The Anatomy of a Well-Designed Survey in Marketing Research

When you are in the midst of the marketing research process, designing the right type of survey and questionnaire sets the groundwork for uncovering the right answers for the questions posed. While there are a variety of surveys and survey questions, starting with a clear objective is the best starting point after defining the issue at hand, or the question that market research seeks to answer. Designing with the end in mind helps you visualize what the final report will look like, and what questions must be answered when the results are being presented to the stakeholders, managers, and decision-makers. In other words, to help keep the important questions top-of-mind.

Let’s delve a little deeper into what separates a good survey from a bad one:

A Good Survey Clearly Addresses the Issue or the Problem At Hand

Managers are faced with all sorts of problems and issues nearly every single day. Making the tough decisions is part of their responsibility, and while not all issues require the use of market research, the decisions that have greater impact, particularly financial impact, ought to involve research to help inform the right decision. Good surveys are instruments that help properly answer these questions. How? By keeping the end goal in mind: projectable results. By providing a large sample precision. Most importantly, my mastery of the questionnaire.

Good Surveys have Mastered the Questionnaire Design

There are different types of questionnaires, described thusly: Heterogeneous, Opinions, Lifestyle, Satisfaction, Readership, Concept Tests. In a questionnaire, you can use these different categories. Good surveys are not just limited to one category, especially if the topic calls for different types of data points. The Lifestyle Questionnaire focuses on aspects like opinions, activities, interests, which are important when it comes to segmentation. You may want to couple that with an Opinion section where the respondents agree or disagree – to varying degrees – on the questions posed.

Good Surveys Begin with a Clear First Draft

RELATED: A Risk-Free Marketing Research Tactic: Designing with the End in Mind

Harking back to my earlier point about having the end design in mind, this also includes making sure that all the decision-makers are in the loop. The best way to do this is to present an actual draft that addresses the main topics and questions. They can help you pinpoint questions that may have been missed, thus helping the researcher create a second draft for approval.

Good Surveys Make Preliminary Decisions about Categories of Answers

Having a basic idea of how you want to pose the questions and what type of questions they should be (open-ended, categorical, metric), will aid you in properly constructing the questions. 

Good Surveys Have a Good Flow (and not whatever’s happening down here)

The organization of the survey is just as crucial. Following these steps is a good way to stay on track:

  1. Introduction
  2. Screening
  3. Warm-ups
  4. Transitions (throughout, as needed)
  5. Skip Questions
  6. Complicated Questions
  7. Classification and Demographics Questions

Additionally, per Qualtric’s 11 Tips for building effective surveys, the following tips can level up your survey and questionnaire design:

  1. Making every question count – Eliminate any superfluous questions that will not impact the final question/answer
  2. KISS – Keep the questions short and simple
  3. Ask direct questions
  4. Avoid leading/biased questions

This is just to name a few! When constructing a survey, put yourself in the shoes of the respondent and ask yourself if the questions being asked will drive the type of answer you are looking for and need, and that you’re creating an environment that the respondent will be able to answer the questions freely and comfortably.

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