Deciding On Internet Surveys

Technology today offers four basic alternatives for executing an ongoing Internet survey marketing research program. Which one you choose depends on a variety of factors.

Taking a very typical example, let's assume you have a marketing research project that you think would be a perfect application for and Internet survey methodology.�

You have overcome the typical Internet survey hurdles and already have a list of email addresses that are representative of your target population. Additionally, you are pretty sure that because of your relationship with the respondent and/or the relevancy of the topic to the respondent, your survey response rates will net the final respondent sample size you are looking for (for example, 2,000 emails with an approximate 20% response rate might net you 400 respondents with an associated margin of error of +/- 4.9 at a 95% confidence level).�

So, where do you go from here? Assuming you will do five to ten medium-sized surveys a year, you would have four choices for executing Internet surveys. Ranging from least expensive to most, they are: hosted survey; hosted survey/limited service; hosted survey/internet only/full service or hosted survey/multi-mode/full service; or survey software purchase/licensing.

A quick word of caution before we go on: since the usability of any marketing research depends upon the accuracy of the results, error control plays a critical role in the research process, and even experienced marketers can make the common mistakes.

Marketing research tends to be very strategic in nature, and if you have never performed marketing research before, you should seriously seek the help of a professional to avoid making critical mistakes or false judgments.�

Unfortunately, many Internet survey companies have recently come into the marketplace taking advantage of a very seductive reality -- Internet surveys can cost from a little less to a lot less than other survey methodologies, depending on a number of factors.�

BUT, what many hosted survey companies often do not communicate well are the opportunity costs, which can be far more significant. Opportunity costs can become a major factor when someone less experienced in market research rightfully feels empowered by incredibly powerful Internet survey tools and fails to avoid some of the basic marketing research mistakes, resulting in the collection and sharing of poor intelligence.�

The opportunity costs are a combination of all missed opportunities due to making incorrect strategic decisions. In cases where the problem is recognized, the survey will often need to be redone, and the lost time and money will further compound the opportunity costs. In even worse cases, the research errors and decisions based on poor intelligence may go undetected for very long periods of time.

As a full service market research (hosted survey/ multi-mode/full service), companies often approach us looking for help with an ailing program. Typical stated symptoms are that the research is not valuable, relevant, effective, useful, etc.�

We have found that while there are many keys to establishing a valuable measurement program, there are two critical components.�

The first is correctly determining which attributes of your product or service are the most significant to the customer so that you can focus specifically on them. For example, if in performing call center satisfaction research, the customers' perceived hold-time is not measured and it turns out to have a significant impact on overall satisfaction, that would clearly be a critical flaw.�

The obvious effect of such a mistake would be that a critical driver would not be included for measurement, and therefore a key performance improvement opportunity would be lost.�

A more subtle effect is that minor factors included in the survey may appear more important in the absence of a key driver. By properly setting up the program and applying appropriate statistical analysis, you can determine which attributes are most highly correlated with positive customer behaviors, such as whether they would recommend your product or repurchase your services.�

The second key is synthesizing the results into an actionable and user-friendly reporting format that your managers can use to affect change. If they can't understand the research or it does not engage them, it will not get used and your research will never be perceived as valuable, relevant or effective, no matter how good it is.�

So, before seeking a marketing research partner for your Internet surveys, make sure you take the second step of the marketing research process by performing an honest assessment of your your project, budget and required marketing research skill set.�

Once you have performed an honest assessment, then you will have a better idea which services you will need help with to create a successful program, and what the actual costs should be.

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