5 Survey Techniques for Effective Market Research for Small Businesses

Surveys can be an excellent way to conduct market research and gauge audience reaction for your small business.Small business surveys

If they’re done correctly?

A good survey will give your business a clear roadmap on how to proceed with the public on a product or service. A poor survey, though, will direct you pretty much to the middle of nowhere. To get good results, you need to: properly guide your business, and make sure your survey acts exactly how you want it to. Here are five ways to make that happen.

Keep it simple

Confusing would-be respondents – by making your intentions unclear – will result in a waste of time for your business. Think of your survey as if you were writing a short story. If every line does not advance the story, then you don’t need it. If you can’t answer the question “what will I do with the information I get from this survey question?” in a satisfactory, then rewrite it or eliminate it altogether. Help the survey help you. Also, keep the survey short. A good number of would-be respondents won’t bother if they discover the survey is a 25-page behemoth. Ask only what you really need to find out in order to properly gauge audience reaction. “Need to know” as opposed to “nice to know” is a subtle but key difference.

Go undercover

Most people are wary of criticizing someone right to their face. So create a phantom research firm – in name, if nothing else – to disguise who it is asking the questions. You need the blunt truth, and people will more likely offer that to “Superior Research Inc.” than “Hal’s Sandwich Shop.” Eliminating bias can be tough on a survey, but this is one important way how.

Give people a choice

Ultimately, the point of you doing the survey and gauging audience reaction is to find out what interest there is in your business. But forcing people into ultimatums on your survey won’t help you get there. People don’t always think in black or white, so don’t make them. When asking whether someone would consider utilizing your business, don’t leave it to yes or no. Surveys that include middle-of-the-road options like “probably would” and “might or might not” will offer more accurate results. And make sure to include all relevant choices. A survey about Americans cars that doesn’t include Chevrolet won’t do your business much good at all.

Don’t lead the witness

You need accuracy, so the way you ask questions will get you there. Avoid leading questions or ones that show any bias. Make sure the wording does not favor one of the answer choices. Don’t use emotionally charged questions – good survey questions don’t really evoke any emotions (that means avoid politics and religion, for starters). Even something as simple as Option A and Option B can create bias. Back in school, which grade would you have preferred?

Test it out

With online survey software, try your survey out on a select potential client base before you open it up to the masses. That way, if you have encountered any of these issues – or any others – you can correct them before finding out you’ve just wasted your business’ valuable time and money. You can prepare thoroughly and still run into unexpected problems with your survey structure, questions or even instructions. If you can observe the surveys being filled out, then that’s even better in allowing you to fine-tune the smallest parts of the survey to better suit your small business. And, of course, do not include these results in your final tallies, especially those questions you may have changed.

About Sameer Bhatia

Sameer Bhatia is founder & CEO of ProProfs.com, a leading provider of online learning tools for building, testing, and applying knowledge. Sameer has a background is in technology and holds a Masters in Computer Science from USC and is an ed-tech industry veteran. You can find Sameer on Google+ and Twitter.