The quality of your market research data is only as good as your sample and the questions you ask. Ask the wrong questions or the wrong people, and all of your efforts will be in vain. If you conduct your online survey correctly, you can gain valuable information about how your market thinks and shops.

Stick to One Issue

Start creating your survey with a goal in mind. Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Decide what specific information you want to know. This will help you choose the right question and keep the survey from being unfocused. It’s better to do multiple surveys for different types of information than to overwhelm people and have them leave the survey incomplete.

For example, if you want to ask people about the products they use, stick to that topic. If you want to discover their pain, frustrations, or problems, make that the focus.

What to Ask

When you have a clear goal, questions will usually spring to mind automatically. The best strategy is to generate a huge list of questions and then eliminate the ones that aren’t appropriate or which overlap too much.

All questions should be easy to answer and they shouldn’t be too open-ended. Don’t challenge or frustrate your respondents, or they’ll give up on the survey. For example, don’t ask them something like, ‘Would you buy this product ten years from now?’

Avoid any type of leading question. Your goal is to get objective data about how your market feels, not lead them to agree with you. Leading questions taint your results. Avoid questions like, ‘Do you feel like shopping at big department stores is playing right into massive earth-polluting and slave-driving corporate hands?’

Remove any questions from your list that aren’t completely relevant. Every question should be in line with your goal and provide you with information you can use. Remember that they’re taking valuable time to answer your survey.

Some example questions to understand the problems your target market might face include:

  • What are the biggest challenges you face in your life or work?
  • Why are those challenges a problem for you?
  • How have those challenges affected your life or work?
  • What do you do now to deal with those challenges?
  • Why did you choose those solutions?
  • How well do those solutions solve your problems?

Finally, be careful about questions that might offend or alienate someone. Assume that your respondents are sensitive and going to take things personally. An example would be asking them how much money they earn and then asking them to include their name on the survey.

Tools to Make It Easier

There are a number of software tools at your disposal that make surveys easier and will give you example questions to ask. One is SurveyMonkey, which lets you create surveys and polls quickly. The program is easy to use and everything is done online. It gives you lots of variety and customization features, like the ability to skip or vary questions depending on previous answers. There are also templates you can use if you’re not sure what questions to ask.

A more extensive program is Zoomerang. Zoomerang has been around for more than 10 years and is used by a number of Fortune 500 companies. Absolutely everything is customizable and it has a wealth of features. Zoomerang is fancier than SurveyMonkey, but also costlier.

Give Them a Nudge

There are many people who are quite happy to give their opinions, but you can sweeten the deal by offering an incentive. Incentives could include a small freebie, free entrance into a contest, a coupon, a discount, or a complimentary membership to a website. Offering a freebie is a very common method and it works to get the fence-sitters to participate.

Who to Send Your Survey to

If you have a ready-made list of loyal subscribers, you can send your survey directly to them. If they’re already associated with your brand, they’ll often be happy to have some input. However, if you don’t have access to a pre-qualified group, there are a number of other methods of getting your survey out there and in front of the right eyes.

  • Go to where they are. If you’ve discovered that a decent percentage of your market can be found on Facebook, for example, create Facebook ads that offer something of value in exchange for taking the survey.
  • Link to your survey whenever possible. Advertise it in your email signature, your blog, or as a prominent link on your website.
  • Get a ready-made audience. Some platforms, such as SurveyMonkey, have a feature that allows you to choose your target demographic and start getting feedback from their audience immediately.
  • Enlist help. If you’re on good terms with other marketers within your niche, tap into their audience. Ask them if they’ll send your survey out to their customers in return for sharing information gathered.