Ideas
November 20, 2012
 

Survey road map: Who will you ask?

Increase your survey’s response rate by asking the right audience. 

You’ve got a few key questions in mind. Now, it’s time to identify who you are seeking answers from and isolate a sample size of customers to best answer your thoughtful questions. It’s important to determine the missing puzzle piece. Think to yourself: feedback from which audience will provide my company with the most valuable insight?

It’s important to whittle down your customer list to the appropriate demographics and behavior styles you’re researching. Consider first – who’s the ideal customer whom you are trying to reach? The goal is to get critical feedback from your target audience.

Build a sample you can trust

Although, it is important to narrow your survey research down to a specific audience, it is wise not to be too restrictive in regard to quantity. Surveys serve as excellent research tools, but can often garner low response rates. Therefore, if you’re looking to receive a certain number of responses, it is safe to multiply that number at least by three. If you’re still not sure which sample size is appropriate to use, then it is safe to follow the industry standard, which suggests a minimum sample size of 300 individuals. Depending on the demographics and content of your survey, better targeting may boost your return rate on responses and increase the quality of such feedback. By targeting the right audience and asking the appropriate number of people, you’ll have a sample size you can trust and helpful responses that will be instrumental for your business.

For example, occasionally companies make mistakes by surveying a full customer base for a pinpoint question. They assume that to get a sample size close to 300, the best chance is to cast the widest possible net. That’s a huge expense, when a smaller slice of your customer base would suffice and most likely provide you with more valuable results.

Consider a bank who surveys its entire base to ask about preferences for online bill pay. Suppose they even contact customers by direct mail, who simply check that they have “never used” this online service. The bank may gain a huge amount of responses – but none that fit the preferences of their target market. That’s money and time wasted, plus poor data to boot. It’s better to isolate a subset of people who have a proven familiarity of your questions.

When determining who you will ask, it is important to decide which platform will be most effective in reaching this specific pool of people. Depending on the preferences of your target market, direct mail incurs a standard 3.4% response rate from current customers, while email yields only 0.12%.

Our example bank may have earned well above a 4% rate, including non-online customers in their target bucket. But they also spent time and money developing a direct mail piece that didn’t help their intelligence. They would have been better off creating and delivering emails to a targeted, online-savvy customer list. Even with a far lower response rate, it’s far less expensive.

We’ll return to this discussion in “What will you ask?” and “How will your target customers receive your survey?” sections of our survey road map. For now, remember that a quality sample will provide your company with the beneficial results you’re seeking.

Key takeaways

  • Study customer behavior.
  • Create your ideal sample– which customers would you like to have respond to your survey?
  • Narrow your target audience as much as possible, keeping our tips to boost response rates in mind.

Up next: What will you ask?

 

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Director of Marketing and Development
Family Service & Guidance Center
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