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7 Tips for Writing Market Research Survey Questions

08 Sep 2016 12:05 PM | Ray Beharry
Surveys are one of the best ways to conduct market research from the public. With an effective survey, you could gather sufficient data to build buyer personas, and more. However, there are inherent risks involved with surveys. Survey Respondents might not continue through to the end, they might purposely give false answers, or they could get confused by some of the questions in the survey. There are ways to write survey questions, though, which will help reduce or eliminate the risks, and achieve the best possible results for your market research surveys.

1. Confirm Your Survey Goals

Before you sit down to write out survey questions, you need to confirm the goals of the survey. This is particularly important if the person who ordered the survey is different than the person writing the questions. There must be no miscommunication between the two regarding the intended purpose of the survey. After the final results are in and the data has been organized, the answers should solve for the original intent.

2. Be Prepared To Crunch the Data

When the survey results come in, it’s just going to look like a bunch of questions and answers with few connections unless you are prepared to crunch the data. Survey results can be overwhelming, especially if you aren’t used to using surveys in market research. When you have some system prepared ahead of time to organize and analyze the data, the whole process of market research will go more smoothly. You’ll be able to immediately hand over the survey responses to the data entry operator. Then, you’ll be able to drill into the data and start using it to formulate your next move.

3. Start Wide and Funnel Down

Survey questions should always begin with very general questions and then funnel down into the specifics. This helps respondents to get comfortable with using the survey interface and answering the questions. If the first questions are very easy and general, the respondent will feel confident that they can take the survey. It’s important to nurture the respondent’s confidence in the survey, both with regard to your intention behind the survey and with their ability to answer the questions. If the survey seems like it’s going nowhere or has no discernible path, the respondent may lose trust in the company giving the survey, and quit midway through it. If the respondent doesn’t feel they can answer the questions, they are also more likely to quit before the end.

4. Avoid Leading Questions; Get to the Point

Survey questions should be very straightforward, with obvious answer possibilities. The respondent should never be made to think, “well, it depends on how you look at it,” or “that has a double meaning.” If a question can have a second meaning, then it needs to be rephrased or omitted. First, the respondent might get frustrated and abandon the survey. Second, the answers you receive on double-meaning questions won’t be definitive, and will be harder to analyze.

5. Keep the Survey as Short as Possible

It’s better to run multiple short surveys than it is to run one overly long survey. Long surveys have a higher chance of being abandoned before the last question than shorter surveys. If you are asking the right questions and phrasing them in as straightforward a fashion as possible, you should be able to get all the data you need from a short survey of 10 or 15 questions.

6. Keep Respondents Informed

Respondents deserve to know what you hope to gain by having them take the survey. At the outset, tell them the reason. You don’t have to give away corporate secrets; the reason can be vague, such as “we want to better understand our customers’ buying habits.” At the end, thank them for helping you…and repeat why they took the survey. In addition, offering running question numbers helps respondents know where they are in the survey and how many questions remain.

7. Ask the Same Question in a Different Form

Some respondents get enjoyment out of giving fake answers. You can weed these out of your data by asking some of the same questions in a different form. Those who are being genuine will answer the same way both times. Untruthful respondents will become evident with this technique and you’ll be able to eliminate those particular survey results.

Use these seven tips every time you use a survey for DIY market research to ensure the highest possible completion rates and accuracy.

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