As a marketing research and marketing consultant in Syracuse, NY – Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) speaks with a lot of clients about their needs.  Sometimes clients come to us knowing they need to do some type of marketing research, but don’t know where to start.  Other times clients come to us having already started brainstorming a marketing research project, but are caught up in one of these 7 common pitfalls:

1. Time and Cost Requirements – The amount of time and the cost needed to conduct a survey depends on the complexity and the type of survey.  The survey process itself can be very time-consuming, and as a result, clients trying to do survey research in-house often skip necessary steps or introduce bias into their results.  If you hire a dedicated firm who knows what they are doing, you will be more apt to save valuable time and money instead of dabbling with your own in-house survey that you can only attend to in your downtime (which may never occur).

RMS Tip: Even if you insist on using a SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang, just make sure you are doing it right before you launch the survey.  It doesn’t hurt to give a professional marketing research firm a call and see what they can recommend or scope for you.  First and foremost, many marketing research firms see themselves as a consultant in addition to being a full-service market research firm.  

2. Initial Planning – Fielding a survey without specific goals leads to results with no specific direction.  Start by asking yourself: what do I want to learn from the survey?  Oftentimes, this is one of the most rushed stages in the survey project.  The last thing you want to say after the survey has wrapped up is “I wish we would have asked…” – a fate that occurs all too often with survey writers.

3. Questionnaire Design – You have decided on a budget and a timeline, and you have your marketing research goals well-defined.  Now comes arguably the most common pitfall when managing a survey.  There are endless mini-pitfalls within questionnaire design that cause analysts like us in the bunker to cringe when we see hastily written surveys.  Such mistakes (to name a few) include: mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive and scaling mistakes and what not to do.

RMS Tip: Survey design sounds much easier than it is in practice.  You have to be concerned with bias, multiple meanings, technical jargon, sensitive questions, usage of open-ended questions, abbreviations, and wording.  At the very least, if budget is a true concern, have a consultant review the survey script before you launch and offer improvements.

4. Sampling Procedures – Another common pitfall of SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang users.  In order to get the most accurate results, you should be using a representative sample.  Meaning your sample makeup matches that of the entire population you are looking to forecast the results on.  Launching a survey and making the link available to anyone who wants to participate is a risky approach (although sometimes necessary).  In most cases, the people electing to participate are inherently biased in some fashion.  For example, you want to find an optimal price point for your product or service, so you survey past customers who purchased your product to find out how much they would be willing to pay.  But, how about those who did not purchase your product? How are you supposed to find out any information on whether your price is a reason why they aren’t purchasing in the first place?  In most cases, sampling error is not as obvious as that, but all samples incur some type of bias.  Use a professional marketing research firm to minimize its effect through proper sampling or weighting data on the back-end.  Even if you don’t think a specific audience can be reached, it’s still worth a discussion.

5. Pretesting – Necessary, but sometimes overlooked.  It’s always good to test your survey with a limited pool of respondents before launching it to your entire sample.  This way you can eliminate the chance of mass-errors and better understand which questions might be confusing potential respondents.  It’s also a quick way to test your overall response rate.

6. Non-respondents – Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing research surveys, you are going to have more people who say “no” than “yes” when it comes to participation.  Similar to sampling pitfalls, there may be reasons why someone did not participate in the research and they should be accounted for.  This can be taken care of with some simple cross-tabulations to test for respondent versus non-respondent bias, and if needed, the creation of a weighting variable for analysis.

7. Processing the Data – Quality in means quality out.  Time needs to be set aside to review all cases returned from the fieldwork.  RMS runs through a rigorous quality control check on data as it comes in before we even begin populating a single chart for the report.  This is especially true in online survey data collection, which is more prone to quality control issues.


RMS Tip: Even if you managed the entire survey process in-house, there is still a major benefit to having a third-party expert analyze and report the data.  Many marketing research firms have been commissioned at the last stage of survey projects to wrap up the process.  Even if you think it’s too late to engage a firm, it’s not.

Looking to have someone work as your marketing consultant or marketing research firm in Syracuse, NY?  Or do you simply need to have an analyst review a survey script before you launch your project?  Contact our Business Development Specialists.

This article is based on the April 2003 Informational Brochure produced by Fairfax County Department of Systems Management for Human Services: