Last time we talked about the early steps of a research project. Once we understand the framework though, it’s time to move on to the next steps: Design & Implement.
From Topics to Questions
Based on the work in the prior steps, you now have topics and maybe even some questions that you want to ask – and you have a sense of how you need them to be answered – whether that means concrete measurable prompts (items you might report in charts or with percentages) or whether they are more exploratory (items you might hope to see in a word cloud or leveraging customer quotes).
Designing good questions is another area where a research specialist will be helpful. Despite the amount of effort and thought you’ve undoubtedly put into your study goals, it’s all too easy – especially when we are focused on other responsibilities – to mismatch our question and our prompts, to create unbalanced scales, or to set up a question in a format that won’t yield the insight we need.
Here’s a few of the common issues that may make it into first drafts of surveys, and that your research provider should help you resolve:
- Confusing survey flow or order
- Mismatched questions/prompts
- Unbalanced scales
- Incomplete prompt options
- Use of jargon or other likely-to-be-misunderstood phrasing
- Provocative words or phrasing that may skew responses
- Questions that appear to request private or sensitive information
- Double-barreled questions / asking two questions at once
- Questions that are difficult to answer or require “homework” to complete
Generally speaking, we at Coax Insights are platform agnostic. We have used several quality survey solutions, and each has its strengths. Different platforms allow for different levels of programming complexity, and they may support different question types. Some tools (Forms, SurveyMonkey) are perfectly fine for simple surveys that do not require robust survey pathing or complex question types. Other platforms (Qualtrics, CMIX, ConfirmIt, Medallia), will provide you with more flexibility and more robust capabilities. If you intend to use a third-party survey platform, the one thing we do strongly recommend is that you review the data privacy and security features of the tool(s) you opt to use – to ensure you understand any risks, and that you approach your use of that tool accordingly.
Survey Programming – Order and Flow
You’ll want your questions to have some kind of logical order for the respondent. You’ll want to group “like” questions together, so that your respondent is not constantly “changing gears” to respond.
You also want to think about the overall flow of the questions.
Each question primes the response to the next one. Generally, you may want your topics to flow from “general” to “specific” – unless you have a concrete reason to have responses build on each other.
Your research partner should work with you to understand and help set a logical and easy-to-follow flow for your respondents.
Test Your Survey
You almost always want to include a layer of testing in your QA (quality assurance) process, to ensure that the survey flows as expected, and that if there is any logic or pathing involved, that the respondents will see the questions they should (and only the questions they should). This also lets you test the data formats, and better estimate the length of time the survey will take. Other optional levels of pre-testing might help you identify if any of your questions are perceived as confusing to your respondent audiences.
Prepare Your Communications
Once your survey is ready to launch, you want to circle back to those early steps when you were putting yourself in the participant’s place, to craft an invitation. Especially if your survey will go out to your own audiences or branded from your own organization, you want to make sure the invitation to participate sounds like your brand and will be perceived positively. Some of the questions your invitation should answer, as simply as possible, are:
- Who is asking for the information?
- How will it be used, or what will it inform?
- Are responses identified to the respondent, confidential, or anonymous?
- How much time will this take?
- When do they need to respond by?
- What’s in it for the respondent?
Decide if you’ll be sending a reminder, and when. Depending on the survey platform or distribution method, you may want to send a reminder to all invitees (thanking those who have responded already) or just to those who have not responded yet (if this is something the survey platform can identify).
Ready, Set, Invite
With your survey tested, your audience identified, and your invitation crafted, it’s time to launch your survey! The amount of fielding time (the time the survey is open for responses) will vary based on the purpose and goals. Surveys should be monitored during the fielding to help identify early if there have been any issues or if there are any particular audiences that are not participating at the desired levels, so that any needed interventions can be applied; your research partner should keep you apprised of fielding updates and any issues to be addressed.
Coming Up: Stage 3 of a Market Research Project
Next time, we’ll continue to expand on the stages of a research project. Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss an issue. Do you have a question about market research, or the stages of a research project? Post a comment below, and it may make its way into a future post.
Do you have a question you hope to answer with market research? Contact our team at Coax Insights. We’d be happy to help.
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