I’ve been getting queries lately from clients  wanting to do surveys whose results will produce mentions of them in the trade press. In previous posts I’ve talked about how to publicize the results, but these recent queries have sent me back to school on the basics of marketing-oriented surveys. Here’s what I learned so far: 

  • Even some phone survey shops admit that for a quick and dirty survey low-cost online Web survey tools like those from

Constant Contact and SurveyMonkey do just fine. (By “quick and dirty” I mean five or ten simple questions and no need for scientific precision.) 

  • The cost differences can be startling. One company quoted me $2,500 for a phone survey generating 100 responses. The same survey done online: $30, plus my time and effort.

  • Response rates, of course, are the wild card. I was told to expect anywhere from one percent to ten to 20 or even 30 percent response rates, by either the phone or the Web.
  • One critical factor, it seems, is the quality of the “list” being queried. “The more familiar they are with the company, and the more interested they are, the more likely it is they’ll respond,” says one veteran. “You really need both factors to make it work.
  • You also need to choose your survey questions carefully to make it easy for respondents to answer on-line. A long-time research buddy, Dan Ness, who is now at MetaFacts, suggests using questions that are: 

    •   Clear enough that IT staff won’t need clarification or prompting (remember, there’s no phone surveyor to provide such guidance.)
    • In

    teresting enough to compel IT staff to answer them, and to compel savvy writers to enjoy reporting on them, and that are

  • Close-ended (asking for a clear and specific choice) rather than an essay or a thoughtful, deep response.
  • Given all that, on-line surveys are like (to quote Forrest Gump) a box of chocolates: You never know what your response rate will be till you field the survey. I'll let you know how things work out.





    Author: Bob Scheier
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    I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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