Toluna’s advice on making marketing surveys work

Toluna’s advice on making marketing surveys work
Frédéric-Charles Petit is a market research industry veteran who founded Toluna in 2000, after seeing the web’s potential as a research platform, and later how research could become a mass market and social experience.


The benefits of strengthening a story with statistics, or some other form of quantitative data, are widely acknowledged by marketing professionals from all industries.

Working to provide quantifiable insights to clients across various sectors, I have recently seen an increasing interest in using data to reinforce theories about a consumer-base. But most companies have not considered all the options for commissioning research that are now available.  

In becoming ‘data hungry’, organisations invest heavily in a variety of ways to capture data from a number of sources. There is a priority to collect increasing amounts of data to give a more representative sample of customers, prospects or any other target audience.

Not all data has the same value, and errors in the collection, examination and interpretation of data can cause critical problems in the future.

What businesses really want is the ability to discover anything that they don’t know and confirm everything they think they know.

To tell the whole story behind a decision, a business first needs the technology to capture relevant and accurate data from all the sources of information available, including social media, transactional and financial data, point-of-sale data, survey data, and any other source available.

The next step is to use the right technologies and partners to see the patterns in the data, and assess what has value and then to provide actionable recommendations.

Creating a DIY survey online is one method of gaining useful information about target audience that is often overlooked.

Findings from these surveys can be used to develop a media and advertising plan; influencing strategy by creating topics that resonate, compelling journalists to write about subjects by supplying relevant data, and gaining the attention of social media users by featuring informative snapshots.

Here are some how-to-tips for executing your first consumer survey online:

Simple and succinct

Asking too much of a respondent at once is a common mistake that first-time surveyers often make. For example, a grid might be created with 40 attributes, completely overwhelming a respondent.

Not all data has the same value, and errors in the collection, examination and interpretation of data can cause critical problems in the future

As a result, the respondent answers in a haphazard manner, dramatically diminishing the value of the data. Feeding respondents a few attributes at a time ensures greater focus and thus better data quality.

A good guideline is to limit the number of questions to no more than 15 – the shorter the survey, the more success it is likely to have.

Create a narrative

Embed a narrative structure within the survey, so that the responses naturally tell a story.

Start with a few broad questions that not only help establish the basics of the audience’s background and point of view, but also help remove any participants who fall outside the target market.

In the remaining questions, drill down deeper into the crux of the story and ask about the specifics.

Enjoy yourself

An enjoyable survey is much more likely to attract respondents. Enhancing the survey experience improves the quality and accuracy of the responses.

In fact, 76% of survey takers claim that a more interactive experience will keep them engaged and less likely to drop out. One way to check if you have an engaging survey is to take the survey yourself to understand first-hand how a respondent may react.

More often than not, the experience may help you realize you need to adjust some questions.

Digital surveys have the potential to increase the ability of marketing professionals to leverage consumer opinion.

Generating quantifiable data to reinforce or establish a point can benefit a brand’s reputation, and ultimately satisfies customers as it provokes the creation of more tailored products.

Creating effective consumer surveys is great for both sides of the fence. 

What has your experience been like with marketing surveys? Share what’s worked and what hasn’t by commenting below.

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