Over the years, we have designed thousands of market research studies for hundreds of businesses nationwide. And while each client is unique, we know that great research outcomes are rooted in great market research design.
To that end, here is a look at our 7 rules for designing market research studies that drive ROI and results for our satisfied clients:
The critical starting point for designing market research studies is not “what do you want to ask?” but instead “what problem do you want to solve?”
At first glance, these may seem like essentially the same thing. However, the latter is a far more important and valuable line of inquiry, because it directly targets the issue, challenge and/or opportunity that a business faces. That creates the foundation upon which “what do you want to ask” naturally and intelligently extends.
Not all respondents have the same mindset — or will offer the same value.
While customers and prospects may share many characteristics, they are not the same target group: customers have made a purchase (or several) and therefore they have a deeper relationship with a business, while prospects may only have a limited awareness — or perhaps none at all — about a business, and as such they will behave accordingly. Market research survey design must take into consideration the nature of these relationships, and make adjustments accordingly.
Respondent experience is directly linked to survey design.
If respondents find the survey experience simple and agreeable, they will not just participate more fully (i.e. they will not skip questions or end their participation outright), but their responses will be more candid and complete — and therefore more valuable. It is critical to note here that simple does not mean superficial. Simplicity when it comes to designing market research studies is both a science and an art; and it may be the rarest in the entire market research world (which is why so many businesses and even many agencies get it wrong!). Simplicity in this context means using simple language, wording questions concisely, using elements like answer categories (where applicable), and so on.
Methodology and survey design are integrated.
Due to cost considerations, many businesses want to deliver surveys via the web or through email. This is why there is a proliferation of online survey tools that, among other things, promise to be “simple, easy and effective.” While this is indeed possible, it is by no means guaranteed. In some cases, online surveys are either not the right method, or they should not be the only method (i.e. online surveys should be mixed with a select number of in-depth phone interviews, etc.). It is very important for the right method(s) to drive survey design, and not the other way around. Otherwise, businesses will not get the quality feedback they need and expect.
Stick to facts, not opinions.
One of the most common errors in designing market research studies, is that respondents are asked to share speculative opinions, instead of facts. The former invariably leads to vague, abstract and unreliable answers (i.e. asking the same respondent the same question a week later often leads to a qualitatively different response, because the mood and mindset of that individual has changed). The latter, however, is a straightforward question that relies on memory and reflection, and gives businesses useful and objective data points that can be cross-referenced against other responses to improve validity.
Create comparison points.
Comparison points allow a business to assess their performance against similarly-positioned organizations in their current markets, in order to get a robust and therefore more accurate and actionable sense of the true nature of their product reach. Without comparison points, businesses typically end up capturing a very small — and therefore inaccurate and unrepresentative — slice of their market segment.
Test the design and get feedback.
Testing a survey through a pilot launch often generates valuable feedback on what needs to be optimized, and in some cases, what needs to be eliminated. The result of this effort is almost always better participation, more engagement, and most importantly: higher quality data.
To learn more about our approach to designing market research studies — and for a deeper discussion of the rules that will help you achieve ROI and results, download our FREE eBook “The Insider’s Guide to Successfully Using Market Research Online Surveys” today: