Tips for Better Survey Writing: Using Results to Find a New Niche

imageYou can’t be all things to all people. Surveys can double as valuable tools to identify specific market niches to grow your business. When you’re trying to glean valuable feedback and data upon which marketing decisions are made, “speaking the language” of each niche will also give you better results. Here’s how…

To get survey data you can actually use, it helps to start with an understanding of who you’re actually hearing from (or who you should be talking to). Then you can process their responses with their unique qualities in mind for stronger results and better decisions.

And it gets even better…

Those same qualities may also reveal a new niche for your business. And once you establish customer preferences based on actual data (instead of hunches and coin tosses), it’s far easier to strategically market to them and grow your business. When you need to “speak their language,” first you need to establish what that language is.

Now, “speaking their language” in this case has nothing to do with Spanish, English, etc. It means communicating the way your target does, building trust and interest so they actually respond to your query. No response, no data — which means the right wording is paramount.

Of course, a survey is only as good as the quality of questions asked. You know the common tips, like using simple language, asking closed-ended questions, keeping it short and interesting, etc. But there’s more to it if you want to encourage response.

For starters, forget what your English professor taught you! Instead, phrase your questions in simple conversational style and “talk” the way they do. Adapt your style to the audience. Experienced biomedical engineers will require a different style than retired senior citizens. Know your list well enough to phrase your questions in a way they can understand. Make it a pleasure to respond by the words you choose.

In addition to having an idea about who it is you’re asking, keep in mind which opinions are most valuable to your project. Once established, frame your questions around those people. Is there one group over another you value more, such as a physician’s opinion versus their office manager, or a purchasing director’s ideas over those of a business owner? Let your questions and answer options reflect their language skills and lifestyle preferences.

To give additional perspective to you responses, consider including questions using OPM (other people’s marketing) to do the work for you. This can also add a bit more pleasure to the survey experience.

For instance, if you’re polling “female professionals” and want to understand “Who is this person?” consider using fun-to-answer questions that reveal a deeper dimension without digging. For instance, if you’re trying to establish the socio-economic background or “status” of a female professional, you might ask their favorite place to purchase clothes for their work, and how often they shop there. “Talbots” or “Nordstrom” tells a different story about that person than “Wal-Mart” or “JC Penney’s”. Use some questions to fill in the blanks about background.

NOTE: Now, I don’t want to get into a big debate about the dangers of stereotypes and assumptions. But if your project is more “survey” than research, go ahead and put those stereotypes to work for you. If you can’t afford to make assumptions, then go ahead and ask the extra 12 qualifying questions (at a risk of people feeling “probed” and leaving the survey before completion). You know your business best. Do what makes sense for your project.

Certain questions will help you establish specific niches and needs for your marketing. One strong niche can be a goldmine for your business. It’s all about sifting through the data to uncover a niche within your market to grow your sales. Surveys are a valuable tool to help you do just that.

Think “soccer mom.” Instead of going after a broader market segment of “middle class families,” the attributes of the “soccer mom” create a much stronger marketing target. Use your survey tactics to establish who they are, identify their preferences, and use them to your advantage. When your surveys focus on a single specific niche, even poor results will tell you something.

Finding the right words for your survey questions can do more than give you valuable feedback about your business. The results can also uncover unique market segments to help grow your business.  Your questions can reveal more than just simple preferences. Use them to discover trends, data to guide you as you create fresh products, reposition existing offerings, and expand your business. It’s easy, once you speak the right language.