How to Brainstorm Surveys for Your Market Research Plan

Survey projects typically happen – on demand.  What I mean by that is, you realize that you have a decision to make, you decide that your customers or your audience can help you make it, so you decide you should do a survey.  You create the questions and launch, collect the data and that’s it.

This was a fine process.  It’s one I used for decades — that is until surveys had to get shorter.

Short surveys require planning

The days of twenty minute surveys are long gone.  There is a time and place for them, but for the most part, you are going to have to literally create a market research plan or a “survey calendar” because you will have to break your long surveys up into much shorter ones that can be taken on a mobile device or within about a minute or two.

How to generate and brainstorm a list of surveys and survey questions

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing my market research planning experience.  I wish I could tell you that it was effortless and easy.  While some elements of the research plan were easy, there were others that were a bit challenges.  Believe it or not — coming up with the questions we wanted to ask and the surveys we wanted to do was one of them.  Here is how I got to my first draft of surveys and survey questions.

  1. Set objectives: Every survey project starts with objectives — WHY am I creating these surveys?  What do I want the outcome to be at the end.  This seems stupidly simple, but I can’t tell you how many times I overlook this simple step.  (There – I’ve admitted it and I’ll bet you assume it or skip it because it seems obvious).  Well, I can tell you this was incredibly transforming.  In my case, I looked to the corporate marketing strategy — to provide the BEST distributor and end user experience — that was the objective.  Once I got that written down on paper, the next step was obvious; look to the audience and what matters to them.
  2. Focus on the respondent audience:  Like most marketing elements, you have to start with the audience.  Who is your audience and what are THEIR goals and objectives.  In other words, what’s in it for your audience?  Why should your audience want to take even a minute to answer three questions?  In my case, I had an audience of distributors.  The interesting thing about these guys (yes – mostly guys in this case) is that they are BOTH customers (they buy product from us) but they also have elements of employees because they serve as our sales people.  So if they aren’t successful, neither are we.
  3. What matters to them:  I mentioned this “what’s in it for them” phrase above.  What does the audience need to be successful – that we can provide?  What’s missing for them?  My distributor audience is focused on selling more product.  If a product is easy to sell – and makes them a lot of money, they are going to push it to their customers.  So, this is something that matters to them.
  4. What’s the baseline: One cool thing about surveys is the ability to track over time.  So, the first thing that occurred to me is that I would want to create some tracking surveys; survey questions that I ask at a regular interval; monthly, quarterly, etc.
  5. What do they need to be successful:  Remember by primary objective was to become the best experience.  To do that, I need to understand what their current experience includes, what’s missing from this experience and find the high-leverage experience creators to focus on.

Brainstorming surveys and survey questions

The most important thing you can do for yourself in this part of the process is give yourself the freedom to brainstorm.  You do NOT have to come up with the perfect surveys or survey questions.  You only have to generate as many potential survey types and questions as you possibly can.  Believe me, if you let yourself go and stop judging yourself, you will come up with more ideas and those ideas will branch into other ideas.  So don’t edit yourself until it’s time.

Here is how I did it: (this is a peek inside my brain — for the purposes of showing you how messy it is at first)

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how to brainstorm surveys and questions for your market research plan!

Ivana Taylor is the publisher of DIYMarketers and the President of Third Force, a strategic marketing firm. She's the marketing expert and book editor for Small Business Trends and a frequent contributor to AMEX Open Forum.

Posted in Best Practice
3 comments on “How to Brainstorm Surveys for Your Market Research Plan
  1. […] installment of our Research Plan series.  We’ve talked about writing your research plan, creating surveys, and today we are talking about how to distribute your surveys as part of your market research […]

  2. Online Surveys says:

    Great, Informative Post, like this one must be maintained so I’ll put this one on my bookmark list of Market Research. Thanks for this wonderful post and hoping to post more of this. Have Great Day.

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