anonymity: Ensuring confidentiality or anonymity can elicit not only a higher response rate but also more honest responses. This is crucial when requesting sensitive or honest feedback on the performance of a product, service, location, or business representative.
Marketing research and survey collection are complex and guided by research-backed processes. If your business is faced with a major marketing decision, consider surveys a key tool in your decision-making framework.