How to Run a Successful Survey

successful surveySurveys are a powerful way to get objective information on a certain topic. If you’re a business, conducting a successful survey can give you insight of who your customers are, what they like, and how they think. If you’re a human resources department, you can do a survey to find out how your employees are doing, if they’re satisfied and what you can do to improve that satisfaction.

Unfortunately, not everyone is an expert at running them. Sure, you can write all the questions you want and give it to as many people as you can but even this is not enough to run a successful survey. In this article, we share with you some best practices for making your survey a successful one.

1. Network ahead of time

Before you launch a survey, you should already have a network of people to get onboard with the survey. There’s no point in creating a well-written survey when there’s no one to answer it so months before the survey, build your network and tell people about what you do. Develop these relationships and then let them know how this survey can help you and them too! People will be more keen to participate when the purpose of the survey is to benefit a product or service that they’re likely to use in the future.

2. Have realistic expectations

When doing a survey, you can’t expect everyone to respond to it. That’s why in the beginning, it’s important to have a realistic survey response rate expectation. For example, out of the 1000 people you have chosen, how many answers do you think will give you a methodically sound representation of a certain viewpoint? 500? 800? Think it over. You don’t want to get disappointed when response rates aren't 100%, but you still want to be able to make important decisions with confidence.

3. Know your target audience

Another factor to consider is your target audience. This is a key issue when trying to promote your survey, develop relationships, provide incentives, and wording the survey questionnaire. You want to know what mediums they are likely to use, what incentives will make them want to participate, and what language they can easily understand. Speaking in your target audience’s language will make them more likely to participate which means more answers for you to help with your decision-making. These factors heavily impact the success of your survey so keep this in mind before launching a survey.

4. Make each question count

You don’t want to waste the participant’s time so make sure that each question in your survey counts. Figure out what information you want to collect from the survey, write it down, and create the survey questions based on that. Then arrange those questions in logical order. Respondents don’t want to answer a survey that’s too long, is poorly worded, and bounces from one topic to another. It has to be clear and flow smoothly so plan your questions carefully before releasing them.

5. Provide all necessary information

Aside from writing clear questions, you should also be providing clear information about the survey. Tell the participant ahead of the time that the information and answers they provide will be confidential. This makes them more likely to be honest with their answers giving you more accurate data for your research.

Also, let them know how long the survey will take and provide instructions for how to answer the survey. Certain types of survey questions such as rank order questions or likert-type scales can be quite confusing so explain how each question should be answered. If you don’t address this from the beginning, you may get inaccurate answers which defeats the whole purpose of the survey.

6. Follow up

After doing all the steps we mentioned above, you still didn’t get the response rate you were hoping for. So what do you do? Follow up of course! Before even launching the survey, you should already have a follow up plan. How will you deal with unread emails? What about survey questionnaires that some participants didn’t bother finishing? What do you do with those? How will you follow up with these people (call, email, chat?) and how frequent are you going to do it before you stop?

On the other side of the spectrum are participants who expect a follow up. Many times, when a survey asks for personal information such as the respondent’s name, email address, and telephone number, they expect you to get in touch with them after. Have a system set up for this so they are well aware of what to expect from you after the survey. Even a simple thank-you email will suffice.

What other tips can you suggest? Share them in the comments below!

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