Is a Survey Right for You? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself 

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my career as a marketer, it’s this: everybody wants to do a survey. 

The popularity of surveys isn’t surprising—they can be extremely valuable, especially from a media standpoint. Journalists like to see proprietary data, which often finds its way into their stories. Surveys with unique and interesting findings can also attract the attention of potential clients and customers. 

At the same time, not every initiative needs to be a survey. In fact, not every initiative can be a survey. Sometimes, a white paper, blog post or LinkedIn article will generate just as much ROI as a survey initiative—and at a much lower cost, to boot. 

So, how do you decide if a survey is right for you? Whenever my clients ask about the possibility of launching a survey, I start by asking these ten questions: 

  1. What do you want to accomplish with this survey? 

Before you pursue a survey, it’s crucial that you have a well-defined vision for success, supported by concrete and measurable KPIs. Your goals may include generating new leads, improving your media performance or increasing brand awareness. 

  1. How will you measure success? 

What KPIs you have identified for this initiative? You need to get as specific as possible for the survey to be valuable. Potential KPIs could include a specific number of form fills, new qualified leads or unique media placements. 

  1. What is your budget? 

Full survey development can be very expensive. It isn’t just about running the survey itself—it’s about creating content and promoting it to the right audiences, all of which requires significant investment. If you’re short on budget, you may want to shelve the survey project until next year. 

  1. What’s your timeframe? 

Survey development, from planning through launch and promotion, generally takes several months. If you’re looking for quick wins and immediate ROI, a survey may not be the best choice. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for long-term value, a survey should definitely be on the table. 

  1. Who is your audience?  

The success of your survey depends on reaching an audience that is valuable to your business. Consider your current and prospective clients. Would they be interested in the results of your survey? Would reading your survey report convince them to reach out and start a conversation with you? 

  1. Who do you want to survey? 

Different survey audiences come with very different price tags. Oftentimes, surveying consumers is much less expensive than surveying business leaders. You need to consider both what data will be valuable to your target audience and what fits best in your budget. 

  1. How will this survey be different than what your competitors are doing/have done? 

Before you pursue a survey, you need an understanding of what is already in the market. You don’t want to tread areas that are already well-traveled. Is there a clear path to differentiation? 

  1. Do you have a spokesperson who can discuss the survey results? 

If you’re planning to prioritize media outreach as part of your survey initiative, you’ll need to have a spokesperson who can discuss the results and why they’re significant. If there are no internal spokespeople with the right subject matter expertise, you may need to reassess if the survey topic is appropriate. 

  1. How do you plan to use this survey? 

Ideally, you should be able to use the survey data in multiple places rather than just a survey report. Consider if you can use the data to support sales materials, inform roundtable discussions or add value to year-long media outreach. Will these tactics fit in with your broader marketing strategy? 

  1. What service, solution or product does the survey tie back to? 

Whatever survey topic and approach you decide on, it should support revenue generation for your company. With that said, you will get the most value from your survey if it ties directly to a product, service or solution. The exception to this rule is if you are conducting the survey as part of market research to determine whether creating a product, solution or service is valuable in the first place. These types of surveys generally do not generate external-facing content and as such are out of the scope of this article. 

Surveys require a lot of time, money and planning to get off the ground. However, when these investments are made properly, they can generate huge ROI in the form of qualified leads, new business opportunities and increases in sales. Ultimately, the path to survey success relies on having a clear and detailed vision for your initiative, supported with robust planning before the first question is ever fielded. 

By Rona Vaselaar 

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