Mary Lou Denny: Educating The Trade

Taking the Pulse: Tips for Effective Online Surveys

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The Internet offers companies a wealth of resources for conducting free or low-cost market research. With just a few mouse clicks and keystrokes, companies can, for example, do keyword searches, check competitors’ prices and offerings, and monitor online conversations on blogs and other social media. Surveys are yet another research technique made easier by the Internet.

When done correctly and targeted, online surveys can be a safe place for customers and prospects to share responses, opinions and ideas. The Internet’s anonymity and ease of use encourages participants to speak freely. While arguably not as scientific as in-person or phone surveys targeting a random sampling of the population, online surveys are generally lower-cost and require fewer logistics to implement.

Here are some basic steps and considerations involved in the online survey process.

Define your goals. Begin by thinking about what you hope to learn from the survey, who you want input from, and how you’ll use the information. Importantly, consider your level of market research experience, and the amount of time you have available for the project. If you’re new to the process, require extremely accurate results, have a huge number of people you want to survey and only limited time, it might be worth the money to hire a research firm. On the other hand, if your goal is to get a smaller number of your customers to comment on some specific aspect of your business, or one of your products, then running your own survey may work just fine.

Pick your tools. There are many online services available to assist businesses with surveys, and at varying levels. Do you need step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process (Web Online Surveys)? Or more specialized help for, say, designing your survey (Create Survey), or finding survey participants (Zoomerang)? Check around online and find the service that best fits your needs.

Write the questions. This is more complicated than it sounds. In general, shorter questions with familiar words (avoid industry jargon) perform better, and they help the survey progress more quickly. Keep the tone neutral, to avoid any implied bias. Tip: Check to make sure each question is really a question, not a statement.

Test your survey. As you would with any other written project, have another set of trusted eyes review your survey draft to see if it’s grammatically correct and easy to understand. Then, have one or more other individuals take the survey before you launch it – not only to check logistical issues, but also to find out how long it takes to answer.

Finally, deploy the survey and analyze the data.

If you carefully complete the steps detailed above, you likely will find some valuable insights in the results. It won’t be the same as if you surveyed thousands of customers who were scientifically selected to minimize bias, but you undoubtedly will know more than you did before.

What would you like to learn about your customers to grow your business success story?


Comments (1 Total)

  • Posted by: Survey Crest | Time: 2:51 AM Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    It is sometimes very difficult for people to effectively carry out online surveys. You have provided impressive tips and tools to aid people in their quest. Good Work!

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About the Blogger

Mary Lou Denny

thumbnail image Mary Lou Denny, co-founder and executive vice president, heads the public relation division of Walt Denny Inc., an advertising and public relations agency in Hinsdale, Illinois. She and her husband Walt, started the agency twenty years ago based on the credo to provide creative marketing solutions, combined with a high value on personal relationships and accountability.