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Don't Start Your Consumer Learning with Surveys

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

In the world of market research, surveys are low-hanging fruit. They are ripe and tempting.

There are several reasons that brands and companies will often jump straight to a survey when they decide they need to gain more perspective from a current or prospective target group:

  1. They seem simple - They are simple, at least in concept, though good survey writing is definitely something that requires experience.

  2. They are definitive - If you get a statistically significant sample size, you have a bulletproof answer that can stand up to the CEO and the Board of Directors as fact.

  3. They are inexpensive - Online survey tools, internal customer panels, and scalability make quantitive research generally much cheaper than qualitative.

It's all true. And most managers reasonably think: "why would I waste time and money on squishy, expensive focus groups when I can get a statistically true answer from a survey quickly and easily?"

Answer: Because, you don't know what you don't know. You don't know what questions to ask in your survey yet. You don't know what the real issues are. You might think you do, but I'm willing to bet that you will be very surprised what you learn in qualitative research that will substantially change the eventual approach you take to quant.

It's impossible to craft a useful survey when you haven't had meaningful, nuanced, detailed conversations with your target about your product or industry. I've tried to help people write these surveys in the past and they can't be done because they are all over the place. There is simply too many unknowns to corral all of the possibilities into the very two-dimensional space of a survey. They become unwieldy, long, and ultimately useless pieces of research.

You need to start in three dimensions with qualitative, even if it's on the cheap by talking to a "friends and family" recruit in your local area. Anything at all will help you stop looking at the wide universe and focus on your immediate solar system of issues. Then you can write your survey.

Speak to us today about how to match your learning objectives with your budget and timeline so that you don't wind up fielding a survey that misses the mark by a mile.


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