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Any good marketing campaign strategy strives to answer this essential question: Are we reaching the right customer, with the right message, at the right time?

Answering that question isn't easy, but doing so is vital. By collecting data on concept and product development, market trends, branding key performance indicators, campaign measurement, customer satisfaction, communication, and creative, you'll be empowered to take a more strategic marketing approach.

Moreover, selecting the right medium for gathering feedback can reduce cost, improve reach, and speed up your data collection. The trick is to get data quickly enough that it can guide internal decision-making—which makes mobile surveys a great option.

Mobile: Market Research's New Frontier

Agencies and clients need to consider that traditional methods of gathering market research (such as door to door, in person, via a live operator, and robocall surveys) have their limitations and biases.

People see door-to-door visits, live-operator calls, and robocalls to mobile phones or landlines as the most intrusive forms of survey invitations, according to a recent study.

By contrast, mobile surveys assure anonymity, eliminate interviewer bias, and reach and engage participants within their time-constrained schedules.

How do marketers know whether they're targeting the wrong survey audiences or taking antiquated approaches to data collection?

Consider these top four mistakes that marketers make when launching surveys.

1. Forgetting to consider context

A 20-year-old and a 55-year-old will have different responses to a paper-based survey. Moreover, someone accustomed to interacting with your brand on social media may balk at an email survey.

Know your audience and which mode will work best to reach your customers (e.g., in person, on paper, or by telephone, email, social media, or mobile). Make sure you know the pros and cons of each methodology, and consider how you will compile data from multiple sources.

2. Failing to put mobile first

Daily use of the mobile Internet is increasing across all age groups. Americans between ages 18 and 24 check their phones an average of 74X a day. Those between 25 and 35 look at their devices 50X per day, and 35- to 44-year-olds check them 35X a day. Phone addiction is a real phenomenon—and one that can benefit mobile marketers.

The promises of mobile are scale, reach, and efficiency. If you need quick turnaround on your concept, mobile is the fastest, most economical, and most efficient way to obtain results. Case in point: My company recently conducted a survey on the "Brexit" (i.e., whether Britain should leave the European Union). We reached out to mobile users in the UK, and we needed only to connect with 771 users to receive 750 completed surveys in just over an hour.

3. Overlooking the customer journey

People don't differentiate their online experiences by what they do on different screens, so the onus is on you to provide the best experience based on where you reach consumers.

For example, the US has about 207 million smartphone users, and 91% look to their phones for ideas in the middle of tasks, which means most customers will be on their mobile devices at some point in their journeys. What better way to evaluate your mobile impact than with a survey designed to reach the mobile user?

4. Overcomplicating survey content

People make decisions on the basis of functional, economic, or emotional benefits. Reaching a core understanding of which benefit compels your customer within just a few questions is better than having the results of an exhaustively long survey.

If a survey is too long and respondents tire out, the information they provide can become convoluted.

The nature of mobile encourages people to be concise. Every time consumers pick up their devices, it's to take action—and that means your survey needs to be clear, succinct, and time-sensitive. Plus, because consumers often multitask on their smartphones, they're more likely to drop out when the survey takes more than a few minutes or contains more than 15 questions.

* * *

A well-designed survey that reaches the target audience benefits you by helping you to collect, analyze, and understand customers' opinions. Those insights allow you to test concepts beforehand and avoid costly mistakes (e.g., the Gap logo in 2010 or Netflix Qwikster) so that you can focus your resources on developing products and features that really matter to your customers.

Remember that a survey should answer the following questions:

  • Who cares?
  • Why?
  • What's the best way to reach the people who care?

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image of Ray Beharry

Ray Beharry is head of Marketing at Pollfish, an Adjunct Faculty Member at New York University, and an advisor to startups at NYUs Startup Incubator at the Tandon School of Engineering.

LinkedIn: Ray Beharry 

Twitter: @RayBeharry