"If you haven't asked the question, how will you know the answer?" That old saying is a pithy summation of the rationale behind conducting a survey to find out information about your customers.

Survey research, however, is not as simple as asking questions: The right questions must be asked of the right people. You must first determine what information you want to collect, which then guides you to choosing which questions to ask, how to ask them, and of whom.

This article will discuss when conducting a survey is appropriate; it will offer some tips on survey design; and it will explore how to incorporate survey results into PR and marketing activities.

When a Survey Is Useful

Surveys are generally conducted for at least one of three reasons: to describe a population, to explain behavior or attitudes, or to explore or discover new, relevant topics.


Accordingly, the first step is to establish the goal of the survey: what you want to know—such as finding more about users, their perception of a product, or their requirements and the environment in which that product will operate.

The topic can be further narrowed to possible questions regarding who are potential users, how current customers feel about a certain product, or what the most pertinent issues are when deciding to purchase an item in this product category.

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image of Lynda B. Starr

Lynda B. Starr is an account director at PAN Communications, an integrated marketing communications agency with offices in San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Orlando. Previously a research analyst, she is an expert in IT, telecom, and wireless.

LinkedIn: Lynda Starr

Twitter: @lyndastarr