Survey Methodology: How to reach your Audience

When conducting research and collecting data, it is critical to get accurate information. However, it would be best if you also remembered to get the right sample size to ensure that you are drawing reliable conclusions. There are currently many ways to reach your target audience. Let’s talk about survey methodology.

The main difference between methodologies is the cost, depending on the type of data you want to collect and the number of responses you need for your specific research. However, respondent behavior has changed over time, and different factors should be considered when choosing your survey methodology.

What is a Survey Methodology?

A survey methodology is a technique that is carried out by applying a questionnaire to a sample of people. Surveys provide information on citizens’ opinions, attitudes, and behaviors, and there’s more than one method to conduct them. In fact, there’s a whole universe to learn from in the surveys world.

Survey Methodology Examples

The most common channels to contact respondents are in-person, telephone, mail, and online. Each of these methods has strengths and weaknesses that should be considered.

  • In-person surveys

These are conducted with an interviewer meeting with the respondent directly. This survey can be in a panel setting, where respondents meet the interviewers in a central location or where the interviewer goes to a product or service location to find customers interested in completing a survey.

The format allows the customer to give open-ended feedback, which a skilled interviewer can put into quantitative values. The interviewer will be able to explain the content of the survey and read non-verbal cues from the customer. This allows the customer to give additional information to the researcher. The feedback saves time in categorizing and interpreting responses later in the research process.

It is the most intimate survey methodology, which makes it a good option for discussing more sensitive topics. It is also the most expensive option. The reason is it requires a large number of responses, which must cover travel, setting up in a physical location, and training interviewers to have the skills to manage and record a survey in this way.

  • Telephone interviews

These surveys are a way to follow the in-person interview format, with less cost for travel and the ability to reach people more easily. One interviewer will be able to contact more respondents by telephone. While the interviewer can’t read visual cues, they will still be able to explain the survey content and collect more open-ended feedback from the respondent.

However, currently, people are less likely to answer the phone for numbers they don’t recognize and are even less likely to give out information to anyone. This will restrict your sample size while still having costs and time for interviewers to attempt to contact people.

  • Paper surveys by mail

Surveys can be completed at the respondents’ convenience. They are a great way to reach many potential respondents for much less cost. It is an easy way to reach people without feeling as intrusive as a phone call could be. Due to the less personal contact method, it is of greater importance that the survey content is planned out so that questions are clear to the respondent.

This method requires good address records to ensure they end up in the right person’s hands, and unlike an interview, respondents may put off replying and forget to send back a response. If done correctly, this will result in answers that researchers will be able to use when analyzing the data.

This is an excellent method for primarily quantitative data when you want a large sample size. Since they are less personal and responses are sent back by mail, respondents may also be less willing to reply on more sensitive topics. 

  • Online survey methodology for collecting information

Online survey methodology is prevalent now. An online survey can reach a wide audience and can be completed at their convenience. A short survey can even be conducted while they are waiting for a site to load or other activity to complete. Similar to email surveys, an online survey will have to be written so that a respondent can follow instructions without an interviewer to help them and focus on quantitative feedback.

When collecting data online, the answers can be directly stored in a  database, saving costs on tabulating paper responses. Online surveys are a cost-effective way compared to paper and telephonic ways. Online surveys are global and can be taken by each individual through the internet as well as offline means.

Online surveys are scalable and we can reach out to larger sample sizes easily compared to paper-based and telephonic surveys. Online surveys are fast compared to traditional paper-based surveys. Due to contents in the survey chances are the survey may be junked due to links and keywords used in a survey this will cost reacting to the sampling size or target size of the survey.

Online surveys are ignored at times as online surveys are bombarded and in this case, there are chances of missing important surveys. One of the major disadvantages of online surveys is their inability to reach people residing in far-off, remote locations with no access to the internet.

Even elders who do not have internet access and are not proficient in working with online platforms are difficult to connect with using web-based surveys.

An important area where online surveys lag behind is capturing what respondents really feel about the problems mentioned in the survey. Being completely online, there is no way you can notice the facial expressions or body language of the participants. All you have is the responses to decode what customers really feel.

The future of Survey Methodology

Modern technology means that many respondents are already spending more time with devices connected to the internet, which makes it an excellent contact channel for getting survey responses. Since it is cost-effective and efficient to focus on a smaller number of contact channels, it is critical to understand the strengths and weaknesses of online surveys, including how it affects the demographics of your respondents.

Finding the best way to reach your audience online is important to get the responses needed to conduct meaningful research. Ensure that you have proper contact information, whether that is ensuring that companies are keeping accurate email databases or that web portals for online panels are up to date. Pay attention to respondent feedback to ensure that you are keeping their attention long enough to get responses and that they are motivated to give true responses in an impersonal environment.

You will be competing with many other sources that are trying to get your respondents’ attention online, so ensure you are contacting them in a way where it is clear why your survey should be important to them. With market research to know how to best target your audience, you have the opportunity to collect a large amount of data in an efficient manner.


Authors: Devendra Joag & Davin Moloney