Let's get straight to the point: why should you conduct survey research and what is the objective to create one? Right now half of my readers will leave the blog and they will be right. I would do the same. So I will change my question: in what business situations should you conduct survey research? Does it sound better? Let's call these situations research moments.
Why am I writing about it? Firstly, because research moment precedes decision about starting survey, its shape and whole analytical process. Secondly, because proper identification of research moment is more important (from the business perspective), than a survey itself. Surveys can be outsourced to a specialized company or freelancer. Identification of the research moment can be done only by a company itself (f.e. marketing team, product manager, or management board).
What are the most important (in my opinion) research moments?
1. New product or service
Should I conduct survey research each time I am introducing a new product or service to the market? The answer is NO. If a new product only in a small extent differs from the present product portfolio, you can resign from a survey. In the situation where a company is thinking about big changes (comparing to the current offer), it is recommended to conduct one. In this case, the best are different kinds of product tests, if possible done on the prototype.
2. New market
It is probably the most "intuitive" research moment but at the same time quite difficult one regarding the number of possible approaches. It depends on the knowledge that we (the company) already have about the market and that can be gained from market research. Addressing a new market also means big work for marketing in order to gain and organize knowledge (desk research). This phase can be also outsourced to an external company. What next? You need to know the market, learn what consumers' attitudes towards certain product categories are, who are they, what they talk about, what they buy, and how they act. This can be done using qualitative research (any kind, from interview to ethnography) and quantitative (so-called U&A - Usage & Attitude, segmentation).
3. Signals from the client
Drop of sales. Signals from customer care. Sales representatives have difficulties with sales. Reasons can be different. In any of these situations, company should stay alert, analyze, and draw conclusions. It can be also a signal that it is high time to start to measure customer satisfaction. Tools for this kind of surveys are wide, f.e. qualitative research (own and competition product surveys) and quantitative (satisfaction surveys, NPS). This is done to learn what determines lack of client satisfaction, better perception of competition, sales process that discourages clients from the purchase.
4. Innovation vs. lack of ideas
A product managers' nightmare. Where to find an idea for a new product? In fact, a new product is not as important as efficient (from the business perspective) improvement or refresh of the existing one. In this case, research can be very helpful. Moreover, in this area research can play a creative and inspiring role. It is impossible to describe all options that can be used in new product creation - there are so many of them! Qualitative research can be especially helpful here, and I mean all of them, not only ethnography or creative groups. We can also reach for interviews, projective techniques, associations, and workshops. You don't even need to leave a company. Why not start with your own employees? This is a highly underrated source of information. In addition, the cheapest one, because it doesn't require funds spent to reach. Just organize a number of workshops, brainstorm, competition ... and then select the most interesting ideas, organize them, set up task forces, and start work.
There are more research moments. I described those that are typical, repeatable, and known from my personal experience. I believe that their right recognition is a key to make a good decision: to survey or not to survey.
I wish you plenty of research moments!
Marcin Gromulski, SurveyLab expert, sociologist, freelancer, TROP Marketing Research company owner, has over 15 years of experience, that he gained working both for market research agencies and different organizations. Marcin has led various research projects in publishing, construction, production, transportation, finance, and public sector.