Marketing is widely seen as a complex science whose practitioners’ services – and fees – are beyond the reach of small business.
In practice many marketing techniques and practices are no more than applied common sense, and are essential tools in building and running a successful small business. One of the most useful marketing tools is the market survey, or consumer survey.
Why use a Market Survey?
A generalised market survey or customer survey of existing cutomers, can provide the answers to the four central questions which any business needs to ask:
- Who are our core customers or clients?
- What do they want?
- How can we best provide it?
- How can we tell them about it?
However, market surveys can also be used to answer more specific questions:
- How is a projected new product likely to be received?
- How do customers perceive the value of our product? Is our pricing right?
- Where should we place our advertising?
- Is our advertising cost effective?
- How do customers/clients perceive our business’s strengths and weaknesses?
Market or customer surveys can also be used to build up a customer database or mailing list, but this is likely to create legal obligations under Data Protection legislation, which should be checked.
Preparing a Market Survey Questionaire
Producing your own Market Survey Questionaire is quite easy if you follow a few simple guidelines:
- Decide at the outset the key questions which you seek to answer.
- Keep it short. Ten or a dozen questions on one A4 sheet should produce a useful result without testing the responder’s patience.
- Avoid questions requiring a narrative answer. Best is a simple “yes” or “no” reply. Where you ask for gradings of approval, “smiley faces” may provide a simple, light hearted option – JKL. Answers can then be given a numerical value, making computer analysis easy.
- Beware questions drawing on the responder’s memory. Questions like “Where did you hear about us?” often produce very unreliable results.
- Any request for the responder’s name and address, is best made optional; anonymous answers often include some uncomfortably truthful but helpful criticism!
Completing the Market Survey Questionaire
Many people regard a request to take part in a market survey as an imposition on their time and privacy. These are the customers whose answers are often most useful and it’s important to encourage them to participate.
Offering a small reward for their time and trouble – a free gift, a money off offer, or entry in a prize draw – often helps.
How the survey is carried out may also help; options include:
- By completing a written form.
- On line on the internet.
- In a telephone conversation.
- In a face to face conversation.
Options 1 and 2 are generally the most successful provided the questions are simple and well framed, as responders feel less pressure and can choose when and where to answer.
Obtaining a Balanced Market Survey Sample
For a simple business with a homogeneous customer base a hundred or so responses may be enough to achieve a useful result.
For businesses with a more diverse customer base, for example with geographical or seasonal variations, a larger number of responses may be necessary to give a reliable result, and care is needed to reflect these variations in the survey sample.
Analysing the Results of A Market Survey
Provide the questions are simple, allowing the answers to be given a numerical value, anyone with basic computer skills can enter the results in a simple DIY database and draw useful conclusions.
Where you use computer analysis always check the Data Protection legislation implications.