3 Secrets to Maximizing the Prospect Survey Process (Part 2)

LIsa Vitale marketing GuruThis two-part series is focused on how to best leverage the power that a thoughtfully-designed survey has to communicate with a target audience. To recap, the purpose of a prospect survey (survey-based lead generation) – as distinguished from a market/industry survey – is two-fold: to reach, engage, and qualify prospects, while both gaining and communicating insights in one efficient process. The sometimes overlooked and less obvious benefit of this process is indeed the opportunity to communicate and test new ideas and perspectives regarding prospects’ personal and organizational challenges. Marketers are certainly accustomed to the benefits and insights traditional surveys provide regarding target audiences, but a fully-leveraged prospect survey process can yield even greater value by getting prospects thinking about new perspectives. Last week’s post features two tips focused on the pre-design process for creating a prospect survey; this week’s Part 2 discusses how to optimize survey design and writing.

Optimize the survey design process

When crafting your survey, here are best practices to keep in mind:

Question writing – Each question must have a purpose, clearly stated, and simply written. To encourage engagement, you want your questions to be easy and short. Consider the following when writing your survey questions:

  • What does your question measure (e.g., attitudes, behaviors, intentions), and is this question the most effective way to measure it? What will the data from this question inform and does this serve your research objectives?
  • Is the language and intent clear and will it resonate with your target audience? Are other interpretations possible? How does the question’s context influence its meaning? Minimize misinterpretations to achieve uniformity of meaning and ensure that respondents are in fact answering the question you think you are asking.
  • Are all response options relevant and valid, and do they include all reasonable responses? N/A or ‘not sure’ should also be included where appropriate to not skew responses by forcing a false selection

Question wording – Following these guidelines will help ensure the veracity of your survey’s data:

  • Use simple words with singular meaning to encourage uniformity of understanding
  • Avoid industry and other jargon to minimize misinterpretations and confusion
  • Avoid leading questions (“Would you agree that…?”) and subjective language (“How often do you…?”). Words such as “often” and “sometimes” are open to differing interpretations.
  • Avoid double-barreled questions that ask two questions in one (“Is this product user-friendly and effective?”).

Question style – For short prospect surveys, open questions requiring respondents to write a response are discouraged. Instead, encourage participant engagement by using multiple choice questions, as well as:

  • Ranking questions which force comparisons between the full set of response options, or only a few (e.g., rank the top three). Caution: these questions are typically more challenging and time consuming for respondents, as well as more difficult to analyze.
  • Scale questions which are easier and faster, but somewhat less reliable as respondents are more prone to quick, snap judgment responses. Scale questions should be consistent with:

Points – 5 or 7 point scales allow for neutral middle response – use one style throughout your survey

Labels – clearly worded options from one extreme to the other (“no growth”/”overwhelming growth”)

Colored Gears

Photo credit: mag3737 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Test your survey – Ask friends and colleagues to sample your survey. Even (and sometimes especially) those without industry knowledge can help identify such things as biases, assumptions, and poor wordings to help strengthen your survey.

For deeper reading on how a survey can be smartly leveraged for maximum effectiveness across key marketing and sales functions, read our blog post, Many birds, one stone: Leveraging the power of B2B market surveys.

For additional reading on these and other survey design best practices visit: Questionnaire Design: Theory & Best Practices, D. Vannette.

To learn more about SimplyDIRECT’s prospect survey process read here.