There are several key components to effective survey design. Questions should be tooled specifically to answer project objectives. Preliminary screening questions should determine if the respondent is the correct target, while weeding out ‘professional’ survey takers. Subsequent to qualifying, questions must be unambiguous, with target and topic appropriate language. The survey flow should make sense to the respondent, grouping similar topics together in a natural progression. A few best-practices for survey design:
- Appropriate skip logic in your survey allows respondents to only see questions relevant to them.
- Scaled questions should be consistent (low to high, or high to low).
- All options should be included in the answer choices (such as don’t know, none of these), without any overlap.
- Avoid using implied agreement or disagreement in questions. All questions should be unbiased with neutral language.
- Include one or two open-ended questions to check respondent engagement and to help understand the ‘why’ behind an answer.
- Non-qualifying demographics should be at the end of the survey.
- Keep it as short as possible to help prevent respondent fatigue.
- And always, thoroughly test!
DDG entered the world of online surveys in the early 2000’s. After investigating a number of available software packages, DDG opted to build our own, due to the complex nature of most of the studies we conduct. Designed with customization in mind, our platform is modular, scalable, and as adaptable as the Internet itself. Because we aren’t limited by some other company’s software release schedule, we are constantly adding templates, question types, and modules to meet the needs of our clients.
Our online interface can be adapted to include clients’ logos (when appropriate) and color schemes, to mirror the brand experience customers have on the client’s website. We can send sample to our platform from any panel supplier, from your own customer database, or from a static link posted in a traditional mailing or on your website. Multimedia can be embedded directly in the survey or from an outside source.
DDG is “mode agnostic”, meaning that we select the appropriate data collection mode based on the sample frame we are targeting, and the specifics of the study. In some cases, an online methodology will not deliver the desired results. This is particularly the case when the demographics for your study skew towards groups that are underrepresented online, or when your questions are more qualitative in nature, requiring intervention from a trained interviewer to get the best results. DDG provides telephone and multimode programming in those cases where a study is not an ideal fit for an online only methodology.
Research reports are the end-product of a lot of time, effort, deep thinking, and data analysis. It is tempting to produce ‘data by the pound,’ throwing every data point and table into the report. However, we have found that concise, visually engaging reporting, that is easy to understand and actionable, is far more valuable. Each chart, each slide, should communicate a finding, not just a data point, almost instantly. In the end, the report will clearly answer the key questions of the research and layout the implications and actionable recommendations for the client.
“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” Thoreau
The senior staff at DDG has decades of experience in designing and executing marketing. If you need assistance in any of these specific functions, we can explore “how to” engage:
The team at DDG possesses all of these skills and the resources to design and implement customized solutions for your business.
As part of our full-service Marketing Research Online Community (MROC) offering, DDG provides recruitment services, including: the construction of the screener survey, customized invitations to your customer list or other appropriate sample frame, and subsequent selection of the ideal set of qualified participants.
After the group has been selected, DDG also handles the moderation of the discussions, including: adding new topics, monitoring for interesting conversations and asking for additional information when appropriate, and identifying themes that may need additional exploration. Clients may participate in discussions actively as well when appropriate.
Sampling is arguably the most important component of any research project. Sadly, it’s often the most neglected one; ignore it at your own peril. Regardless of how well constructed your survey instrument is, or how sophisticated your analysis techniques are, if you haven’t interviewed the correct people, your results will not tell you how to approach your intended market. For some studies, the sample frame and its proportions in the general population are already known, and they can be targeted accordingly. But when that isn’t the case, how do you ensure that the results you obtain are genuinely representative of the group you were trying to reach?
DDG uses a rigorous, proprietary sampling method we developed called iGAGE, which is an acronym for income, gender, age, geography, and ethnicity. This methodology assures that the random sample of consumers who proceed to the screening and qualifying section of the survey are proportionally representative of the U.S. population of interest. This means that the initial sample comprises about 50% men and 50% women, and the age, income, and racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. are proportionally reflected in the sample as they exist in the consumer universe, and the consumers are distributed geographically in proportion to the population of the U.S.
Once that initial Census-driven stratification takes place, survey respondents proceed to the questions that screen them for category usage. Our clients benefit from this sampling approach because it assures that the composition of the sample is a fairly precise reflection of the “true” eligible, qualified market for their products or services in the United States. They can trust that the attitudes and usage opinions from the survey are truly reflective aggregations of the target population and not skewed toward any over-sampled population cohort.
When DDG began business as a marketing research company back in the mid-1980’s, most of our surveys were completed using pen and paper, with an interviewer making telephone calls directly out of the phone book. Remember? Turn 10 pages, count down 20 names in the second column. Call that person. We’ve come a long way since then. Advances in technology have allowed for us to conduct many of our research studies online – whether through traditional quantitative survey instruments, online focus groups, or more in-depth marketing research online communities. However, we consider ourselves “method-agnostic”. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that’s perfect for every research project, so we tailor our research method to apply to the specific audience we are trying to reach.
Online surveys: A good fit for general population surveys, or surveys targeted at a sample frame that is known to be predominantly online. Ideal for studies where multimedia or other visual elements will be shown, or where complex logic or methods (like conjoint) needs to be deployed. DDG ran its first web study almost 20 years ago, and this continues to be one of our primary methods of data collection.
Telephone surveys: While the majority of the US population now has access to the Internet, there are certain demographic subgroups that are less likely to a) be online and b) be present in large numbers in online sample sources. If your study will target one of these groups, a traditional telephone study may be a better solution for you. DDG has been managing telephone projects since before the advent of predictive dialers, and has deep experience navigating the regulations that currently restrict the way these studies can be deployed.
Mail surveys: It’s an old standard, but postal mail surveys are still a surprisingly effective method for completing a study. This is particularly the case when you deploy a tried and true mailing method like Dilman’s to maximize your return rate. DDG handles the entire process, from mailing to data entry to delivery.
Focus groups/communities: For qualitative discovery, DDG deploys in-person and online focus groups, as well as marketing research online communities (MROCs) to gather information that will help us develop quantitative instruments for future research, or simply provide directional insights from a specific population
Multimode: For some studies, the best method is actually a combination of methods. This allows us to balance the higher costs of, for example, a traditional telephone study with the limited reach into certain demographic groups that we experience on the web. Your study can be programmed to allow phone, mail, and web surveys to be managed through the same interface for ease of data storage and processing, and maximized contact rates.