There may be no better time than now to be looking towards the Internet if you are looking to conduct a survey. With the availability of online survey tools at your disposal, a lot of valuable information can be easily obtained for smaller businesses through the use of surveys. Some popular services include SurveyMonkey and Zoomerang, as well as a handful of others. We’ve seen a few of these surveys done before so we put together a few tips to help you design a professional survey. If you’re going to be putting the time into creating the survey then spend the extra time to ensure it is done right.
- Know your capabilities – First and foremost, I’ll caution that there is a science behind market research and when you see examples of ‘market research gone bad,’ you’ll agree that bad research can sometimes do more harm than good. When you’re using do-it-yourself (DIY) survey software, it’s important to feel comfortable with the capabilities of your survey writers. Narrow the scope of your survey to a single topic if need be or use these tools strictly for short internal employee feedback surveys, not mass scale surveys where you will use the data to make major business decisions. If you’re going to be targeting a huge audience or unsure of the questions you need to ask, you are better off saving your time and money by consulting with a market research firm.
- Check your question wording – Oftentimes when someone is writing their own survey, they will have an objective in mind or even a strong belief about the survey topic. This will cause them to unintentionally bias the data based on question wording. An extreme example would be a question like this: Do you agree with everybody else that my business is the best around? Other things to watch out for are double-barreled questions and overstating a condition. See our blog post here for examples.
- Check the question responses – One of the first things you learn in Market Research 101 is mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (MECE), but it is also one of the most common mistakes among survey design amateurs. The basic idea for mutually exclusive is that you don’t want question response categories to overlap (18 to 25, 25 to 29 – someone that is 25 will fall into both of these categories). And for collective exhaustive, you want ALL possible response categories to be covered. If all categories can’t be covered/thought of, a common practice is to add an ‘Other’ category, and have the respondent specify their answer.
- Make sure you select the appropriate question type – A mistake that we’ve seen in surveys before is for single choice questions to be made multiple choice and vice-versa. Selecting the right question type helps contribute to clean and high-quality data. Respondents may click too fast and mistakenly select two different age categories when they are asked for their age if you allow them to!
- Be mindful of the components of a survey project beyond survey design – These tools can make it easy to create a survey script, but even if you avoid all the pitfalls described above, there are a whole host of other considerations beyond that step that need to be handled properly for a survey project to yield accurate and actionable results. Chief among these is sampling. A lot of DIY surveys wind up getting sent out to convenience samples that are probably not representative of the population. A perfect survey instrument is useless (or worse) if the sampling process is flawed. Another major consideration is the analysis and reporting of findings. If you don’t have a firm grounding in basic statistics, you may find it challenging and time-consuming to do any in-depth exploration of what the final numbers mean. You may also find yourself too close to the subject to be completely objective or to see patterns in the data beyond what you went in expecting to see. Finally, if the findings are going to be shared throughout an organization, someone will need to organize and report them in a way that is accessible and easy-to-understand, which can be a good deal more time-consuming than expected. Basically, it’s important to remember that the real work and commitment of resources of survey research start after the survey instrument is created.
If you are unsure of which approach is best for you business, send the Bunker an email by clicking here. We will respond to your question and give you our recommended approach. Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a survey research firm in Upstate NY.
To the last point about how these programs don’t offer help with all aspects of a survey project, an analogy comes to mind:
Imagine if somebody offered a service that made it very easy and affordable to rent an airplane. Just the plane — no pilot or other aircrew. It’s cool to think that you could have an airplane at your disposal, but obviously if you aren’t trained in how to fly it, navigate it, land it, or how to communicate with air traffic control towers, things will not go well once you get off the ground.
Or if you get off the ground…
[…] that’s poorly laid out or routed. This problem has gotten worse with the proliferation of survey software like Survey Monkey, that not only increase the volume of surveys sent, but have also led to more of them being created […]