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Surveys: Understanding Audience Characteristics


There is a multitude of considerations one must take into account when planning a survey. Are you seeking feedback from customers that maintain consistent interactions with your company? What about former customers or potential customers? Will the feedback be used to isolate customer improvement opportunities? Are you hoping to compare your company’s performance against competitors?

Along with meeting the needs of your survey objectives, determining the appropriate approach for your survey will also depend on the unique set of characteristics of your target audience. Before you design your next survey, evaluate the following:

How knowledgeable is my audience?

It is important to consider the different roles, titles, seniority, and background of those invited to respond to your survey. Contingent on the type of research you are conducting, your audience might include those not well versed in company-specific acronyms or industry-related jargon. This is especially true if you’re conducting a more broad market research type survey or new client onboarding survey. Knowing the different audiences’ levels of expertise will inform the need for either (a) universal questions or (b) in-depth explanations about the topics included in your survey. The end result is a more relevant survey, leading to reduced drop-off rates.

Is the audience familiar with my company?

Similar to the audiences’ “insider” knowledge is the awareness they have with your company or your products and services. Will you be conducting a customer satisfaction survey? You can approach this audience with a high level of familiarity and ask questions directly related to their experiences with your company. On the other hand, a competitive benchmarking survey will call for a different set of questions (such as demographic or psychographic) and often takes longer to complete.

How much interaction does my audience have with our company?

Take a look at your survey contact list. Is it comprised mostly of practitioners and/or end users of your products or services? If so, it’s time to add decision-makers to the list. Regardless of the type of survey you are conducting, we recommend that your audience include those who are in the driver's seat. This is because decision-makers have the greatest authority to determine the likelihood of engaging with your company again, or in the future. Just keep in mind that some decision-makers may not be acquainted with certain aspects of the relationship, such as product features or support issues.

To sum it up, some audiences are more receptive to certain surveys than others. Neglecting to recognize this and adjust your survey accordingly – e.g. shortening the survey’s length – will lead to frustration and result in data that might not be representative of your audience.