5 insights for running effective marketing research surveys

It’s all too easy for modern marketers to get lost in the weeds of strategy planning, content creation, and metrics analysis without taking a moment to understand the target customer. Yet every good marketing campaign should begin with a deep understanding of who you’re marketing to and what their challenges, desires, goals, habits, likes, and dislikes are.

A marketing research survey is one of the most effective ways to get the data you need to create a customer profile. There’s no need to reference your old college textbooks on consumer psychology, research methods, and data analysis — we’ve compiled five insights on research surveys that every marketer should know.

1.Figure out the “why”

A marketing research survey is a waste of time and resources unless you first establish clear objectives. Consider these questions: What do you hope to understand? What problem are you attempting to solve with the data you collect? What answers do you need? 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Take a deep dive into your customers. A marketing survey can help you figure out your customer demographics, from gender to age to income. With this information, you’ll be able to improve your campaign targeting and segmentation, especially for platforms like Facebook. From there, you can research and analyze target markets, including their product usage, lifestyle habits, and geography.  
  • Learn more about a product. Can good marketing save a bad product? Most marketers say no. Trying to make diamonds out of coal will most likely tarnish your reputation with your customers. Instead, send an online product feedback survey to potential customers to see if the product meets their needs. This can help you develop insights to drive continuous product innovation and improvements.
  • Measure brand attributes. Does your target market know about your company, and if so, what do they think about it? A brand survey can help home in on the public perception of your brand. Even better, you can include questions about where you stand compared to your competitors. 
  • Receive feedback on a potential campaign. If you’re working with multiple concepts for a campaign, it can be challenging to decide on a winner. With a marketing survey, your target audience gets to pick the headline, visual, or ad format that best resonates with them. This way, you can better maximize your ad spend and guarantee success. 

2.Choose the right respondents

Finding the most representative respondents is essential to a useful survey. Ask yourself: Are you hoping to survey existing or potential customers? What are your audience parameters in terms of demographics? 

The more specific your audience criteria get, the more challenging it will be to find a large enough sample size. (For a robust survey, you’ll need to have a substantial market sample, whether it’s an email list or social media followers.)

3.User-friendliness is key

Nobody wants to spend hours answering a survey. Few will be willing to spend more than a few minutes. Here are some pro tips on how to keep your survey as user-friendly as possible:

  • Keep your survey under 10 minutes in length. Depending on how complex your questions are, that could range from five to 10 questions. The fewer questions you ask, the more responses you’ll receive. 
  • Use short and clear sentences. Your respondents shouldn’t second-guess what a question means — the intent should be obvious and intuitive. 
  • Instead of yes-or-no questions, use a scale, if possible. Scales allow respondents to express their opinions with more nuance. But make sure that in addition to numbers, you label every point on the scale with a brief description, such as “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree.”
  • Your questions shouldn’t prime your respondents to answer in a certain way. To ensure that your survey is free of biases, ask multiple people to review it. 

4.To tell a story, get qualitative data

Don’t be afraid to include a few open-ended questions in addition to your multiple-choice or drag-and-drop rankings. Qualitative data can help find a narrative in your customers’ opinions, experiences, and preferences, and help you create more compelling content or campaigns. 

It’s also an excellent opportunity to gather word-for-word testimonials or customer stories for your marketing materials. Just make sure your questions aren’t too open to interpretation — specify what you’re looking for.

5.Choose your platform wisely

Gone are the days when market research surveyors had to stand on a street corner with a clipboard or conduct an in-person focus group. Nowadays, marketing research surveys can be carried out efficiently via an online questionnaire distributed to thousands of respondents. 

How you conduct your survey will depend on your goals and audience. If you’re a kidswear brand, for example, you’ll probably go for face-to-face interviews with parents and their children. On the other hand, if you’re targeting millennials, you can easily conduct your survey through social media or an email campaign. 

Pro tip

Let your survey run long enough to achieve statistical significance — especially if you’re going to run a crosstab analysis of the data. In a study, SurveyMonkey found that 80 percent of responses to surveys using an email collector were gathered in the first week after email invitations were sent; they recommend waiting until day seven before running any significant analysis.

6.Conduct a thorough data analysis

Once you’ve collected all the necessary raw data, you’ll need to plug it into a statistical analysis tool (think SPSS, R, or Excel) to analyze it thoroughly, pulling out key trends, anomalies, and general findings with statistical significance. For qualitative data, consider developing a codebook to condense your respondents’ answers into identifiable themes. You can then draw actionable insights from your survey to inform your next marketing campaign, product idea, or brand revamp.

It’s time to survey

Good marketing is both a science and an art. When it comes to packing an emotional punch that’ll compel shoppers to buy from you, gut instincts don’t cut it — conducting a properly designed marketing research survey is well worth the effort.

And best of all, it’s simple to do nowadays. Many affordable, reliable companies allow you to create a survey and distribute it to hundreds of respondents. Whether you’re a one-person marketing squad or part of a massive team, use research surveys to ensure your marketing strategy is on point, and your resources are well spent.

This article is originally published on Oct 02, 2020, and updated on Apr 20, 2022.
AUTHOR
Jaime is head of content strategy at AdRoll, a division of NextRoll, Inc. She has 12 years’ experience in content, social, and partner marketing, spanning from scrappy startups to the global enterprise. Jaime loves crafting content that customers actually use and goes to bed dreaming about how content can change the world.

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