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How to conduct a better survey?

Online surveys are undoubtedly one of the most powerful and cost-effective internet marketing instruments available. It’s just that many of us have become enamoured with their speed and ease-of-use. We don’t always take the time needed for a good preparation. Taking time to design and write a survey that yields valid and clear results is an absolute must.

Here are some tips we have gleaned from experience:

Do some offline homework

Don’t just start writing questions. Define the business objective of your survey, first. What is my goal, what do I want to learn? Write these down and then form your questions to get answers.

Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and think broadly. Try to find out what fascinates the respondents, where their interests lie, which questions will be successful.

Then contact a few people you plan to include in the survey. Tell them what you’re trying to accomplish and ask for their input. Suggestions from your target group can be very interesting.

Brainstorm more for a better survey

Because it is so easy to create a survey and ask questions, it is easy to think you don’t need to plan clear objectives prior to launching. Nothing is further from the truth. With a Web based interface it is of course tempting to generate a list of questions in a one-on-one session with your computer. Don’t!

Convene a mini panel of colleagues. Brainstorm and write down a list of questions that prompt answers relevant to your objective.

Construct a conversation

Now group your questions into a beginning, a middle and an end. Start with simple, broad questions. Then funnel down to specifics. If possible, include some questions that will make your respondents think. Boring demographic questions — what you’re dying to find out — are best placed at the end of your survey (name, company, function, marketing budget, etc.).

Most important, think of your survey as a conversation. You want respondents to be driven to respond to the entire survey. That means you have to listen to each response. Each question should flow naturally from the answer to the question before it. Achieving this requires a bit of art as well as methodology. Group questions into sections and use the ‘heading‘ question type to tell your respondents what you are doing. For instance: ‘Web Use – Now we’re going to ask you a few questions about your online experience’.

Try your survey out prior to launching.

Testing your e-mail invitation and survey on a pair of fresh eyes is always a good idea.