Every small business is looking for knowledge and information about how people think. In order to sell something, you need to provide something that someone wants. One popular way to gain this information is through surveys. If done correctly, they provide insight into the way people think and how they would act in a given circumstance. This will help you understand how you can provide a product or service to consumers in a way that they will want, and appreciate what you have to offer.
However, surveys can be difficult to properly administer. First, getting people to take the survey can be hard. Most people don’t want to take a survey unless they get something out of it. If you have a customer base already, or if you have a mailing list, you can look to those groups first…especially if you have a loyal base. They like to provide information, and you already have a relationship, so if you feel like you need to (or want to) offer an incentive–like a simple coupon code for a product–that could go a long way. They are already interested in your product and may want more of it, so you will probably get a good response rate from the group.
If you don’t have an existing customer base, or if your customer base isn’t the best group to provide the information for you (say for instance that you are trying to analyze various groups of people who would buy a current product–the information you get from a group of people where all of them have bought your product would be biased data and wouldn’t give you a good sample). You can offer legitimate paid surveys to consumers and you can get great information that way, but the motivation for the person taking the survey is to complete it as fast as possible and get paid. They may not think through the questions very thoroughly or answer truthfully. Most however, will give pretty good answers and you can use the data to gain an insight into the minds of the people taking the survey.
Once you have people taking the survey you need to frame the questions in a way that will get them to give real answers and not push them towards an answer. If you ask a question leading towards an answer you may get skewed results. If you can learn to ask questions in a neutral way you’ll get real answers. Simple and specific questions lead to more accurate results. If you ask a question that isn’t clearly understood you’ll get an inaccurate answer. Also, make sure that the answers contain all possible responses. If you ask a question and don’t have a good answer for a respondent you’ll get a bad answer.
Often, surveys will ask questions in two or three different ways from different angles to get the person taking the survey thinking about it differently. This will weight the results based on how many times you’ve asked the question. Now keep in mind that the more times you ask a question, the longer the survey will be and the more annoying it becomes to finish the survey. One suggestion to help this is to make sure that you have a progress indicator letting the user know how far they are and how much they have left. You can even provide a reasonable estimate at the beginning of the survey for how long you expect it to take in order to set expectations properly at the beginning. It can get frustrating for a user to begin a survey with an expectation that it won’t take too long and then 15 or 20 minutes into they are wondering when it will end. Every time they hit the “next page” button they get more agitated and frustrated until they finally just stop without any knowledge how close they were to finishing the survey.
Once you get the results make sure that you put equal time into analyzing the results and putting into real changes for whatever you were gathering information for. All too many people fail to fully analyze the data after they finish. They simply review it on the surface and then move on with life. With survey results you are trying to get inside people’s motives by diving into numbers and stats and then turning that information into actionable and useful items. Would they be willing to buy something or what they would prefer to see in a product. Once you’ve fully analyzed and implemented the data you’ll be better positioned to make money online since you’ll have good information about what people are looking for.