Market Analysis Tips: Death by Survey

April 22, 2009
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I’m naturally inquisitive. It is probably the single greatest quality for my career choice. So, when I can get in front of customers and get them to talk about their likes, dislikes, challenges, and successes, I’m in heaven. But, enough about me…

And, that’s the point. Market research is about the customer and the market, not your company and your product. I’ve been conducting some research on how businesses are implementing surveys and inviting customers to participate in market research. What I’m finding is a disconnect between the need for information and a respect for the time and experiences of participants. This is most apparent in quantitative research pointing to a need to address our research methodologies and design.

Step 1: Prepare a mock presentation as a guide for information needed
You should know what you need to show rather than have the question guide you. This isn’t The Matrix. Your are not Neo. In this instance, it is not the question that guides you (Reference: It’s the Question That Guides Us for when this is true). It is the decision. Take the time to create visual mock ups of charts you will need to make a decision. Map your questions to comple


I’m naturally inquisitive. It is probably the single greatest quality for my career choice. So, when I can get in front of customers and get them to talk about their likes, dislikes, challenges, and successes, I’m in heaven. But, enough about me…

And, that’s the point. Market research is about the customer and the market, not your company and your product. I’ve been conducting some research on how businesses are implementing surveys and inviting customers to participate in market research. What I’m finding is a disconnect between the need for information and a respect for the time and experiences of participants. This is most apparent in quantitative research pointing to a need to address our research methodologies and design.

Step 1: Prepare a mock presentation as a guide for information needed
You should know what you need to show rather than have the question guide you. This isn’t The Matrix. Your are not Neo. In this instance, it is not the question that guides you (Reference: It’s the Question That Guides Us for when this is true). It is the decision. Take the time to create visual mock ups of charts you will need to make a decision. Map your questions to complete the charts.

Step 2: Ask the question once
There is nothing more frustrating for a participant than to be asked the same question 5 different ways. This was particularly true when I participated in studies that were attempting to determine pricing, packaging, and brand influences. These were typically conjoint analysis. I spent 20 minutes moving through questions that many times I felt I already answered. Consider if a conjoint analysis is truly necessary for what you need to know. Or, consider the number of things you want to test to improve the number of iterations you need to understand intent.

Step 3: Design questions that a participant understands and can answer
As industry experts we have a strong perspective of how people purchase, what motivates them, and who they are. However, we are trying to determine just this when we design our research. One survey tried to get at what kept me from purchasing particular products. Instead of obvious statements like price, quality, or availability, I had to read statements that defined how I felt. I could relate to none of these statements. My answers reflected this.

Step 4: Be prepared to compensate participants and be mindful of their time
List providers and survey panels are taking steps to ensure that surveys are not filled by professional survey takers. However, the way panelists are compensated, they have to participate in everything they can to get a reward. There are no real safeguards to ensure that you get people are really the ones you want. Participants will cover the truth to get more points, sweepstakes entries, or $5 gift certificates. Customers want to provide feedback on items they use and topics they care about. Reward them for participating. Then, be prepared to not survey them for a time. You can then focus more on quality participants and weed out those that are of little value to the study. Create win-win situations.

In the end, a customer needs to know, “What’s in it for me?” One of the best areas we can turn to for a perspective on this is a customer advisory board or beta testing group. Everyone that participates has a stake in getting the right answer. The customer knows that by providing feedback they can get the service or product they want. The company values the customer insight and how they can perform or better serve customer in the market. Surveys have value. If you start with your needs first, you may not get the most from your effort. Done correctly they are insightful, directional, and cost effective.

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