Because of the wide availability of opportunities to create surveys using free online survey software, you can quickly and easily gauge customer satisfaction or interest in new product offerings via customer surveys.
When using a free or subscription-based online tool to create a survey, however, you must be certain that the survey is carefully designed to yield the most valuable data.
1. Preliminary Research
Online survey software makes it easy to create multiple surveys, which means you don't need to create one survey to address all of your market research needs.
So know what it is you want to know:
- What information do you need from your survey?
- What do you plan or hope to do with that information?
Different goals require different types of data from customers or potential customers. For example, the information you gather prior to launching a new website will be different from the information you'll solicit before adding a feature to an existing website.
2. Determine the Target for your Survey
Almost all survey software enables you to enter an email list. How do you determine which people to include on that list?
Choose a specific group of people you want to survey:
- Existing customers
- Potential customers
- Purchased sales leads
Customize your survey for the target group. When you create a survey for college students, for example, the tone and language will likely be different from that of a survey for senior business executives.
Writing questions tailored to your target audience will increase the response rate of your survey and result in more valuable data.
3. Write Simple Questions
Regardless of your target, use simple, straightforward language in all of your questions.
Most participants will not take the time to read a question more than once.
If you choose to use multiple-choice responses, be sure that each choice is distinct. Participants should not have to consider two responses that seem almost identical.
It is acceptable to use questions with fewer (or more) response choices than other questions if doing so improves the clarity of a question.
Double-barreled questions actually query two different data points. An example would be "How important are cost and quality when considering a new car?"
This question asks for two pieces of information, the importance of cost, and quality. And so there is no way of knowing which feature respondents have in mind when they respond.
Break down such questions into two short and simple questions; doing so will lead to better data.
4. Prioritize Your Questions
You have a choice of how to order your questions:
- Randomized question order: Questions appear in a different order for each respondent.
- Static question order: Questions appear in the same order for all respondents.
To best control the survey results, choose a static order.
Create a survey that starts with questions your respondents will find most interesting. Respondents are always most engaged when responding to questions about their own experiences. The most effective survey will therefore move from the most- to least-personalized questions.
Group questions. When you create a survey, also consider the groupings of your questions. Developing blocks of questions that address a single theme from different perspectives will return very specific data.
Most online survey software websites offer premium features that enable you to customize the layout of your survey. Be sure that there is ample white space between questions.
If possible, use survey software that presents each question individually, on its own page.
A progress bar will help respondents measure their progress, without being overwhelmed by a long list of questions.
6. Test Your Survey
Finally, test your survey before sending it out to. Survey testers should, of course, check the questions for spelling and grammar errors. Just as important, however, is to learn how respondents may react to the questions.
Key issues for survey testers to assess:
- Are there any questions that are confusing?
- Could any be misperceived as offensive?
- Is there a logical order to the questions that allows respondents to build upon prior responses with more detailed data?
Once you've vetted and revised the survey based on the feedback from the testers, release the survey to your target group.
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The next time you create a free online survey, keeping these tips in mind will ensure survey results are meaningful and valuable.
You may like these other MarketingProfs articles related to Market Research:
- Market Research for B2B Marketing Success: Jim Longo on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
- Get to Know the New B2B Decision-Makers: LinkedIn's Ty Heath Shares New Research on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
- 10 of the Best Tools for Market Research
- Why Customers Take Brand Surveys
- How to Identify and Avoid Survey Response Bias [Infographic]
- Small Towns Present Big Opportunities for Marketers: Rural-Business Expert Becky McCray on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]