How to Create Effective Surveys for Market Research Campaigns

How to Create Effective Surveys for Market Research Campaigns

Effective surveys rely on several factors in order to be vessels of value. Survey research has the potential to help businesses on so many fronts — from marketing to branding to market segmentation and more — so they must be carried out wisely. 

Forging effective surveys requires these tools to garner critical customer data — the kind that has minimal biases and reaps maximum data as it relates to your campaign. In the ever-growing digital space, it is key to build surveys to study your customers and earn their loyalty.

With the rise of the e-commerce and the growing preference to shop online, competition has become increasingly stiff.  As such, customer loyalty is a must, as not only is it less expensive to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new ones, but 65% of a company’s business comes from existing costumers. In addition, increasing customer retention by 5% raises profits by 25% to 95%.

Thus, brands large and small need to consistently deliver satisfying products, services and experiences to customers and it all begins by studying them. This article explains the makeup of effective surveys and how to create them so that you can maintain loyal customers and grow your business.

What Constitutes Effective Surveys

So, what exactly constitutes an effective survey? First off, you should never classify a survey campaign as effective because it resulted in the responses you hoped for. While this is certainly a positive trait and can perhaps point to happy customers, it does not signify obtaining all of your needed data.

This is because surveys are meant to collect customer dislikes, aversions, grievances and what they believe your company is lacking, as surveys are a chief Voice of the Customer (VoC) program. Further, in order to provide exceptional services, the kind that foster customer loyalty,  you need to understand the shortcomings of your business.  

As such, you need to provide surveys with questions that dig deep into your customers’ minds and aren’t designed to reap only positive responses. If you do so, your survey is on the right track to building effective campaigns.

The Factors of an Effective Survey

But there’s more.

Here are several other key factors that make up an effective survey. These include some of the things you should avoid in your surveys.

  1. Keeps survey bias to a minimum.
  2. Involves studying the margin of error and keeping it to a minimum.
  3. Maintains a stable response rate.
  4. Receives all the intended amount of responses.
  5. Only allows the targeted samples (respondents) to take part.
    1. This can rely on demographics and psychographics. 
  6. Includes a survey structure and questions that motivate respondents to answer truthfully.
  7. Establishes results that either bear statistical significance in quantitative surveys or descriptive and psychological insights for qualitative surveys.
  8. Allows researchers to make informed and confident decisions on how to move forward in any particular campaign. 
  9. Stirs actions with proven positive results (whether it’s a minor product change or an addition to an advertising campaign).
  10. Finds either conclusive results or the kind that make clear what kind of follow-up survey is required.
  11. Keeps respondents engaged.
  12. Avoids survey attrition.

Tips on how to Create Effective Surveys

Now that you know some of the prominent features of an effective survey, it’s time to put your survey ideas into practice, especially if you have established key components of your survey campaign. But before you begin crafting your surveys, you ought to set them up for success.

The following is a compilation of best practices for building effective surveys.

Find an overall campaign and the correct survey methods 

Before you begin working on any aspect of the survey itself, you should start on a high, macro-level focused on developing effective survey studies. To reap the most out of your surveys, they should not be standalone tools; instead, they must be to a larger research effort or campaign. 

Perhaps you have a survey method in mind, such as conducting a retrospective study. Next, you must find the macro-application of this survey. What is the motivation behind this survey? Is it to understand customer satisfaction or lack thereof? Is it for general marketing purposes?

Use the theme of the survey you had in mind to connect it to a specific research method, such as exploratory, descriptive or causal research. This will allow you to take timeframes, sample sizes and other considerations. 

Then, find the specific survey type you’ll need to execute on your research. Let’s say, you need to measure customer satisfaction, you may want to consider specific survey types for this topic, like the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) survey or the Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey.

In reference to the retrospective study example, you would need to create these surveys based on past events, to see how they affect the present state of customer satisfaction.

Choose a Frequency and Survey Deployment Method

Once you’ve found the broader survey campaign, survey techniques and survey type itself, consider how you’re going to deploy them, along with how many times.

This requires having your survey methods, survey study type and survey type itself already preplanned. This also involves having established key questions as they can help you determine how many surveys around your topic you’ll need to create and distribute. 

With this in mind, consider creating at least one follow-up survey to your initial survey. You should also create follow-up questions to certain answers and route respondents to these follow-up questions — but only if they’ve responded in a way that requires the follow-up questions. This can be achieved by adding advanced skip logic into your questionnaire. 

Plan Your Questions Accordingly 

When you’ve decided on how you’re going to distribute your surveys, (whether it’s via email, an online survey tool or a survey panel) and have planned their frequency, it’s time to get to the heart of the survey: the survey questions, aka, the market research questions.

Consider the survey type you chose in relation to your questions. WiIl you need to ask Matrix questions, or questions on a scale? In the example of the customer satisfaction survey, you’ll most likely require using a scale or a number-based question, as those surveys deal with scores, such as the Customer Effort Score (CES).

