The late and legendary recording artist Ray Charles had many hits and these lines from one of his hit songs sum up the dilemma some marketers encounter when trying to conduct consumer surveys. “And anyone can tell. You think you know me well. Well, you don’t know me.”

Done well, consumer surveys can arm brands with real and actionable insights into what they need and want. Otherwise, marketers are merely taking mildly educated guesses and even receiving misleading data.

Step 1

Preparation is key. Questions like who needs to be involved, what’s the goal, and the reason for the survey need to be answered. Also important, is who the target audience is and whether there’ll be an incentive to complete the survey. The final question that needs to be addressed is how the survey will be promoted and disseminated. One or a combination of methods can work including mail, email, social media platforms, etc. SurveyAnyplace, an online survey platform firm, compiled data from several 2019 lists that identified mail surveys as having the highest return rate of 50%. Second were email surveys at 30%, followed by online at 29%, telephone at 18% and in-app at 13%.

Many consumers respond to surveys because they’re interested in learning more about how their input helped make a change. Sharing the results with them not only makes them feel valuable but also helps a brand’s credibility and transparency.

Step 2

Determining the right questions is probably the most challenging part. The questions, of course, should focus around the goal of the survey. Multiple choice or yes and no questions are the easiest for consumers to answer and the quickest to analyze. However, open-ended questions often yield intriguing results but take longer to assess and categorize. The latter doesn’t usually have as high a response rate unless an incentive is included. Incentives generally increase returns from 5 to 20 percent but be careful not to offer too big an incentive as that could bias the results.

In any case, do not ask any questions that address changes the company isn’t prepared to make. But do be prepared to act on responses to the other questions. If the survey’s intent is to improve a product or services, share the results and improvements with respondents. 

Step 3

Also important is the target audience. For brands sending out surveys to a broad and general demographic, asking for such things as gender, age and sometimes income level can be extremely valuable in breaking out responses by those categories.

Step 4

Do set a deadline for receiving responses. Although most responses will be received within a few days, allow for two or three weeks to close off the survey, especially if working with a large list. Do send out a reminder a week before the deadline and consider a final one a couple days before the deadline. It’s also important to immediately thank and acknowledge everyone who returned their survey.

Response Rate

As in most cases, the more the better. This applies to surveys as well. The generally acceptable response rate is 10% to 15%.

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