Small and midsize businesses are usually limited to small marketing budgets, so it”s extremely important that they get the biggest “bang for the buck.”
One effective way to do that is to conduct online surveys to secure direct customer feedback. Not only does this allow business owners to obtain real-time opinions, they can also generate new ideas on how to improve their product or service.
Speed to market
An online survey can be assembled and distributed in the matter of minutes. All it takes is a few clicks, and it can be sent out via email or social media, whether through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or others.
There”s no need for hard copies, since results can be tallied instantly online, and there”s no paper involved or a physical collection process to be concerned about.
Speed to analyze
The subsequent analysis can also be done easily by the business owner or any member of the staff, whether they have market research experience or not. In essence, there”s no need for expensive third-party consultants.
The results are tabulated online, and you can generate charts, graphs, and reports. You can view responses by demographics, respondent preferences, by question, by age, by location, etc., and you can slice and dice the data into any type of statistical reporting you like.
Format questions properly
By formatting questions properly, you can pinpoint the best results to meet your goals. For example, open-ended questions provide subjective and anecdotal answers, which are great for a qualitative analysis — but you may not garner quick-and-easy reviewable data.
On the quantitative side, scaled and multiple choice questions create specific responses. Each approach is worthwhile; you just have to choose which meets your goals.
Decide on focus groups
After you survey your general target audience, you might want to assemble some participants from those surveys to form focus groups that will enable you to elicit more niche, anecdotal, and open-ended responses. By having people physically present in a group, you can conduct more of an ongoing exchange to drill down on questions where you might want more detailed feedback.
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Focus groups provide a great way to evaluate products or concepts and learn how well they”ll be received by your target audience. Like surveys, they can usually be done inexpensively. Tap into your friends and family, assuming you can assemble a diverse enough group.
And remember that a focus group can be as small as 5 or 10 people, as long as it”s representative of your target market.
Online survey platforms
A wide variety of online survey services can provide all the tools you need to create, distribute, and analyze surveys. Many of these companies offer free services, while others charge fees for more customized products and assistance.
Some popular online survey platforms include Smart-Survey, Zoomerang, Constant Contact, and Polldaddy.
Smart-Survey is an online software designed to help users create a survey, publish it online, and view results graphically in realtime. Testimonials from major brands such as Oracle and the University of Bath give this particular survey software high marks.
Catherine Ndungu, The Salvation Army”s human resource representative, says, “SmartSurvey is easy to use and pretty straightforward; it is very self explanatory. The support was great and very helpful, and I had no problems with the system itself and was able to navigate easily. I am satisfied with the quality and would definitely use it in the future and also recommend it to my colleagues at the Salvation Army. It made it easier for me to collect the data and because most of the work was done it freed up more time to do other activities.”
The company”s blog is a valuable resource for understanding the usefulness of online surveys and their_ “6 steps to Conducting an Online Survey”_ is an easy-to-understand how-to guide through the process of conducting effective online surveys.
Online surveys are an effective means for business owners in a small-to-midsize firm to conduct their own research, at a fraction of the cost of a third-party outsourced operation. You can get the results you want faster and you can easily transfer your data to any other business application your company currently employs.