Validate your Business Decisions with Surveys

Above any other start-up mantra, entrepreneurs need to validate their thinking as early as possible.  Don’t spend millions of dollars building something before having tested ideas and concepts with potential customers.

Feedback from co-founders, friends, small focus groups, and especially existing customers is very helpful to qualitatively understand your product or service. However, this sample group is too small and biased towards people that will be polite, or who have predispositions toward the product.

Modify Watches sells interchangeable watch straps and faces separately to give customers the option of mixing and matching the accessory.  They decided to use the SurveyMonkey Audience product to gather actionable insights for the company.

So how do you get quality feedback?

Getting started on a survey is most effectively done by working backward. Modify knew plenty about its business anecdotally and through customer data, but less about its potential customer market.

Surveying customers, partners or prospective clients can help resolve a range of different issues facing a business. Instead of launching an all-encompassing survey, companies should take a step back to determine which issue is most vital to its success.

First and foremost, understand the core research question. Take time to walk through these steps before creating a survey.  This will ensure the data being collected will directly address a current pain point for the business.

Using a survey and a targeted audience to make smart decisions

After deciding the information most important to learn from a survey, it’s time to begin creating the survey itself. Keep it respondent-centric. To encourage engagement, respondents need to feel invested in the decision-making process, and the outcome of the survey.

When creating survey questions, remember three things: keep it short enough that respondents won’t get bored, scale responses to determine how much customers actually care about something (a yes/no question doesn’t allow them to fully answer the question), and make sure questions are in a systematic order, so the answer of one question doesn’t influence another.

Like many young companies, Modify had an initial sense of its target market demographics, largely based on founder knowledge, but this was highly anecdotal. This meant the company needed to sample a general population to validate its assumptions.

A few tips when targeting consumers with surveys:

  • Give the entire target audience the opportunity to respond.
  • Make sure that the number of survey respondents is large enough to provide statistically significant information.
    • Use online references to determine the exact number of respondents to reach a level of statistical confidence (this typically ranges between several hundred and 1,000).
  • Frequent, focused surveys help monitor the pulse of customers so when trends change, so can business direction.

Putting results into action

By looking at the age and gender breakdowns of survey respondents who identified they were ‘Extremely likely’ or ‘Very likely’ to purchase a Modify watch, the company found most of its assumptions were correct. However, Modify was surprised to find strong interest in the 60+ female group, as well as the <18 category. With this data, Modify has a leg up over their competition with targeted customer and product outreach.

Too many companies issue research studies that sit in a desk drawer, instead of being used to affect change. Information direct from your company’s potential customers is an asset that should be used to implement improvements, otherwise what was the point of asking questions?

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