This originally-authored article first appeared on Memeburn.
The marketing community’s obsession with finding the right audience has only intensified in the digital age. With so many ways to track consumer behavior now, we’re constantly seeking the next best method for getting inside people’s brains. Once we’ve cracked their compulsions and preferences, we can convert them by serving up the perfect products for their needs.
We fixate on producing the rights ads, content, products, and services, and then we’re frustrated when conversions don’t go through the roof. Where did we go wrong?
No matter how much money you invest in products and advertising, you’ll never see the numbers you desire unless you’re selling the right products to the right people. Not only that, but you also need to sell to the right people in the ways they want to be reached.
That’s no small task, and it’s critical to your business performance — which is why surveys are so appealing. Hearing directly from your audience helps you improve your marketing messaging, customer satisfaction rates, brand awareness, competitive monitoring strategies, and product development — when surveys are done right, that is.
Question-and-answer formats are fundamental to human communication. The key is asking the right questions of the right people to gain insights from your target market. Here’s how to knock your next survey out of the park:
1. Define your audience
Many researchers mistakenly focus more on the questions they’re asking than on the audiences they’re trying to reach. But even the best questions won’t provide the information you’re seeking if you ask the wrong people. Be clear about what type of information you need and from whom. Do you want feedback on a new product or insights into brand loyalty? Establish your survey goals, and then go after the right people.
Identify their personas: their demographic profiles and current behaviors, as well as which platforms are most likely to engage them. People of all ages will likely prefer a mobile survey they can complete in a few minutes on their smartphones. But your 20-something customers may only be reached that way — nearly 20% of them are mobile-only. To get high-quality data, make it simple and comfortable for people to respond.
2. Reach customers on their own turf
Standard survey methods return low-quality responses for a number of reasons. Most people dislike telephone surveys when brands target them on their home landlines. Phone interviews are also becoming less effective, with 57% of Americans relying predominantly on their mobile phones and 41% using them exclusively. Moreover, in-person interviews provide in-depth, qualitative information but are limited in scale, so the data may not be broadly representative.
Paid panels also return nonrepresentative data; you have to account for bias because people receive something in exchange for participating. And online surveys demand that you pay for traffic to get people to the questionnaire site. But the biggest problem with all of these methods is that they’re not one-size-fits-all solutions. Millennials who live on their mobile phones aren’t going to be interested in sitting for in-person interviews or filling out lengthy surveys on a desktop site.
Fortunately, mobile survey methods hold the key to the best data, and smartphones provide affordable, unparalleled access to your audience members. You can invite them to complete simple surveys via smartphone apps. Considering that 89% of users spend most of their smartphone time in apps, it makes sense to target them there.
3. Ask the right screening questions
Screening questions play a major role in finding the right audience for your survey. If you want to select an audience based on common traits, behaviors, or opinions, your screening questions should help identify them.
Get specific here. Rather than focus on age, gender, or income level, ask, “Who is the ideal customer for my product?” That approach nets the most relevant responses, whereas targeting by age alone brings in people with too broad a range of perspectives.
Properly worded screening questions establish participants’ credibility and filter out respondents who don’t have strong opinions on your brand or don’t fit the core criteria. They lower costs, improve data quality and analysis, and reduce respondent biases.
Let’s say you want fresh, candid responses, so you decide to weed out frequent survey takers. One of your screening questions might be “Have you taken an online survey in the past six months?” Anyone who answers “yes” can be eliminated. Questions about educational background and lifestyle can also narrow the pool to the most relevant participants.
Be conscientious about the audience you want to engage with your surveys. As you become more specific and focused in your surveys, you’ll receive data that’s of higher quality. When you’ve connected with the right people, you can hone your product and marketing strategies to really meet your target market’s needs.