Posts Tagged ‘SurveyMonkey’

Free Online Survey Tools Can Yield Costly Useless Results if not Used Carefully

June 15, 2010

Thanks to online survey tools like Zoomerang, Surveymonkey, and SurveyPirate, the ability to conduct surveys has been greatly democratized. Small businesses, non-profits, and departments within larger firms can now conduct surveys that they would never have been able to do because of cost and lack of resources. Unfortunately, the greatest drawback of these free survey tools is the same as their greatest benefit: anyone can launch a survey. Launching an effective survey requires a clear definition of the business problem at hand; a carefully thought out discussion of the information needed to address the business problem, the audience of the survey, and how to reach it; determination of the sample size and how to select them; designing, testing, and implementing the questionnaire; and analyzing the results. Free online survey tools do not change this process.

Recently, a business owner from one of my networking groups sent me an online survey that he designed with one of these free tools. It was a questionnaire about children’s toys – which was the business he was in. He wasn’t sending me the survey to look at and give advice; he sent it to me as if I were a prospective customer. Unfortunately, I’m not married and don’t have kids; and all my nieces and nephews are past the age of toys. The survey was irrelevant to me. The toy purveyor needed to think about who his likely buyers were – and he should have good knowledge, based on his past sales, of who his typical buyers are. Then he could have purchased a list of people to whom he could send the survey. Even if that meant using a mail or phone survey, which could be costly, the owner could get more meaningful results. Imagine how many other irrelevant or uninterested recipients received the business owner’s survey. Most probably didn’t respond; but others might have responded untruthfully, giving the owner bogus results.

Also, the “toy-preneur’s” survey questions were poorly designed. A double-barreled question: “Does your child like educational or action toys?” What if a respondent’s child liked both educational and action toys? The owner should have asked two separate questions: “Does your child like educational toys?” and “Does your child like action toys?” Or he could have asked a multi-part question like, “Check the box next to each of the types of toys your child likes to play with,” followed with a list of the different types of toys.

The survey gets worse… questions like: “How much does your child’s happiness mean to you?” How many people are going to answer that question negatively? Hello? Another asking the respondent to rank-order various features of a toy for which there was no prototype pictured, and if that wasn’t bad enough, there were at least 9 items to rank? Most people can’t rank more than five items, especially not for an object they cannot visualize.

We also don’t know how the toy manufacturer selected his sample. My guess was that he sent it to everyone whose business card he collected. Hence, most of the people he was surveying were the wrong people. In addition to getting unacceptable results, another danger of these online survey tools is that people are more frequently bombarded with surveys that they stop participating in surveys altogether. Imagine if you were to receive five or more of these surveys in less than two weeks. How much time are you willing to give to answering these surveys? Then when a truly legitimate survey comes up, how likely are you to participate?

I think it’s great that most companies now have the ability to conduct surveys on the cheap. However, the savings can be greatly offset by the uselessness of the results if the survey is designed poorly or sent to the wrong sample. There is nothing wrong with reading up on how to do a survey and then executing it, as described, as long as the problem is well-defined, the relevant population is identified, and the sampling, execution, and analysis plans are in place. “Free” surveying isn’t good if it costs you money and time in rework and/or in faulty actions taken based on your findings.

Do you have trouble deciding whether you need to do a survey? Do you spend a lot of time trying to find out what you’re trying to learn from a survey? Or how many people to survey? Or the questions you need to ask? Or which people to survey? Let Analysights help. We have nearly 20 years of survey research experience and a strong background in data analysis. We can help you determine whether a survey is the best approach for your research needs, the best questions to ask to get the information you need, and help you understand what the findings mean. Feel free to call us at (847) 895-2565.

Using Marketing Research to Lead You Out of the Recession

June 8, 2009

Some economic indicators are starting to turn positive and suggest that the worst of the recession may be over. Even so, companies continue to cut their marketing budgets and this is perhaps the very worst time to do so. Cutting marketing expenditures at this time in the economic cycle is akin to stopping contributions to one’s investment portfolio during a bear market – in each case, one stands to miss out on the rebound.

Right now, marketing research is more critical than ever. Yes, business is still slow. But marketing research can be used ever more strategically right now. Your margins might still be tight, and you may still have some cuts to make. Many travel-related industries, especially hotels, are making use of marketing research to identify which amenities they can either eliminate or charge extra for, without negatively impacting customer satisfaction and/or loyalty. You should consider doing the same.

Marketing research can also be helpful in gauging the optimism of your customers and prospects, so that you can plan ahead for the future. Conducting marketing research right now can also inform you of what your target customers are substituting for your product or service to cope with these hard times. This information can help you accommodate them and/or find other ways to fulfill their needs.

You can also do marketing research relatively inexpensively with survey tools such as SuveyMonkey, Zoomerang, Survey Gizmo, etc. As long as you understand survey theory and sampling, you should be able to use these tools without compromising research integrity. You may even be able to reduce the size of your typical samples without sacrificing much accuracy. And you may be able to rely more heavily on secondary research. You can even track your competition with online tools like Compete.com.

Whatever the case, don’t abandon marketing research, especially now. Some carefully thought out, informal research is better than no research at all. Marketing research is the compass that will help you navigate out of these hard economic times.