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Learn how to conduct a survey in these simple steps

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Wondering how to conduct a survey? Here are the 5 things you’ll need to do:

  1. Ask yourself why you want to send it
  2. Pinpoint your target demographic
  3. Identify the number of respondents you need
  4. Pick the right moment to conduct a survey
  5. Design and send the survey

What are surveys used for? 

The benefits of conducting surveys are useful when you need to make an informed decision that can increase sales, improve internal workflow, and affect your sales demographics. Overall, conducting surveys helps you discover information regarding the opinions and preferences of a specific demographic. Valuable information like this can help you understand your customers better.  

There are generally 4 types of research: 

  1. Demographic research - An analysis of economic and population data. Demographic research helps you gather an audience most likely interested in your product or service. 
  2. Employee research - An analysis of your employees’ beliefs, thoughts, and opinions about job and industry-related subjects.
  3. Market research - Industry or buyer research to determine how your business measures up to competitors or how the market feels about something. 
  4. Customer research - Feedback from the people interacting with your business, product, and services. 

Understanding the need to conduct surveys is one thing. How to conduct your own survey is an entirely different challenge. Asking the right questions is key to collecting the information you want. Asking these questions in the right way is also important. Accomplishing both within your surveys might be a tougher than you think. SurveyMonkey makes it easy for survey makers by providing a catalogue of sample templates for a variety of use cases.

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Advantages of surveys 

Utilizing surveys can offer a better understanding of employees, customers, products, your business, and your competitors. If you have a product or service no one is buying, perhaps you’re not selling to the right people, or maybe you have a faulty product. Maybe you have a product or service everyone wants, but it’s not selling. In this case, the problem might be internal. Conducting surveys the right way can help you gain insight to such issues. 

Steps to conduct a survey

1. Ask yourself why you want to send it

The first thing you should do before writing a survey is to figure out why you’re sending it out at all. What type of insights are you looking for and what would help you validate your decisions. This will affect your question types and give you the most accurate data.

For example, let’s say you want to know what people think about milk. The first thing you need to figure out is: why do you want to know what people think about milk? Is it because you are a dairy farmer who wants to know how many new cows to buy this year? Or is it because you are a drug company gauging the demand for a medicine for lactose intolerant people? Or is it because you want to market your new soymilk most effectively?

Tip: Create a list of questions you need to know about your business. Making a list of any problems your company might have is also useful.

2. Pinpoint your demographic

To pick the best way to design and distribute your survey, you should figure out who you’ll be asking to fill it out. Decide who your target demographic is before you make decisions about your survey. Have more than one demographic? You might want more than one survey.

For example, an athletic clothing company, might ask females different questions than males about the fit of their clothing. That might mean asking different questions and applying skip logic in your surveys, or you could send entirely different surveys. 

There are far too many options to consider when it comes to pinpointing a demographic. Speculating is an option, but it can be an expensive one if you’re wrong. SurveyMonkey is a great tool to helping you build an audience panel to ask the right questions in order to get the best results.  

3. Identify the number of respondents you need

Once you’ve figured out who you’re asking, the next step in how to conduct a survey is making sure you have enough people to ask. Figuring out the number of people you need to have respond to your survey (known as “sample size” in the survey world) will make sure that any analyses that you run on the data you collect are a strong basis for good decisions. This “sample” of people needs to be big enough to be an accurate estimate of your target demographic. Try our margin of error calculator

For example, if you’re asking American men how often they wear ties, enough American men need to respond so that their answers represent what American men think. So how many is enough? Well there are roughly 150 million men in the United States, so to estimate a population of that size you’ll need 385 American men. Not sure how big your population is? In general, we recommend a default sample size of 400 people. (If you want to know more about the mathematical magic behind these numbers, check out these tips on finding your sample size.)

Selecting the right audience panel is related to the product or service you’re selling. That product or service might be regionally specific. For instance, suntan lotion will have higher sales in the west coast of North America and Australia better than the North American Midwest and Great Britain. So, for optimal results on suntanning products, it’s best to survey people who live in non-seasonal regions. 

Tip: How many people from each region should you include in an audience panel? This is where SurveyMonkey can assist. Create a survey with this sample size calculator to determine the size of your panel. 

4. Pick the right moment to conduct a survey

When you choose to send out your survey can have a big impact on who ends up responding. This can cost you money, as incorrect survey launch timing can decrease the percentage of people who respond to your survey. Survey launch timing can also change the answers you get—which can change the decisions you make. Not sure exactly when the right people might be around? Collecting survey responses for at least a week can make sure you’re pulling in a broad range of people and opinions.

