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Surfing Lessons for Market Research Survey Designers
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Surfing Lessons for Market Research Survey Designers

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If you’ve ever seen the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, then you are familiar with the line, “do less.” Chuck (Paul Rudd) uses this line over and over when teaching Peter (Jason Segal) to surf. Chuck …

If you’ve ever seen the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, then you are familiar with the line, “do less.” Chuck (Paul Rudd) uses this line over and over when teaching Peter (Jason Segal) to surf. Chuck goes a little far and Peter ends up boogie boarding, but his point is well taken. Doing too much will result in failure, but doing too little will leave you boogie boarding. When designing a market research survey, it is important to capture a lot of useful information, but how much questioning will be too much for the participants to take? Our mantra is, as Chuck advises, to do less.

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  • 1. SURFING LESSONS FOR MARKET RESEARCH SURVEY DESIGNERSIf you’ve ever seen the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, then you are familiar with the line, “do less.” Chuck(Paul Rudd) uses this line over and over when teaching Peter (Jason Segal) to surf. Chuck goes a little far andPeter ends up boogie boarding, but his point is well taken. Doing too much will result in failure, but doing toolittle will leave you boogie boarding. When designing a market research survey, it is important to capture a lot ofuseful information, but how much questioning will be too much for the participants to take? Our mantra is, asChuck advises, to do less.Doing Less Will Minimize Your Survey Drop Out RateIn any market research survey, some participants will drop out, which is just the nature of the beast. The goal isto minimize this dropout rate so that we can meet our overall sample size goals, completely. A well-writtenquestionnaire can limit this dropout rate to lower than 3%, the target number for most market research surveys.People will be more likely to complete your survey if it is simple; and that means asking clear questions, offeringrealistic answer options, and using easy scales.So how simple does it need to be? How do we balance that desire to achieve optimization through simplicity,while meeting the project’s needs for data collection? While there are many possible factors, here is an oftenoverlooked critical one:Know how much effort you can ask from this particular group, and design accordingly. In the case ofa non-blind survey, the first step is simple; understand the target audience for your survey. Are they loyalcustomers or a random sampling of consumers? Loyal customers will be far more willing to take time on thesurvey and answer more personal questions than random people. However, even loyal customers can be easilyscared off by complex surveys.When crafting your survey, you will surely go through a few iterations. So while revising, be sure to consider thecontent from a participant’s point of view. If you were taking this survey, would you feel it was asking for toomuch information or too much effort? Guiding questions to help you gain a participant’s perspective can be foundin Research Rockstar’s class titled “Ask It Right.” And until then, you can always take a lesson from our surferfriend Chuck, and err on the side of doing less.[Want to learn more about asking the right questions, using the proper scales, and making thingseasy for participants? Visit Research Rockstar and take the “Ask It Right” class online in aninstructor-led class or at your own pace.]Author Bio: For more expert tips on market research subscribe to Research Rockstars free newsletter at http://www.researchrockstar.com. Have a market research question? Kathryn Korostoff is president of Research Rockstar, a company that delivers online and in-person training to busy professionals seeking market research excellence. Kathryn is a market research professional with a special interest in how organizations acquire, manage, and apply market research. Over the past 20 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in trade magazines. http://twitter.com/ResearchRocks 1