Expert's Panel

A collection of timely and important topics posed to our panel of experts.

Back to Expert's Panel

    What are the key elements of a market survey?

  1. First is to narrow down what you want to get out of the study. One of the problems is that you go to the person asking for the study and they give you enough stuff to fill up five blackboards. People are going to only give you a little time during the survey and it is going to have to be very focused and clear. You will only be able to ask about four or five key questions. So the first element is to define what information you truly have to acquire—there will be some incredible collateral information that comes out of it just by accident, but you can't define that up front. Second is to define the four or five key questions that will accurately surface the desired data. Third, find an interviewer who truly knows how to do the interview—knowing how to ask the questions and when to shut up and listen and when to probe more is very important and takes experience. The last element is the report. If you try to report everything that was said, the reader will miss the important points. Report the high-points and the things that really look like trends.
  2. One other element is—can you really get a response. I did one a year ago. Out of 65 targeted people we got 2 responses. If the targeted interviewees are not knowledgeable, or won't make themselves available, your whole survey will be wasted. Fortunately in this example, we had special relationships with the two who were willing to give us the time and those inputs proved extremely valuable. Make sure you have the contacts to go get the needed information.
  3. As an information point, there are three ways you can take the survey. One is by mailing questionnaires—if you get a 5 – 10% response you are doing very good. But, you have to look at the motivation of the ones who did respond because they could skew the conclusions. The second way is to use focus groups. They are okay, but one problem is that anytime you get two or more people together, a small number will dominate the others. You could have five people in the group and four think the product is great. The dominant one may think it is bad and will convince the other four of that. It is also important that your group facilitator be knowledgeable about the industry. Otherwise, he may not know where to steer the discussions. The third way is direct interviews. Here there has to be some innate reason or motivation for the interviewee to want to talk to you. You have to decide what that motivation is and play to it. It may be that you have to reward them in a way that is meaningful. Or, it could be that the interviewee needs the product and wants to provide important input. It could be anything.
  4. One more element that usually comes up in the early part. Once you think you know what you should do and you start doing it, confirmation that is the right thing is another element. Take your story someplace where you have some level or respect and communication and you say, "We are doing this, because of this, and we would like your input." Or, better you say, "We think you are doing this and we are doing this in response because we think that answers your question. Does it?" People will respond and if they see you running in the wrong direction they will let you know.