Market research: How to create a good survey

Market research: How to create a good survey

Posted: Mon 6th Jun 2022

Known as 'quantitative' market research, a survey can provide you with a large enough volume of information for you to draw sound conclusions about who your customers are and what they need from you.

It's the kind of knowledge that can give you an edge over competitors. But how do you do it? Read on to find out how to go about creating a good survey for your small business market research.

Understanding the market

The current economic climate is having an impact on businesses large and small. The uncertainty means that researching your market has never been more important, whether you're pre-start, a start-up, or an existing small enterprise.

As a start-up, there's a need to understand the market and potential customers before attempting to break into an industry.

Existing companies strive towards expansion through differentiation and development. To successfully start or expand a company, it's essential to test new products or services objectively with the target market before finalising, producing and distributing.

Quantitative research

Quantitative research is numerically oriented and provides quantitative information that can be analysed statistically. The approach is very structured and normally involves large numbers of interviews or questionnaires.

The most common quantitative technique is the market research survey. This could take the form of a single question (a poll) or a full-blown questionnaire which requires the respondent to answer a number of questions.

Quantitative market research (i.e. surveys) helps you to determine whether a project is feasible. It's also a way to adapt your strategy to your market (communication, pricing policy, products range, and so on).

It comprises three key elements:

  • Determining the information to be collected (the questionnaire)

  • Reaching potential customers with the questionnaire (the administration)

  • Understanding the information you've collected (the analysis)

The questionnaire

The first thing, of course, is to decide what it is you want to know. For example, you'll definitely want to know who the respondents are, as well as what they think about your product or service.

But you might also ask, for instance, where they get information, where and how they shop, what media they consume or where they socialise, so you can market to them more precisely. In fact, there are all sorts of things you can ask – but it's important to do it in a structured and organised way.

Here are some tips to follow:

  • 'Screening' questions make sure that you're surveying only the precise target.

  • A variety of different types of questions will produce different answers and data.

  • Simple questions will ensure that everyone understands what you're asking. Moreover, the more complex the question is, the harder the analysis would be.

  • Be careful with open questions – they are interesting for the level of precision they give, but it's hard and time-consuming to correctly analyse the answers.

  • Start the survey by asking general questions on the industry then go on to talk about your precise product or service.

  • Questions on your product or service should always go from general questions at the start to precise and personal ones towards the end of the survey. Respondents don't want to begin by giving personal information but would less mind providing it after stating their opinion on other questions – it's more natural.

  • Get feedback on your target market's likes and dislikes on your product or service, as well as the existing market you're entering.

The administration

There are a variety of free or low-cost survey packages available online. Which one you choose may depend on the scale of your survey and the kind of questions you plan to ask.

  • If you have only one quick question to ask your audience, use a free quick web application for polls (for example, Wufoo), or even social media like Facebook.

  • You can also use a free web application like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey, or more complex free software such as LimeSurvey. However, with these solutions, you must have the database of your target market, so these are more for customer surveys.

  • If you don't have a database and want to survey your target market, experts like Marketest can carry out the survey for you. They'll give you advice on how to construct your survey, make sure you're not leaving any important questions out, and optimise your survey to make sure respondents flow easily through the questions.

  • When it comes to getting people to take part in the survey:

    • advertise it via your newsletter if you have one

    • make sure it's prominent on your website

    • promote it via social media and any other marketing channels you use to reach customers

  • Make sure you put a deadline on the survey to encourage people to fill it out quickly. You might also provide an incentive of a prize for people to fill out the survey, although you'll need to collect people's email addresses, which means storing this kind of personal information correctly according to GDPR.

The analysis

The premise of quantitative market is to use frequency tables to highlight key trends in the responses to each question.

Frequency tables show how respondents reacted to each question by breaking down each available response option. In essence, this is a list of all the potential answers with the number of people who picked that answer, perhaps expressed as a percentage.

It's then relevant to create cross-tabulations, getting the trends according to sociodemographic information. Cross-tabulation is a table that compares two sets of data – for example, the level of responses to each option in a question and the level of the responses to each option broken down into age categories.

Analysing the information in this way can reveal clearly identifiable trends. It's also interesting to cross-tabulate the answers of different questions.

These kinds of tables and graphs are easy to create via Excel spreadsheets, though the more complex your survey, the more likely you are to benefit from professional support.

Finally, don't forget to take the results into consideration. As funny as it sounds, many people carry out research having their own ideas of the results in mind and wouldn't consider the market research results if they are different.

Relevant resources

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