The meat-and-potatoes of any research project is physically collecting data. Whether your company desires customer feedback regarding satisfaction levels or purchase habits/intent of a new market segment, you must successfully collect relevant information. This will support answering initial research questions and bridging data gaps. The following post will discuss a crucial step of any research project; conducting the research.
In phase 1 we took an inventory of current and past research efforts, which laid the foundation moving forward. In phase 2, we clearly defined our research strategy with a step-by-step plan of action offering direction, and ensuring appropriate timing. Now we can confidently implement our plan of action by having a clear understanding of where our research has been, and where we strive to go.
1. Survey Development
Arguably the most difficult, and commonly overlooked, phase of this process is generating the research instrument. Design, order & survey questions can greatly impact a respondents’ feedback. Therefore it is crucial to closely examine the wording of each prompt and response options to ensure you are asking the intended question to produce the desired feedback.
2. Identify Communication Channel
Whether it is an internal client list or a purchased list of willing participants, identify what you perceive to be the most effective means of communicating with your target respondents. Obviously, they must be aware of your participation request to provide their feedback. When conducting online research, be aware of “spamming” regulations to avoid rejected emails. If mailing hard-copy surveys, consider the cost of postage and assume a lag time for respondents to receive , complete and mail back the survey. This decision should have been made during the previous strategic phase.
3. Print Questionnaires/Program Online Survey
Whether you are implementing an online strategy or a hard-copy printed survey, you must focus on clarity and quality. If a respondent is confused by the organization, has difficulty seeing print, or questions the validity of a study due to its poor quality, your research project will suffer. To ensure a high response rate and valid feedback, use a reputable online survey tool or trusted print source. Remember, the entire project depends on respondents completing this survey instrument so it is worth an extra effort to ensure a quality feedback mechanism.
4. Prepare Invites
A concise and polite email is an effective research invitation for online surveys. If you are mailing a hard-copy instrument or conducting in-person research, still offer some formal invitation so respondents feel compelled rather than pressured to participate. This invitation should include a brief description of the research purpose, what will be done with the data, and it is wise to assure respondents their personal information is well protected. Be sure to include or mention an incentive you are offering such as a prize or discount. This will help encourage on-the-fence respondents to participate, thus improving your response rate.
5. Field the Survey & Monitor Fielding Operation
Depending on the size and scale of your research project, setting a timeframe for completion helps motivate respondents to fill out their surveys in a timely manner. If there is no mention of an “end date”, the respondent could keep putting off the task and miss their opportunity to provide feedback. If response rates are low after a few weeks, send out a reminder invitation to those who have yet to participate. It is not wise to overwhelm or pressure potential respondents, but a gentle reminder could push response rates to your desired mark.
6. Close the Survey
At the pre-determined time, close the survey to submissions. This is the end of the collection process, and now you can gauge whether or not your response frequency met the original goal or expectation.
Next week we will continue with our series – Phase #4: Combine Research with Other Data. I will discuss how to move forward once the survey data has been collected. Thanks!