10 Professional Tips for Mistake-Free Surveys

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How do you REALLY know what is of value and importance to your target market? Asking them directly may not be enough because too many businesses fail to ask the right questions. Researching your marketplace is not a new concept but the Customer Value Survey is.

Many businesses, particularly small businesses, may not have the financial resources to engage a professional market research company. But armed with the Customer Value Survey concept, virtually any business of any size can gain valuable information with which to develop penetrating marketing messages.

Most businesses make the mistake of conducting customer surveys by asking questions such as “What do we do well?” and “How can we improve?” These types of questions totally miss the point because what a company does well may not be important to a customer. If you want to know..

– what is honestly important to your clients

– what is of greatest value to your potential clients

– how to develop truly penetrating marketing messages

… then the following professional tips will help you construct an effective Customer Value Survey. You will then be able to develop marketing messages that resonate with your target audience; because they have already told you what they want.

TIP #1 – what to ask

Formulate a survey around what is of value and importance to customers by asking questions such as “How valuable to your business is ABC?” and “How important is it to you that XYZ?”

TIP # 2 – what not to ask

DON’T ask questions directly about your own business because you won’t get such honest answers; many people don’t wish to offend. Instead, ask about your industry. ie: don’t refer to the name of your business, thus personalising it, but refer to the business group in which you operate.

TIP # 3 – how many questions

You only need 8 – 10 questions, and never more than 12. Respondents are busy people and will respond better to being asked to “answer a few questions, it will only take a few minutes”. Depending on your business, you will only need to speak with 15-20 people to get a solid representation of views.

TIP # 4 – question the questions

What are you REALLY trying to find out? Don’t waste a question. Do you really NEED to know the gender and age of a respondent? Watch out for double-dipping – asking the same question two different ways – don’t do it.

TIP # 5 – ask both current customers and potential customers

Ask both customers and potential customers who fit your ideal client profile. This is your target audience. If you don’t have enough candidates on your database, ask friends, colleagues, and industry associations to contribute suggested names.

TIP # 6 – be personal

NEVER rely on e-mail. Either call a potential respondent, visit them, or consider holding a focus group whereby 10 – 15 people get together for ‘drinks and nibbles’ and the meeting is facilitated by a third person.

TIP # 7- look for threads or consistencies in the responses

You should have 4 – 6 ‘attributes’ revealed; the consistencies in the answers. Group and analyse these. Headings may include attributes such as customer service, OH&S issues, responsiveness, knowledge, convenience, price, quality, etc.

TIP # 8 – marketing messages

Your attributes will form the basis for all your marketing messages either individually or as a group of 2 or 3 attributes together. Don’t try to develop one marketing message that encompasses every attribute; your target audience will just get confused.

TIP # 9 – marketing mix

Use a variety of strategic avenues, where appropriate, to send your marketing messages but ensure consistency. For example, if you have a website, develop a brochure and place a paid advertisement, ensure the message is consistent and relates to your Customer Value Survey results.

TIP # 10 – one size doesn’t fit all

Depending on your business, you can develop Customer Value Surveys for different purposes. Each survey can be a project for a specific outcome. But cumulatively, your marketing messages should be consistent.

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