11 Steps to Creating Great Surveys

February 02, 2011  |   Marketing   |     |   2 Comments

Writing a good questionnaire can be hard work. With the below step-by-step guide, you can develop a framework for doing your own market research that gives you real, actionable insight into your products, services, company, marketing and industry.

Step 1) Define your goals

Before you write your questionnaire, ask yourself and your colleagues, “What do we want to learn?” Make a list of research objectives and narrow it down to your top 3-5 goals. There is no sense bothering your list of respondents if you don’t know what you need in the first place.

Step 2) Create a list of questions

Think of all the questions possible that pertain to each of your goals. Don’t restrict yourself by type of question or number of questions. Simply write everything that you would ask a potential respondent if you could. Use plain language.

Step 3) Refine your survey

Choose the best 10-20 questions from step 2), making sure you have a good mix of research goals. Refine each question, one-by-one, by making it into one of the “types” below.

  • Rating scale: Respondents will answer this question using a range, the most popular being 1-4 (no option for neutral), 1-5 (typical LIKERT-scale question with a neutral option) and 0-10 (used for determining a Net Promoter® Score).Example: “Please rate your satisfaction with our product on a scale of 1-5”
  • Multiple choice, one answer: Respondents must choose a single answer from a list.Example: “Which type of marketing most influenced you to purchase our product?” where the preset options are direct mail, radio, newspaper, Google search, etc.
  • Multiple choice, multiple answers: Respondents select one or more options from a list of answers. Example: “Which types of marketing helped convince you to buy our product?” A respondent who had heard your radio spot and read your newspaper advertisement could select both.
  • Matrix of choices, one answer per row: Use this to ask the same question about multiple items. For example, if you want your customers to rate satisfaction for 10 features, you can group these features together and ask for the same rating.
  • Matrix of choices, multiple answers per row: Respondents have the flexibility to select any box in a matrix.Example: “Please select what type of research you would do for each publication.” Respondents could then say they used The Economist to look at world news and economic information while they read the Wall Street Journal for world news and stock prices.
  • Ranking questions: This question forces respondents to put a preselected list of items in order.Example: “Please rank the below list of product features by your satisfaction with each.”
  • Open text – one answer: Respondents can answer whatever they like, giving you a more qualitative gauge of how well your company is meeting its objectives. This is also a great place to gather testimonials with a question like “Why would you recommend our company to a colleague?”
  • Open text – multiple answers: Here you can find choices that you don’t know. If you’re not very familiar with what features your customers even value (maybe your product hasn’t come to market), you can have respondents list the features they want and normalize the responses.

Step 4) Transform yes/no questions

If you have any yes/no questions, try to transform them into rating questions. For example, change this question: “Are you satisfied with our product?” into this one: “Please rate your satisfaction with our product on a scale of 1-5.”

Step 5) Start your survey with a grounding question

Begin your questionnaire with a generic question like “How satisfied are you with our product?” In this way, you can compare the other ratings to this initial one. This can also serve as a great satisfaction benchmark over time.

Step 6) Test your survey by phone

Call some of your potential respondents and see how they answer your questions. Look for any misunderstandings or areas where you could further clarify what you want.

Step 7) Market your survey

If you have a customer list, sending two emails with an incentive works well in generating responses. Your customers know a lot about you from first-hand experience, and surveying them will help you enormously.

If you have a prospect list or an outside list, emails may not get enough answers. To get the best response rate, conduct a phone survey.

For testing website usability, post a link to your survey on your homepage, or as a pop-up on exiting your website.

Step 8) Compile responses

Make sure you have an easy way to get your responses into Excel, Access or MySQL. You’ll want to explore responses in different ways, cross-tabulating different questions and comparing to any in-house data you have.

Step 9) Analyze responses

Look at the data you have collected, preferably with a visual analytics tool like Tableau Software. This will help you understand how your respondents are thinking and what they want. Whenever you come across an actionable piece of information, take note.

Step 10) Compile your report

Focus on the initial goals of your research and show your conclusions. Are customers happy with your product? Yes, they rated us at 4.5 / 5.0. Which features do they find most important? They care most about X and Y. Are they satisfied with what they think is important? They love X, but aren’t as keen on how we present Y.

Step 11) Create an action plan

List the actions you hope to take regarding each conclusion. Do the results show that customer service seems lacking in San Francisco? Then add “check on San Francisco customer service center” to your action plan. If customers consider feature Y important, but don’t seem satisfied, do more research to find out why.

We hope this guide can serve as the basis for your next market research project. If you want to see some sample questionnaires and reports, visit www.spyglassintel.com/samples. Or if you want to schedule a free, one-hour consultation on your next project, visit www.spyglassintel.com/schedule-a-consultation.


2 Comments for this entry

  • Tom White

    November 10th, 2011 on 2:01 pm

    Joe, great stuff, right on target. Your Samples link above is a blank page. Would you be able to share any b2b samples? THanks!

  • Joe Leider

    November 10th, 2011 on 2:44 pm

    Tom, thanks so much for the comment! We recently put our samples here: http://www.spyglassintel.com/resources/#samplework. I’ll send you a B2B sample from a while ago by email.

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