Market research has always been a big staple of any marketing strategy. It started out as a practice in the 1930s as radio advertisers realised the need to research their campaigns because they were reaching such a high number of listeners and wanted to make sure they were sending out the right messages. It was then adopted as standard advertising practice and no campaigns you’ll see on TV or see in print would go ahead without a quick check-in with the demographic that the brand wanted to aim at.

It’s not just used in the advertising world

In the software project world, finding out what the end-user i.e. the people who will actually use the new feature you’ve developed, is key to knowing if what you’re doing is worth doing. A great Product Owner will survey and poll the user-base at the start of any project and then release versions of the feature to the user to beta test throughout the process. Some companies keep their betas very small and then use the release to gauge the thoughts of the market. Instagram got hit with the blunt end of the Internet back in December by drop-releasing a feature that was super unpopular. Their market research was over in 17 minutes!

With the onset of digital, the need to poll and survey at the start of a campaign isn’t as vital because you can use cheap means, like pay-per-click ads, to test different concepts, content, copy, and images. You can drive users to landing pages, websites, ads or emails with different variations for a low cost compared to the old days of the 1930s. The data that any analytics platform collects gives you everything you need.

You can’t beat a conversation

However, one thing you’ll always need to do, just like they did back in the 1930s, is talking directly to your customers and clients. Google Analytics can only give you so much information. Actually asking the person who bought your product or service WHY they bought your product is gold.

If you’re just starting out your business, you should survey a group of people you think might buy your product and survey to see what they think of your services or products, and your pricing. You could even deep dive and get them to feedback on your website, your logo or your most recent blog post. That data will give you the insight you need to know if what you are doing is right for your chosen market and validate your ideas.

As a more established business, you should keep in regular touch with your client or customer base and find out why they bought your products or services and what would make them recommend you. You can then use that data to improve or invest in what you know works, avoiding the dreaded “assumption”.

How to create a customer survey using Survey Monkey

My tool of choice is Survey Monkey because it’s so easy to use and you don’t have to worry about the design or layout. It has a fixed template you can use which are clean and well laid out, so you can avoid going overboard with design and get your survey recipient to focus just on the questions. If you do want something better looking, then TypeForm is worth a try.

Navigate to the ‘Create Survey From Scratch” button, give it a name and click ‘Start Survey’. You can then use the question bank on the left-hand side of the survey creation page to fill it up with questions specifically designed to find out more about your customer and their intentions. Under the ‘Market Research,’ there are 358 questions you can use, so you are really spoilt for choice. Ideally just pick 10 though because you don’t want to overwhelm your target customer and want them to complete it!

After some closed questions (i.e. are you this or that) you should then ask your target customer what they think. Open-ended questions using the ‘Comment Box’ to collect means you can really dig down into their thoughts. Survey Monkey allows you to analyze these type of answers with word clouds ( visual representations of the data) if you get enough answers. The word cloud below helped me understand what the main pain-point of my own target market was:
Once you have finished adding questions to your survey, Survey Monkey will give you the option of inviting users via email or you can get a web link to share. Get this link to as many of your customers or clients as you can.  At the end of the survey, you could ask if anyone would be willing to talk via a call to you about their answers.  Give everyone an incentive to answer and return it too. Money off vouchers or a gift, free information of a how-to.

If you don’t have a customer or client base, then starting from the ground up is one of the more fulfilling and rewarding parts of your business as you see the real-life feedback roll in. Start with asking friends and family to warm you up, and then get them to share your survey with people they know who fall into the category of your target market. Then research forums related to your niche that you could post your link in (Reddit, Mumsnet), and Facebook Groups with people who you think would buy your service.

Once the responses start to come in, you can see the results in the ‘Analyze’ section of ‘Survey Monkey’. The clues may be obvious and some you’ll have to mine, but ultimately you’ll have data that will give you insight into your customers and how to reach them online.