Surveys are a great, inexpensive way to get information from your target market. Surveys help businesses determine how to manipulate the 4 P’s of marketing: Price, Place, and Promotion. They can also help company management decide what policies work in the office, what members want in the county club dining room, etc. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
Surveys have to be reliable and valid. Reliability means that the survey yields consistent results. Validity means that it measures what it is designed to measure and it accurately performs its designated function. In other words, you don’t want to give a survey to determine how much flour people use per week, when what you actually want to know is how much butter your customers are purchasing per week.
According to Patten (2009) the purpose of the survey is “to determine the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of a population” (p. 9). Surveys can’t be given to each member of the entire population because it can be a large group of people. Instead, researchers must draw a sample of the population. A sample is a smaller group of individuals that is still representative of the population. When the sample is “representative” it contains the same age group(s), the same economic levels, geographic locations, etc. as the target population. Researchers must be careful in obtaining these groups because they can be biased in many ways.
Surveys, despite their flaws, are highly efficient, inexpensive, and simple ways of obtaining information from the populous. Two examples of surveys at work:
1. XYZ Company wants to create a new flavor of soda. They need to know what flavors of soda their customers prefer. XYZ Company hires a research firm to determine what flavors are the favorites of not only the current purchasers of the XYZ soda; but also the opinions of desired customers. The research firm has a small budget to work with, but still need good and reliable information. They decide to send out surveys via mail to consumers and people in the entire distribution area.
2. ABC Company wants to start offering insurance to their employees. They need to know what their employees need and what they desire in insurance benefits. What company do they need to choose? Which company has the benefits that their employees need? These are questions that can be answered by giving their employees a survey.
Surveys can be constructed for several purposes, at several lengths, distributed several different ways, and contain different levels and types of questions. However they are formed and distributed, they are extremely effective and inexpensive to distribute. As long as they are constructed correctly and are reliable and valid, surveys are a prodigious way to obtain information.
An example of a survey question can be found on the main page of this blog, in the right panel.
Patten, M. (2009). Understanding research methods: An overview of the essentials. (7th ed). United States of America: Pyrczak Publishing.