Articles

Sample care and management

In market research, market research fieldwork on April 20, 2012 by sdobney Tagged: , ,

In consumer markets, the art of getting a sample is likely to be equivalent of trying to take a teaspoon of water from a lake. The size of the sample relative to the population is very small. So when using DIY survey techniques, the risk of disaffecting customers by a poorly designed research survey is relatively limited. If, as is the danger with internally designed questionnaires, you’ve run people through an overlong dull, internally focused set of questions with too much jargon, which fails to reflect respondent’s own needs and concerns you will only have annoyed a small proportion of your potential market, but in B2B…

Of course, blogs, Facebook and the like enable small groups consumers to amplify their voices but, in the great scheme of things, most people don’t grumble to other people about poorly designed surveys. That doesn’t mean it should happen, just that for inexperienced consumer-facing companies running a couple of poorly designed surveys through Surveymonkey won’t affect their business.

For business-to-business markets, where the pool of potential customers is much smaller and where you might be trying to contact your whole customer base, poor quality surveys can be a disaster. Obviously there’s the first problem of respondent fatigue when response rates drop as people give up responding to your invites to take part in surveys. The sample list gets burnt and it becomes impossible to do more market research. But in many situations the customers you are contacting also have account managers and other relationships with the business. Each survey you send out is not just a request for information, but can also be considered to be as important as a new product brochure. And if the customer responds they don’t want to feel that their answers, which they have given up their time to give you, have “disappeared into a black hole” as one manager at a key account said to us, B2B has the benefit of much closer working relationships. Questionnaires are not the only way to gather information, but are one mechanism among the continual dialogues that suppliers and purchasers have. The survey needs to fit into and respect this relationship. Poorly designed surveys might not just damage the response rate, they might also damage sales. So you have to take care because every contact is valuable.

But if we go back to consumers, shouldn’t the same apply to consumers too. They may be more distant from you, but isn’t it better that they say good things about the things you do? DIY research is an important new way for companies to learn about consumers and to allow non-researchers to understand more of the views of customers directly, but it’s still a service touchpoint and like every service touchpoint it needs to reflect the quality and service ideals of your business.

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