Today’s world is an information world. No matter how much information you have, it never seems to be enough! In fact, the truth is — to be competitive you do need more and more information. Some of the information that you need you can get from secondary data sources also known as public information sources, e.g., government data for national and aggregate trends such as unemployment levels and rising fuel prices. However, there are many times you have a need for data that is specific to your feed and grain business and that requires primary data collection.
You have many different stakeholder groups and could have need for information from any of them. You might want information about how satisfied existing customers are with a new product line you have recently rolled out, or how customers would react to a new product, or how satisfied employees are with the work climate in your business, or how much employees learned from recent training programs. To get this information you will need to survey a particular stakeholder group.
Surveys are commonly used these days as you may have noticed; for the reasons outlined above, information is useful and helps management make good decisions that improve business profitability. Important information can be obtained from surveys. There are a lot of surveys out there — and people are often bombarded with requests to complete them — so it is important for you to get it right. In this article we highlight some key points concerning developing and administering surveys that will help you collect useful information and then evaluate the data you receive from them.
Focus your goals, identify target audience
The first step in a survey is study design and planning. The first questions you need to answer: What is your real need here, and what questions do you expect to be able to answer as a result of collecting the information from the survey? Having answers to these questions will affect how you move forward.
For example, if your objective is to grow market share, then you will be looking for the answer to the question: What is it that customers who are not currently using my product/service are looking for?
This will require that you survey potential customers, rather than current customers — because it is the potential customers that you want to learn about. It might be tempting to survey your current customer base because you easily have a list of those folks — but the information gained from current customers will not give you the best answers to the questions you are looking for in order to grow your market share.
There are several points to consider related to “who” you will survey. First you want to identify the appropriate population to survey — as noted above you may want to distinguish between current and potential customers. Once you have identified the appropriate population or group to survey, you need to determine if you will survey the entire population or a sample of the population. For example, if you have identified the population that you will survey to be your current customers, then you need to decide if you will survey everyone from your customer list or just a representative sample.
If you decide to go with a sample, you will need to decide how to draw the sample of names that you will survey. The sample can be drawn in different ways, and the approach that you use should be consistent with the objectives for your business. A random sample involves selecting a small fraction of the targeted population. You could draw a simple random sample from your list of customers. This approach could work out great — but it could also turn out that there are no customers in your sample from one particular geographic region of your market.