From the very earliest days of my career, I have had a hand in doing consumer research.  Back then, I learned the value of developing research that provides actionable insights.  We agonized over the wording of questions, debated the value of asking certain questions, the right base size and audience.  When the results came in, we painstakingly analyzed the feedback and cross tabulated certain answers against others.

Fast forward to now when anyone can be a researcher – just log on to Survey Monkey and the world of research is at your fingertips.  If you can keep your survey to 10 questions or less, you can even get your survey launched and analyzed for free! That is not to say that Survey Monkey isn’t a great tool – it is.  Like all tools, it is best used by a skilled craftsman.

Online survey tools need to be used by skilled craftsmen to deliver actionable results. Click To Tweet

What’s troublesome for someone like me who has had some classical market research experience is that the rigor of asking the right questions the right way is not for amateurs.  Add to that the fact that we are never quite sure who answers these surveys, and you could have a recipe for a decision-making disaster.

Consider this: I want to know whether a publication that is broadly available is meeting its objectives.  When I send out my next issue, I ask recipients to log into my online survey and answer some questions about it.  If I don’t collect information about the people who are responding to the survey, I could end up making decisions about the publication based only on the views of fans or detractors or such a small base that the results really cannot be extrapolated to be representative of the people for whom the publication is directed.

That’s why when developing success measures or benchmarks for a publication or a communications program, we need to think critically about how to measure the impact we are having.  Survey Monkey can make anyone’s results look credible but, the quality of the base of respondents, their ability to represent the broader population and the nature of the questions asked all determine the worth of the survey. So the next time you are asked to make a business decision on a survey, probe beyond the results.

Strategy begins with an objective that is measurable. Surveys can provide baseline data and proof of effectiveness. Click To Tweet