While I clearly made that headline statistic up, in my experience the intent behind it couldn’t be more true: reporters love their data. As such, surveys can often be a treasure trove of high quality and interesting statistics – but only if you do them right!
Here’s my personal list of best practices for when it comes to running a survey, as well as how to promote the final results:
- Define clearly the goals and objectives of the survey. Starting with a theme in mind or a story you’re looking to tell is a key first step. Make sure every question is designed to help tell that overall story (regardless of the results come back in your favor or not.) This will also help you evaluate whether to use a third-party database (wide pool of opinions, titles, backgrounds) or your own customer database.
- Creatively pose every question. The biggest mistake my teams have found when designing surveys is that the question is phrased all wrong – leading to either bias (in terms of industry, profession, region, age) in answers or frustrating conclusions. For example, asking people to choose their “Top 3” won’t yield as interesting data as if you asked them to rank their Top 3. Ranked answers help you prove what respondents truly care about. One of my colleagues suggested calling the sales rep at the survey company you’re using – often they have additional insight into question phrasing.
- Test, test and test again. To be clear, looking over the survey for typos won’t be enough (I’ve made that mistake myself.) Instead, running a “beta test” with internal employees can often weed out design flaws. You’ll see quickly if there was any confusion with the terms or questions, as well as poke holes in questions that don’t yield good data if answered a certain way (for example if everyone answers ‘all of the above’, you could be in trouble.)
- Take SurveyMonkey to its extreme. The raw results of your survey make look a little bland. Never fear, many free or low-cost survey sites offer additional analysis tools (SurveyMonkey has a handy ‘cross tabs’ tool that lets you compare one question, for example gender or location, against another – often yielding a whole other perspective.) Don’t simply take the data at face value – there’s always a creative way to compare it against other factors or trends.
- Once the survey is over, the work (and fun!) really begins! Don’t think for a second that once you’ve gathered your data you’re done! Instead, if done right, your survey should open up many other opportunities for your company, from proactively pitching the results, to creating a white paper or survey report, to generating an infographic.
Anyone else have additional best practices? I’d love to hear in the comments below.