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What’s the Question – The Importance of Conducting a Survey

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There’s an old saying, “if you want to know, just ask,” which could easily lead to the choice of conducting a survey to find out information.  Survey research, however, is not as simple as asking questions. First, one must determine what information is to be gathered, which leads to deciding which questions to ask; how to ask them; and of whom.  In this blog, we will discuss when conducting a survey is appropriate, offer some tips on survey deign and on how to incorporate survey results into Public Relations and Marketing activities.

Learn the role of content marketing here: “What is the The Role of Content Marketing in the Customer Decision Journey?”

When a Survey is Appropriate

Surveys are generally conducted for one of three reasons: to describe a population, to explain behavior or attitudes, or to explore or discover new, relevant topics. Therefore, the first step is to establish the goal of the survey such as finding more about users, their perception of the product or, their needs, Then the topic can be further narrowed to possible questions regarding who are potential users, how existing customers feel about cloud migration or what are the most pertinent issues when deciding to migrate applications to the cloud.  Once we have decided on the goals, we can then decide on who would be the best people to survey. One needs to be aware of biases of certain groups, such as those of people attending a tradeshow, stopping by your booth and agreeing to take part in the survey. Perhaps a telephone survey conducted by an outside firm would find more accurate responses because it would be an independent study and perceived by participants as more objective. Obviously time and budget issues must be taken into account. Some surveys may require collection of data over time e.g. “how have attitudes toward the cloud changed over the past year?” There is also the question of how many people to survey and the number selected may impact the validity of results.

Surveys can also be helpful when conducting your buyer personas. Read the eBook “How to Master Buyer Personas” for more information.

Survey Design

Discussions on survey design have filled several textbooks but the most important takeaways are that questions should be clear, unambiguous to the respondent in order to deliver a response that will be useful to the one conducting the research.

For example, it is important to avoid questions such as Agree/Disagree on this scale:  Cloud migration will enable my company to expand into new areas, garner additional revenues and be more respected by employees.

The respondent may not understand if “new areas” means geographic areas or product lines and not have the same level of agreement on new areas, revenues and respect.

How to Incorporate Survey Results

Once the data has been gathered, what will be done with it? As the saying goes “no need to reinvent the wheel,” which in this case means that the data once converted into conclusions and information can be disseminated in several formats such as via press release, white paper, formal report, webinar or infographic. The information can be divided by topic as well with one whitepaper covering motivation for migrating to the cloud and another one discussing cost issues related to the migration.  Any text should include visuals such as charts and graphs that clearly display the most significant results.

On the marketing side, the conclusions ascertained can be used for such business decisions as product introductions, pricing, messaging and branding. The information cannot totally direct decisions, but must be combined with overall company direction and market needs.

To read more about messaging and branding best practices read, “Defining Your Brand”.

If designed properly and clear in its purpose, survey research is a very valuable tool for gathering information about customers, attitudes, and market drivers and challenges.  Goals and questions must be clear to avoid being led down the wrong path.  Whether one receives expected responses and trends or not, conducting a survey can be very informative and useful for business and marketing strategy.

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