Or, if your study is more qualitative in nature, you should ask more open-ended questions, but remember to ease your respondents into your survey; don’t ask personal or sensitive-topic questions early on. 

Organize High-Level Questions Before Moving Into Subtopics

You’ll need to establish questions that deal with broader issues before you dig into specifics. However, when you’ve put together all, or most of your critical questions, you may need to cut back on some of the more general questions.

If you feel that you need to include all of your questions for your study, consider breaking your surveys up into subtopics. Remember to use skip logic in your surveys, so that respondents are only routed to relevant questions based on their responses.

Get a Few Team Members to Test Out Your Surveys

Nothing will put you in the shoes of your sampling pool like taking the survey yourself. Before you finalize your questionnaire, try to take the survey yourself, or get a few team members to test run it. This way, you’ll see if there are any missing multiple choice answers, any skip logic to add, or any other issues that need to be addressed.

Additionally testing out your survey will enable you to see firsthand how long it takes to complete your survey. This is useful in determining the length of your questionnaire. As such, taking your survey will show you whether you need to cut, elongate or keep your question length as it is. 

You can also use this exercise to relay the survey’s length to respondents at the beginning of the survey.

Remember to keep your surveys short, as they are often seen as a chore rather than a fun way to kill time.

Offer Incentives

No one likes to do any work for free, even something as relatively quick as taking a survey. Thus, you should consider which of your surveys require incentives. Typically, longer surveys warrant incentives, as most people are time-poor (especially certain demographics like full-time workers).

If your survey is longer than 5 minutes to complete, offer some kind of incentive — it does not necessarily have to be monetary. It can be in the form of a discount, a giveaway, entry into a sweepstakes or even points in a mobile game. 

This way, your respondents will feel rewarded for granting their time and efforts to your survey.

Be Careful With Your Word Choice in Questions

Productive surveys keep respondents until the end of the survey. This means that you ought to be careful with the wording of your questions, as they can easily throw respondents off, causing survey attrition in turn.

In order for respondents to complete their surveys, consider some question best practices:

  1. Don’t ask loaded questions, bear in mind the sensitivity of a subject. In these instances, respondents may answer incorrectly due to prestige bias.
  2. Don’t ask leading questions. Ex: Instead of asking “how helpful were our friendly customer service representatives?”, ask “how helpful were our customer service representatives?”
  3. Use a wider scale of answers. Ex: Instead of: very useful, somewhat useful and not useful, consider a longer scale of answers: very useful, useful, neither useful nor useless, useless, useless
  4. Avoid absolutes, as they lead to inaccurate answers. Ex: Instead of asking: “do you always go running after work?,” ask: “how often do you run after work?” Or “do you run occasionally or most of the time after work?”
  5. Don’t jam a single question with an opinion on more than one topic. Ex: Instead of: “how would you rate our in-store experience and products?” ask a question about one or the other.

Relying on an Effective Survey Platform

Forming an effective survey involves many factors. When you take each into consideration, you’re setting up your survey campaign for success. But you must remember, nothing is stagnant; there you may come upon more ways to create and maintain effective surveys.

You should also bear in mind that the success of a survey is largely dependent on the online survey platform you use. This is because these platforms help you set up the screener, the questions themselves and entirely automate the distribution/response collection process. 

In order to achieve all of the components of an effective survey (see early section), you need a robust online survey platform to host your survey endeavors. A strong online tool will assure your survey respondents are randomized, avoiding biases in the process. 

It will also avoid the need to study response rates, as it should continue iterating the surveys until the set amount of completes are reached. 

Frequently asked questions

What are some important benefits of effective surveys?

Effective surveys involve a host of benefits for a market researcher including obtaining answers from your target population, keeping your survey bias to a minimum, maintaining a stable response rate, and avoiding survey attrition.

How can researchers create effective surveys?

You should start with a survey method in mind. Then, find the macro-application of the survey. Consider it’s motivation, purpose, and what it aims to understand. You can also use the survey’s theme to choose a specific research method. This allows you to take timeframes, sample sizes, etc. Next, find the applicable specific survey type. For retroactive studies, it’s best to create surveys based on past events to predict how they will affect customer satisfaction in the present.

How do you choose questions for effective surveys?

You can choose your survey questions based on your survey type. Depending on the survey type, you can include multiple choice questions with single answers or multiple choice questions with multiple selections. Open-ended questions are used to extract qualitative data while closed-ended questions like Matrix questions, scaled questions, and number-based questions are used to extract quantitative data (like the CES survey, for example).

Why should you connect effective surveys to an overall campaign, survey methods and macro-application?

Surveys can’t reach their full potential as standalone tools-- connecting them to a larger research effort by considering an overall campaign, survey methods, and macro-application ensures you’re getting the most out of your surveys.

What do Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs have to do with effective surveys?

A Voice of the Customer (VoC) program is one that gathers and interprets customer feedback. Because they gauge customer expectations, likes and dislikes, effective surveys are a chief VoC program.