The Only 5 Questions We Really Care About Answering

The primary reason we do any survey project is so that we can make decisions; for example, should I stay open for 24 hours/7 days a week or will our customers pay more for this potential new feature?  These are all good and worthy decisions.  But when you take even a closer look, we're making these decisions because our main objective is to become the obvious choice for that ideal customer.  And for that to happen, we have to have clear answers to the following questions:

  1. Who is our ideal customer? These are typically demographic questions such as gender, education level, income level or location.  You can expand these questions to find out your customer's occupation or if your ideal customer is a parent, pet owner.   Don't skimp on demographics or psycho graphics.  If anything get really creative with them.  You might consider doing a survey with nothing but profiling questions that include where your customers shop, or where they prefer to eat.  It's critical to know as much as possible about your ideal customer so that you can begin focusing your marketing decisions around their preferences.

  2. What do they struggle with? Another root set of data that market researchers are searching for within their ideal customer is "what they struggle with."  What are the 5 to 7 frustrations that they are dealing with when it comes to interacting with our product or service?  If you are a golf accessories company and you ask your ideal what frustrates them about their golfing experience, you might get responses such as "expensive golf clubs getting wet during a rain storm."  If you get enough of those responses, you may think about developing a golf accessory that protects golf clubs in the rain.  In fact -- there is such a thing as an umbrella for your golf clubs -- the Drizzle Stick.

  3. What does your ideal customer really WANT? No matter how you phrase the question (and there are countless creative formats) all we really want to know is what our customer will actually purchase as a solution.  What is it that they WANT?  Of course they're NOT going to say that they want something that doesn't exist yet -- in the 1960's the average person would NOT have known that they wanted a microwave. They wanted hot food fast.  One good way to get at these wants is to give your respondents some examples of product offerings and combinations and see how they rate them.

  4. What sets you apart from the other guy. Competitive analysis or benchmarking is critical if you want to increase the profitability of your product and build your brand.  My favorite way to measure or identify differentiators or competitive advantage is to ask Importance/Satisfaction questions.  The key to asking these kinds of questions is getting the attributes just right.  For example "How important is it that your tires have a run-flat safety feature?"  instead of asking "How important is it that your car has tires."

  5. What benefits do your customers perceive? Because we all choose and purchase based on emotion -- it's important to understand specifically, what emotional benefits our customers receive from our products and services.  The more we connect with our customers on an emotional level and provide that benefit -- the more likely they are to choose us.  This is an ideal place to use matrix questions that rate the degree to which customers agree or disagree with a variety of "benefit" statements.  Here is an example "I can count on Service X to pull me out of a bind."

No matter why you are doing a survey, you'll find these 5 questions at the core of "WHY" you want to know.  Remember, your respondents will read or spend time with absolutely ANYTHING as long as they are at the center of it.  Be sure to keep these 5 questions in mind when creating your survey and everyone involved will save time, aggravation and money.
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