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Survey Says: The Importance of Survey Data in Marketing

Max Freedman
Max Freedman

Survey data can help you better understand who uses your products and services, and why. Using this data to inform your marketing can make your budget go much further. Here's how to do it.

There's nothing more important than the opinion of the masses when it comes to marketing. After all, without the approval and buy-in of the public, it would be hard to get any product or concept off the ground.

But when it comes to getting these opinions, companies are becoming spoiled with choices. Do you go with the latest tech to help you check digital analytics? Do you set up a complicated system to check for behavioral data? Or do you go with the old stalwart of any research company – surveys?

Although surveys may not be seen in print as much anymore, they remain paramount for all kinds of research. Survey data and collection is alive and well online and can make a huge difference in the success of a brand.

Although some may consider surveys tedious and too difficult to parse data from, survey research can introduce your company to a wealth of knowledge that helps you create a winning product. Survey data and collection is not only accessible but can be invaluable in informing a solid marketing strategy. [Read related article: Entrepreneurs Love These 13 Tools for Conducting Market Research]

Why surveys still matter

In this high-tech era of analytics, the idea of customer satisfaction surveys sounds almost quaint. Even with all the technology that allows marketing and research companies to find out exactly what consumers want and get highly specific customer feedback, sometimes it's still best to go straight to the desired population and ask the question yourself. If you're looking for stronger insights, you can append survey research data with behavioral data for a good overall view of how your customers think (their opinions or suggestions) versus how they act (what they tend to click on or buy online).

It's not just small companies that use survey data to enhance their offerings. The importance of surveys is not lost on large-scale organizations, which frequently gather feedback via surveys in order to fine-tune their products. According to SurveyPolice, Apple, Verizon, Nest and other big tech companies use market research and customer satisfaction surveys to find out what their customer base wants. And it doesn't stop at the tech industry: LEGO and McDonald's are also top organizations that use survey data to grow.

Types of surveys

There are many types of surveys, some of which may be better for your business than others. These are some common types for businesses to use:

  • Customer feedback surveys: By gathering customer feedback, you can shape your future marketing campaigns, product offerings and services to best meet your consumer base's needs.

  • Employee satisfaction surveys: Although businesses usually use surveys for external purposes, you can use an anonymous survey (online or by email) within your company to gather employee feedback. Employee satisfaction surveys can help you streamline your office practices to improve morale, productivity and, of course, employee satisfaction.

  • Market research surveys: To get a sense of your consumer base's needs and preferred shopping locations and methods, not to mention your business's competitive placement within your industry, a market research survey may prove helpful. The primary question to answer with this survey is what consumers think of certain products or services. This feedback can inform your future marketing and product development strategies.

  • Brand awareness: Surveying consumers about how well they know your brand can reflect how successful your marketing, advertising and branding campaigns have been. Brand awareness surveys can point you to areas of future improvement and reveal unexpected associations that customers make with your business.

  • Lead generation surveys: A lead generation survey can directly connect your business with potential customers and give you the opportunity to learn more about their specific needs and desires. Through lead generation surveys, you can quickly forge bonds with your consumer base and increase your revenue.

Prominent survey methods

Just as there are many types of surveys, there are many methods of administering surveys.

  • Online surveys: Filling out an online survey in just a few minutes from the comfort of their home is a hassle-free way for the consumer to provide their data and opinions – and for you to collect them.

  • Email surveys: Many online surveys are first administered by email, and for good reason. An email directed to a specific consumer instead of a generalized web form may incentivize consumers to provide more honest feedback, as the experience feels tailored to them instead of aimed at a large audience and containing no personalized messaging.

  • Anonymous surveys: Not everybody wants to share their opinions, and some people who do want to share their opinions would rather not have their thoughts directly associated with them. Anonymous surveys can offer consumers a privacy shield that might encourage their involvement in something they would otherwise avoid, meaning that your company gets access to more data it might otherwise struggle to obtain.

  • Paper surveys: Other people concerned with privacy might worry that online surveys store or track their data. A paper survey will keep consumer data between the customer and your business, so consider using a paper survey – despite the prevalence of the internet – if the questions involve more personal topics or opinions.

