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Why use surveys for your market research?

Successful organisations make market research an integral part of their business plans and marketing strategies. Whether this involves researching their competitors to get that competitive edge, surveying current or potential customers about an upcoming product, or investigating their brand awareness and positioning, market research insights help companies make better strategic decisions.

In this article, we explore what market research is, why it’s important and why surveys are essential for effective market research.

Market research involves gathering information about—and from—consumers (your target market) to determine how successful a product or service will be.

Market research can include both primary research, where you collect data from your company’s target market, and secondary research, where you analyse publicly available data to draw conclusions related to your organisation.

There are several different ways to carry out market research, from interviews and focus groups to observations, experiments and surveys. Which method is best will depend on what exactly you’re looking to find out, in addition to your budget and timescale. In any case, surveys are a safe bet and should always be incorporated into your market research in some way, as we explain below.

Market research is an important ingredient for success. It helps you understand who your current and potential customers are, what needs they have, and to what extent your product or service meets those needs. You can also use it to look into your competitors, industry trends and to understand what consumers think of your company—also known as brand awareness.

Without conducting market research, you could end up launching a product that no one wants to buy, investing in an ad campaign that flops or losing market share to a competitor who expands their offering. Market research gives you the knowledge to avoid making these mistakes.

While market research can be carried out in various ways, including interviews, focus groups and observations, surveys should always be a key part of your market research strategy. They offer several benefits, as we explain below.

Online surveys, in particular, are very cost effective. Create your survey once, send it out to a large number of people, and sit back and watch the responses come flooding in. Other market research methods, such as interviews or focus groups, require a larger investment of both time and money, and are not as scalable as surveys.

Surveys make it quick and easy to analyse the results and draw actionable conclusions. While focus groups and interviews require you to transcribe recordings, sort responses into categories and reflect on the results, you can see survey results the minute people start filling in your survey.

Plus, online survey platforms like SurveyMonkey will even crunch the numbers for you. And it’s not just quantitative questions either—you can use tools such as sentiment analysis to review answers and draw conclusions from open-ended questions.

Surveys are much quicker to complete than taking part in a focus group or interview, which means it’s less of a chore for your respondents. And if you use SurveyMonkey, you can also make the most of question skip logic, which displays only relevant questions to participants based on their previous answers, reducing the demand on their time even further.

While surveys are a quick and easy way of getting the market research insights you need, they’re not completely hands off. They do require some preparation and thought in order to be effective. Without taking the time to do this, you run the risk of not achieving what you want.

Just as having the fanciest electric vehicle won’t magically spirit you to your destination if you don’t know where you’re headed, you need to establish your survey goal before you can get a survey underway. In other words, what question or questions do you want your survey to answer? Maybe you want to find out what would convince your customers to switch to a competitor or what aspects of your product need to be improved. If you set your research questions with thought, you’re more likely to get answers to them.

For results you can trust, your survey needs to be methodologically sound. The way questions are worded, the answer options you provide and the length of your survey can all influence how successful your survey is and how reliable the data is. Make it too long, and you risk people dropping off, meaning you won’t have enough responses for a reliable sample size. Use ambiguous wording or confusing scales, and people may respond differently to what they mean, leading to misleading data.

Similarly, if you’re left to analyse the data from your survey responses yourself, you could easily make mistakes or draw false conclusions.

How can you get around this? By using a template that’s been vetted by survey methodologists, as well as a professional tool that’s designed to present your surveys—and their results—in a clear, unbiased way.

One of the most important steps for successful market research is deciding who you’re going to survey. One obvious option is to target your current customers. And while this can certainly be worthwhile, you shouldn’t stop there. Gathering opinions from your current customers will help you understand why they choose to buy from you and what factors influence their decision, but you won’t learn what motivates others to shop elsewhere.

If you also survey those who have never bought from you, you can gain a wealth of useful information about their needs, motivations and perceptions, which could help you convert these leads into new customers. The downside is that it can be tricky to access this group of people, but that’s where SurveyMonkey Audience comes in. It allows you to tap into an audience of over 175 million people in 130 countries, using screening questions and demographics to reach your target market.

Another important factor is making sure you have enough survey respondents to get a good sample size.

When you’re putting together your survey, make sure to always keep your research goal at the front of your mind. Consider whether every question is relevant and necessary to the survey’s central aim. This will help you keep your survey on track, avoid your survey becoming too long and win the trust of those taking it.

Demographic information can help you understand a bit more about your target market and how behaviours and opinions might differ across market segments. For instance, you might find out that your dog grooming services are popular among retirees, but less so among professional couples and young families. This insight can help you refine your marketing campaigns to appeal to that first market segment, or consider what changes you could make—such as to your pricing or hours—to appeal to the two other market segments.

When you do ask demographic questions, be sure to add them towards the end of your survey. By this stage, you will have gained the trust of your survey participants by asking relevant questions and they’ll be more likely to feel comfortable with sharing this information. But make sure it’s not gratuitous—consider carefully what information you really need to know and be clear about what you’ll do with it.