For example, surveys about designer dress rental services will likely yield a bigger response in the days surrounding the Oscars than other times of the year. Or, if you’re trying to reach 18-21 year olds who like to go out to nightclubs, sending a survey out on a Friday night is a bad idea as they’re likely to be out. Surveys can also influence the answers you receive. Identical surveys sent out at 9am and 9pm about how tasty people think dumplings are is likely not only to be answered by different people, but also is likely to yield different answers. Similarly, a survey about how much someone wants to quit their job will yield different answers on a Monday and a Friday.

5. Design and send the survey

Learning how to conduct surveys requires more than just figuring out why it’s necessary. Design and distribution is another important step. Get additional ideas on survey creation such as themes and colors. Let’s recap some of the best practices needed to help layout the ideal survey: 

Survey best practices

Select the right software 

Having the right survey software to guide you through crafting the best survey for the information you need to improve business is key. SurveyMonkey is the world’s leading survey platform because we answer more than 20 million questions daily. Plus, we make it easy by providing you with sample questions and pre-built surveys

Consult your team 

Your team can offer a fresh perspective that you may not have considered. Get the most from your survey by including management to the survey-building process to add more value. It’s easy to collaborate of surveys as a team.

Determine your target population 

If you don’t have respondents for your surveys, you can build a custom audience panel. This is especially useful if you’re conducting market research. SurveyMonkey Audience has a trusted panel of respondents sourced from more than 130 countries across the globe. Alternatively, if you know who you are sending your survey to—like customers or employees—you can import those contacts directing into SurveyMonkey for response collection, or you can rely on one of our many integrations

Create an engaging questionnaire

With the overload of information readily available from mobile devices, attention spans can be short. That’s why it’s helpful to create alluring questionnaires. Graphics and multimedia certainly help keep interests. Make surveys more engaging with these 5 things.

Types of questions to ask

Demographic

Age, education, gender, income, marital status, and ethnicity are the most common types of demographic data collected. It’s best practice to consult an expert who knows how to ask these questions in an inclusive way. Be sure to add an option allowing people who don’t feel comfortable answering such questions. For instance, instead of asking how old a person is, provide a range of options that include the option for “Prefer not to answer.” 

Open-ended

The verbiage of open-ended questions need to be precise and used sparingly. Asking a question like, What do you like most about this product? Could result in a rant that doesn’t offer any value. Open-ended questions should be used when looking for an opinion on a specific subject. For instance, What can we do to improve Product X? Narrows the response and provides relevant feedback. Also, wording questions that require a one or two-word answer is helpful when it’s time to analyze the data.

Closed-ended

Closed-ended questions typically require binary answers like “yes or no.” This form of questioning is most helpful when collecting demographic information. Offering a select list, radio buttons, and checkboxes are beneficial for questions requiring longer answers. It’s also a smart way to keep answers that might otherwise require longer answers short.  

Common distribution methods 

Once you’ve created a strategic questionnaire with methodical and precise questions to a select demographic audience, it’s time to distribute. Here, you have options:

  • Email: Mostly everyone has an email account. This is a great option if you’ve built a good email directory. 
  • Social media: There are a variety of options when it comes to social media. Be sure to choose the right platform according to your brand of business as well as the type of products and services you’re offering.
  • Online survey platforms: This will be the most efficient option. With the right survey platform, you can build an attractive survey that’s designed to help you collect the data you need. Learn how SurveyMonkey works or read more about the best way to get survey data.

What to do after conducting a survey 

The survey has been completed and distributed to a select audience panel. Now, the responses come in, and real work will begin.

Analyze the data

Survey results come in immediately. Suddenly, you have a large amount of data. It might be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be if you’re ready to receive it. Create a table to analyze your information to provide gainful insights. Prepare a spreadsheet or use a survey template to organize and manage data results.

Create an action plan

Start with keeping track of the total number of surveys submitted, views, and responses. Other metrics will depend on your survey questions. Depending on your business goals, how you utilize your survey results can benefit your company in many ways.

Implement changes and retest 

While it’s ultimately your choice on how to best utilize survey results, the best plan of action is to write up a report of your analysis. Next, address the feedback reflecting concerns towards your business. Once you’ve addressed those concerns, follow up with another survey to determine if the changes implemented made a difference. 
Now that you have these 5 steps in your back pocket, the challenge in how to conduct a survey should be less daunting! Just be sure to go through these steps diligently. After all, each one of them can influence the responses you get back and the decisions you end up making!

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