  • Focus groups: Focus groups are essentially surveys turned into group conversations. Through focus groups, you can obtain valuable feedback on your products and services without having consumers fill out any paperwork or traditional survey materials.

  • Mobile surveys: As smartphone use increases, surveys administered through mobile apps or via smartphone may be more accessible to certain audiences.

  • Telephone surveys: Like mobile surveys, telephone surveys target people with smartphones. However, telephone surveys may be better if your marketing plan involves sampling a population of older users, as older people may be more likely to have a landline than a device with texting or messaging capabilities.

No matter which of these survey methods you use, be sure to send your survey to an appropriate sample size. If you sample too small of a population, you may not yield accurate numerical data.

How survey data helps inform strategy

Many people see surveys as a secondary tool – that is, a survey comes after a product has been released or a campaign has been completed. However, survey data can also help you put together a marketing strategy.

One of the most important first steps in any product launch or campaign is demographic research, and a survey makes it quick and easy to figure out who your target market should be. Instead of wildly swinging for the trees with your marketing campaign, you can refine and target it based on customer location, gender, and more data that you find through a simple survey.

Surveys are also incredibly useful for testing a new product concept. Imagine you have an idea for a product that hasn't gone to market yet, and you're worried about taking the leap without first knowing if it will be well received by the public. This is a perfect time to send out surveys and collect data, whether through focus groups, mobile surveys or telephone surveys. These survey methods can help you to identify issues that went unnoticed and make sure you are targeting your brand correctly.

As mentioned earlier, surveys should also be a final touch of your campaign. The importance of surveys extends all the way to the final moments of a marketing push, at which point you can use them to gather feedback from consumers and analyze what went right or wrong. You can carry this knowledge over into following campaigns or use it to strengthen your future product offerings. Feedback from a huge range of consumers can give you a well-rounded picture of your product and marketing efforts and your audience. As a bonus, your loyal customers will feel like they're participating in the growth of your brand and that you listen to them.

Benefits of surveys for businesses

Surveys can help businesses with the following:

  • Marketing strategy: Your business can use surveys to gather the opinions of a certain population about your products, services or any other needs related to your company's offerings. For example, if your company works in the field of internet accessibility, you can send surveys to internet users with disabilities to determine the most common accessibility-related complaints among your targeted population.

  • Demographic research: You can conduct surveys before your next targeted marketing push to determine the genders, age groups and races of the people your company targets. An anonymous survey asking participants for their opinions on products like yours can also be a great chance to gather demographic data for your target market.

  • Product testing: Once your business has developed a prototype for a product, you'll need to be sure it will actually interest consumers before releasing it for purchase. Focus groups can be an especially powerful avenue to introduce your product to people and see their spontaneous reactions or prompt them with specific questions. You can also send a product to your previous customers and get their feedback via mobile surveys, telephone surveys, or an email or online survey.

  • Customer feedback: After your product release, you can use surveys to gather customer feedback on your item. You can then use the information gathered to help shape your future products and let your customers know that the changes were based on customer satisfaction surveys.

  • Brand loyalty: Just as customer feedback is useful in shaping future products, it is helpful for cultivating brand loyalty among your consumer base. As your customers see you implementing their feedback into your products and services, they will feel compelled to continue purchasing from you, knowing their voices are heard.

  • Employee retention and satisfaction: When you implement the changes suggested in your employee satisfaction surveys, you may notice that your employees feel more motivated to keep working for you, in turn boosting your employee retention rates.

Survey says: Surveys crucial marketing tools for small businesses

Even with more in-depth analytical tactics out there, a simple survey is sometimes the best way to get a clear snapshot of what consumers and potential customers are looking for. You can use surveys at any stage of a marketing campaign: in the preliminary stages to help shape your strategy, during your campaign's run to see how the public feels about it, and in the post-launch stage to gather feedback. Whether you use them for an existing product or a brand-new concept, don't sleep on the importance of surveys. Their data can be critical to a product or brand's lifespan.

Becky Wu, Ph.D., contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.

Image Credit: Ivan-balvan / Getty Images
Max Freedman
Max Freedman,
business.com Writer
Max Freedman is a freelance writer who covers best business practices for business.com and culture for publications including The A.V. Club, MTV, Paste, FLOOD, and Bandcamp. He lives in Philly and doesn't miss his native New York.