Choose your question type carefully. For example, Likert scale survey questions, where you ask how much a person agrees or disagrees with something, are particularly useful for measuring attitudes and opinions. Meanwhile, a graphic rating scale has the advantage of being easy to understand, and categorical questions (like yes/no or tick-box questions) are fast to answer.

Closed-ended questions provide quantitative data—hard facts and numbers that can be easily analysed. But open-ended questions, a type of qualitative research, also have their place in market research surveys. These types of questions can help you understand people’s opinions, views and motivations. In other words, while quantitative data can tell you what people did, qualitative data can explain why they did it.

Survey length is crucial. Too short and you won’t have enough data to work with, too long and your survey completion rates will take a hit. So what’s the ideal length? It depends on the type of survey, how invested people are in it, who sent it to them and what its results will be used for.

But generally speaking, our experts say a market research survey could be up to 30 questions long. Find out more about survey length and completion times.

Use a professional survey tool to make sure your survey design is clear and easy to use. This way, you’ll avoid confusing your survey respondents, and you’ll end up with data you can rely on.

It’s important to test your survey before you send it out. Having a few guinea pigs complete it before it goes into the ether is a great way of picking up on any confusing phrasing, illogical order, typos or grammatical mistakes. A second pair of eyes really is worth its weight in gold!

Plus, if you use SurveyMonkey Genius, your survey will be automatically reviewed, so you can rest assured it’s following best practice and doesn’t contain any errors.

A survey is only successful if you’re able to draw useful conclusions from the results. Following all the previous steps will stand you in good stead. And when it comes to analysing it, many online survey platforms, including SurveyMonkey, have built-in analysis tools that make this process child’s play.

Once you’ve analysed your survey responses and drawn some conclusions, it’s time to decide what your plan of action is. Acting on the insights gained is key. Let’s say you learnt that the respondents in one of your market segments think your dog grooming services are too expensive. Are you going to lower your prices, put together some less expensive packages to tempt them in, or decide to cut your losses and focus elsewhere?

Acting on your survey results can also be a useful marketing tactic. If, for example, you show consumers that you’ve taken on board their feedback and have taken concrete action in response, you’re likely to inspire loyalty among current customers and win over others. After all, everyone loves feeling like their opinion matters.

This last tip is all too often forgotten. While there’s value in running ad-hoc surveys to answer specific questions—say about a new product you’re considering launching—sending out the same survey again can also prove insightful. By asking the same questions six months down the road, you’ll be able to track whether attitudes or buying habits have changed, or perhaps identify a new competitor on the block.

SurveyMonkey has both a general market research survey template and several specific market research survey templates that are focused on different aspects. There are templates for concept testing—from product or ad testing to price, packaging and messaging testing—and brand research questionnaire templates, for looking at brand awareness, loyalty or performance. Or for those that want to focus on customer profiling, have a look at the customer analysis, demographics or target market demographics templates.

The advantage of using a template for your market research survey is that you know it’s been designed by survey experts, so it’s methodologically sound and will yield reliable data. Plus, it means you can get your survey up and running in no time. And if you need to tweak one or two questions to make it relevant to your business, you can do that too.

Market research is key to business success. Surveys make market research easy and inexpensive, but they’re not a ‘plug-and-play’ solution. Effective market research takes time and reflection. You first need to understand what you want to find out: what question do you want to answer? This is your research goal. Then choose a professional tool to help you create, distribute and analyse your market research survey. See our top 10 tips on creating surveys.

Market research is essential for new businesses. Concept testing surveys are particularly useful for those that are starting out, helping you ensure your product or service appeals to your target audience. Survey your potential customers about your product, service or pricing; your advertising and marketing campaigns or messaging; or even your company or product name, logo or packaging.

The major advantage to offering an incentive for participants in your market research survey is that it helps increase the number of people who’ll take part. But a risk is that some people may complete the survey simply to receive the incentive, rather than providing carefully considered answers, which means you don’t end up with useful insights. However, it is possible to offer incentives without sacrificing good data.

Using a survey for your market research is a cost-effective way of gathering information from a large number of people. Surveys also make it easy to analyse your results and draw conclusions. However, if you’re not clear about your research goal, you might find your survey doesn’t end up answering your questions. What’s more, if your survey isn’t carefully designed, your data could be misleading.

Market research involves gathering information about—and from—consumers, to determine how successful a product or service will be. Surveys are an excellent way of carrying out market research, as they allow you to reach a large audience for little cost and analyse the survey findings quickly and easily.

The types of market research surveys vary as they can focus on different aspects. These include customer profiling surveys; concept, product and ad testing surveys; and brand awareness, loyalty and performance surveys. Have a look at our general market research survey template and our specific market research survey templates, which examine different topics.

Short on time? Delegate the survey work to SurveyMonkey, with our comprehensive market research services designed to meet your market research needs.