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Writing a survey is easy, right? Not so fast.

Research does take time. Like any painting or book, every time you look or read it again you have a new perspective or learning. Speed is important but so is the process of learning and understanding.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas Series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Sima Vasa will be speaking at IIeX North America (June 12-14 in Atlanta). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX NA. Click here to learn more.

For anyone who has been involved in the design of a quantitative research project, you might agree that the heart and soul of the project is the questionnaire. That seems like one of the easiest tasks…clients know how to talk to their customers, their employees, their resellers, etc. They know what questions they want to ask. Just organize the questions and collect the answers. It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? On the surface it feels like it should be. However, after having the experience of designing and analyzing the results of hundreds and hundreds of surveys, the reality is that is actually very difficult to design and implement an effective survey.

There are so many aspects that go into designing the survey, and the purpose of this article is to share a perspective on level of involvement and engagement required to develop a survey that will meet the goals of the research and support clients in making an informed decision. In-depth understanding of how the research results will be used, and what decisions will be supported by the project.

A successful survey designer knows the business decision being supported by the survey results. And the more you learn about the business decision, and the different inputs into the business decision, the better you can design the survey. No matter if it is a product name, product features, messaging, positioning, internal 360 review, etc., you should try to learn as much as you can. For example, for a naming study, many would want to know what names should be tested, and then be ready to design the survey. But you need to understand much more than that…what is the name the organization leaning toward, why they lean toward that name, where the other names came from, what is their naming strategy moving forward, are there different strategies being considered, are there companies’ naming strategies that they like or don’t like, etc.

The downside of not knowing this information can result in a common response from clients…we got some answers to the questions we had, but we have a few more questions after reviewing the results. Yes, this could lead to another research effort, which could be good for a supplier, but 9 times out of 10 this is not the response you want to hear. You would much rather hear that they got exactly the information they need to confidently make a decision. That is what we are hired to do, and how we can add the value that is expected.

Other factors are crucial obviously like question types to drive the right analysis, knowledge about the target respondent and overall respondent experience. However, none of these matter if we do not know the specific business decision we are trying help clients answer. It starts at the very top of the funnel.

So what does this mean?  As market research continuous to be disrupted we cannot forget the basics and underestimate the value of market insights professionals being at the “table.” The upfront discussions and interactions are crucial to understand in designing an effective survey. Too many times, researchers are tentative about their worth and do not push for the seat at the table in order to get a clear understanding of what is required. The result can be suboptimal research, providing another opportunity for other professionals within an organization to devalue the role of research in the decision-making process. We must continue to elevate our profession and the values we bring to clients in order to educate, shed light, and demonstrate the role of market research in business decision-making.

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