3 critical elements of a research survey or DIY (do-it-yourself) vs. hiring a research vendor

Do-it-yourself (DIY) research , specifically market research surveys, has become very popular during the last several years. No surprise- it provides very cheap and quick turn around research options that practically everyone can use.

The DIY research option is very helpful for student or companies that want to run quick and imprecise (statistically) surveys among their customers (provided they have built a customer contact list) or employees.

DIY survey tools offer, however, limited expertise- as far as actual research quality is concerned. I don’t know about you, but a bunch of data, to me, means nothing unless it provides reliable, practical insights and actionable recommendations.

To achieve reliable research results, any survey must have 3 important elements:

1. It must ask the “right” questions (this will be the topic of our first discussion)
2. It must target a statistically significant sample of the targeted customer or employee group
3. It has to provide practical insights and actionable recommendations

Next time you decided to run a DIY survey, ask yourself if you have those 3 critical elements in place.

Part 1 – Ask the “right” questions…

Here are several real life examples of survey questions.
In the first example, a researcher wanted to better understand consumer awareness of Prebiotics:

Q1. Do you know the main usage of Prebiotics?
– Yes
– No
– No sure

Q2. To the best of your knowledge, which of the following statements about Prebiotics usage is correct (please don’t guess)?
– Prebiotics are used to treat high cholesterol
– Prebiotics are used to restore healthy bacteria
– Prebiotics are used to feed healthy bacteria
– Prebiotics are used to kill harmful bacteria
– Don’t know

While over 50% of the respondents in the general adult population responded “Yes” to Question 1, only 13% were able to answer correctly for Question 2 (“Prebiotics are used to feed healthy bacteria”).

Take a look at another example. Subscribers of an internet magazine were asked to respond to this question:

Q. Why do you like our magazine?
– Because it’s informative
– Because it’s available on line
– Because it’s free
– Because it has great ads
– Other (please specify)

Well, if one conducts this survey to better understand his or her customer, wouldn’t it be more meaningful to ask what is missing in the magazine and what can be improved?

Finally, take a look at this question. The question was asked following the presentation of a new consumer product:

Q. How much would you pay for the product?
– $10.99
– $11.99
– $12.99

I bet you know the answers received by the researcher.

It’s very tempting to do your own research- for free. The question is what value you are going to get from this research.

Next time will talk about sampling and its statistical significance.

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