When I first started PeopleFish in 2016, I called everyone I knew to sell our survey research tools.
Almost no one had work for me. I remember one visit to a friend’s company. I presented my concept, but got just one sentence in response:
“Sorry, we just don’t do surveys.”
Survey market research just wasn’t something people talked about. Sure, lots of businesses were doing market research, but it was typically left to specialists working with expensive, hard-to-understand tools.
Indeed, I was one of those specialists at a big market research firm before quitting to start my own business.
But things have changed.
Fast-forward to 2019, and it’s hard to find a business owner who isn’t curious about survey research. Who isn’t trying to survey their customers. Who doesn’t have questions for me about how to survey their target market.
I get unsolicited questions about survey every day. On LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter. And they’re typically great questions — new challenges or hard-to-solve issues surrounding consumer survey research projects.
What changed over the past three years? I propose these three things:
- Companies have gotten better at harvesting customers’ contact info, such that survey research becomes POSSIBLE.
- Survey research tech has become more AFFORDABLE, such that even small startups can launch powerful survey research projects.
- Survey research tools improved but have become COMPLICATED, such that a pro is often needed to make sense of the tools and programs out there.
At first glance, that last item doesn’t seem to belong. If it’s more doable and lower-cost than ever before, why has it also become more complicated?
Before I answer, I’ll note that probably 25% of our clients come to us after one failed attempt at a survey project. They bought a SurveyMonkey license and the tool was just too complicated. They surveyed their customer database, but no one took the survey. They designed a product concept survey, but the findings were nonsensical.
That’s my evidence for survey research having become more complicated. But what’s behind this trend?
Simply put, as survey technology has improved, the list of possible ways to survey consumers becomes longer and more complex. Sure, anyone can now design a quick 10-question survey to pitch their product to consumers. But what about all those other tools or survey templates floating around? And if I can use complicated survey logic to dig deeper into consumers’ minds, shouldn’t I at least try that, too?
These things add up. Surveys get complicated.
This is true of any technology. The better it gets, the more things are possible. The more things are possible, the more complicated things become.
What Does This Mean for Business Owners?
Why does this matter?
For survey nerds like me, it’s just interesting. It helps me strategize. It helps me sell my company’s services. It helps me design better surveys.
But what about for business owners?
For one, you really shouldn’t be waiting any longer to take advantage of the survey technology that exists. Start now.
If you run a business, you have customers. If you have customers, you have their contact info. Use that, along with survey tools, to ask deep, tough questions — to uncover what your customers want, and what actions you can take that might make them happier.
Second, hire an expert. Yes, SurveyMonkey’s low monthly fee is attractive. But what if you want to run just one survey? Or what if you pay the fee, but then can’t figure it out? Or what if the tool can’t meet your business’s unique and specific needs (the most common complaint I get from new clients)?
The fact is, these tools are increasingly built for specialists and enterprise users, and their best tools are hidden behind high paywalls. While knowledge about general “how-to’s” and the value of survey research has become ubiquitous, the nuts and bolts are increasingly complicated.
So the bottom line? Reach out. I’m around. Our team is ready to field your survey to your target market. Here’s my blueprint for designing your first market research survey. And here’s my free course on surveying your target market.
If you’re starting or running a business, survey research isn’t something that can wait.