Let's get straight to the point: why should you conduct survey research and what is the objective to create one? Right now a 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. Survey 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 current offer), it is recommended to conduct one. In this case, the best are different kind 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 new market also means big work for marketing in order to gain and organize knowledge (desk research). This phase can be also outsourced to the external company. What next? You need to know the market, learn what consumers' attitude towards certain product categories are, who are they, what they talk about, what they buy, 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 the customer care. Sales representatives have difficulties with sales. Reasons can be different. In any of this situations company should stay alert, analyze and draw conclusions. It can be also 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 client form the purchase.
4. Innovation vs. lack of ideas
A product managers' nightmare. Where to find idea for a new product? In fact a new product is not as important as efficient (from the business perspective) improvement or refresh of existing one. In this case research can be very helpful. Moreover in this area research can play creative and inspiring role. It is impossible to describe all options that can be used in a new product creation - there is 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, association and workshops. You don't even need to leave a company. Why not start from 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 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, mysurveylab expert, sociologist, freelancer, TROP Marketing Research company owner, has over 15 year experience, that he gained working both for market research agencies and different organizations. Marcin has lead various research projects in publishing, construction, production, transportation, finance and public sector.