You’ve identified the answers you need, you’ve written a fabulous questionnaire, so how on earth do you get people to complete it? Ensuring you have a good, reliable respondents is hard work.
It’s important to know in advance who you want to speak to.
You need to set clear aims in terms of how many and what kind of people you want to survey. e.g. if you are speaking to your customers, then do some preliminary analysis of your customer database before the survey commences:
-How many customers do you have?
-Are they already classified in your database in some way?
-By spend, by frequency, by volume of purchase?
-Are these groupings appropriate for your survey?
If you want a survey to be representative of all your customers then you need to ensure that all your customers are equally represented in it.
I’ll talk about results being statistically representative in a forthcoming blog, but it’s important to consider whether your sample size is going to be an accurate representation of your audience.
If you have 50,000 customers and you speak to 10 – then it’s unlikely that these 10 will paint a picture which applies to all 50,000. But if you speak to 400, then the results are going to give you a clearer picture of how all your customers think.
There are 3 main ways of finding respondents –
- Using a list you already have
- Buying a list of potential respondents
- Approaching people directly
If you are conducting a survey amongst your customers then it’s a relatively straightforward process: the questionnaire will need to be distributed to your customer database. That means sending it to every customer, even the one who complained last year and you haven’t heard from since. But you’ll need to be aware that customers who are on the extremes (very happy or very unhappy) are much more likely to respond, so your results might be skewed towards these types of customers, and won’t be representative of those who are sitting in the middle. You’ll also need to ensure that the list is up to date: often market research projects have the added benefit of cleaning your customer database!
If you don’t already have a list in-house, there are many companies who can provide you with a list of people to contact. If your survey is being conducted online, a panel provider will have access to hundreds of thousands of potential respondents, and they will send email invitations to their panel members directing them to your survey. These are priced per completed interview, so you can be sure you’ll get the desired number of respondents.
It’s also possible to buy lists of potential respondents you can use for your own email campaign, or for telephone interviews, or even for sending questionnaires by post.
This method would be used when you don’t have easy access to your desired audience, e.g. you want to speak to people who visit a farmers’ market in a particular town. In this instance, the most effective way to reach these people is to send interviewers to the location and conduct the interviews face to face. You could organise an army of colleagues and friends to help, or engage the services of a fieldwork agency who will do all the legwork for you. Either way, this is a very labour-intensive exercise, but will give results quickly. You could collect all your data in one day.
Once you’ve identified who will be receiving your survey, then you need to have a plan of attack for how you are going to get people to complete it. It goes without saying that you questionnaire needs to be well thought out, well designed and engaging (I’ll cover that in another blog soon as well). Other things to consider are –
- Offer an incentive for completion, e.g. entry into a prize draw or a free download. This should be something that will entice people to complete the survey, BUT not something so amazing that your survey is completed by all and sundry just to try to win the prize. Surveys with amazing incentives are often promoted on money-saving websites, and you’ll end up with respondents who aren’t necessarily your target market and who aren’t necessarily paying attention to the questions – they just want to get to the end of the survey to tick the box and enter the prize draw.
- Think about the time of year, the month or week when you will be conducting the research. Avoid undertaking research during particularly busy times for your audience. The months of July and August are notoriously difficult as lots of people are on annual leave; the same is true for December, when people are preoccupied with Christmas.
- If your survey is online, think about how often you are going to remind people to take part. Do you have a system in place for ensuring that those who have already completed the survey are not sent reminders? It’s frustrating to be asked to take part in a survey when you have already completed it.
- If your survey is being conducted face to face or by telephone, think carefully about your selection of interviewers.
- If your survey is being sent physically through the post, you’ll need to factor in timings for printing, organising the mailing, and posting out.
- Set a closing date – otherwise respondents will file it in the “I’ll do this later” pile.
- Personalise your correspondence. If you know the respondent’s name, then use it.
- Monitor response throughout the fieldwork period to ensure that you’re collecting responses from all sections of your audience. If necessary, target reminders to ensure there is a balance.
I hope these tips help when thinking about your survey and the respondents. If you are thinking of conducting research, but you’re unsure how to be certain you’re speaking to the right people, then please give me a call – I’d be happy to talk through your options with you. Or, if you want the research taken off your hands completely, then I can do that for you too.