Walt Whitman said, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences.” Similarly, the quality of any product research is dependent upon the quality of the survey audience. The audience must faithfully represent your target market. Otherwise, the insights you receive may lead you astray.
In this second blog in the Beginner’s Series, we’ll provide tips to help you identify and reach the right audience for your market research survey. We’ll help you avoid the pitfalls and ensure your data provides valuable insights into your market and drives your new product or feature to success.
You can read A Beginner’s Introduction to Product Research to start at the beginning of the blog series.
The first step to finding a representative audience is to clearly define your target market. Who is your product designed to serve?
For example, suppose you want to introduce a service that delivers freshly roasted coffee to homes in New York state. Your target market is adults who live in New York and make coffee at home on a daily basis. It is defined by geography and consumer dietary habits. You want to survey people with these characteristics.
The next step is to identify an audience that: a) provides a balanced representation of your market and; b) can be easily accessed to distribute a survey. There are a few options and each has its tradeoffs.
Interest groups: With the abundance of interest groups available on social media, it’s possible your target market aligns with one of them. If so, this channel offers an inexpensive and easy way to distribute your survey. However, you may need to offer an incentive to entice timely participation, and you may receive duplicate responses. Also, be aware some interest group members may be biased in ways that make the group a poor representation of your market.
Hire an agency: Market research firms specialize in sourcing panels of consumers that match your target. They provide access to small groups for in-depth research (i.e. focus groups) and large email and postal mail lists for wide-scale survey distribution. The tradeoffs with these services are their high cost and lengthy turnaround time. They may be able to field a survey as quickly as alternatives, but the entire engagement is easily in the tens of thousands of dollars and can take months to complete.
Research technology platforms: A robust research technology platform has access to millions of consumers across a wide range of demographics. These consumers are sourced, invented, and ready to quickly respond to electronic survey requests. They provide access to a naturally representative audience by filtering responses based on audience criteria. Feedback Loop, for example, is able to provide quality feedback within hours, at a level of affordability that allows for more frequent tests.
If you are planning an extension to an existing product, you might be considering a survey of your current customers. While this approach certainly provides valuable insight into why current customers buy your products, it does not offer a representative view of the entire market.
Unless you operate a monopoly business, your customers provide a window into only a portion of the entire market. By surveying your customers, you miss the opportunity to understand why others buy from the competition or don’t buy at all. In short, your customers are biased.
When developing a new product, or even a significant new capability, we recommend selecting an audience that includes the customers you want, rather than simply polling the customers you have.
The last step in audience development is screening the pool of participants to ensure they meet all the characteristics of your target market. This step may be shortened or eliminated if you’re using an audience with demographics that match your target market. For example, research technology platforms allow you to select from existing participant pools prequalified against a range of demographic criteria.
Using our coffee roastery scenario, we need to qualify participants based on residential locale (New York) and by dietary habits (drinks coffee, daily). A research technology platform provides access to adult consumers prequalified to live in New York. However, we need to further screen these participants by asking them whether they brew coffee at home every day. The series of questions needed to do this is called a screener.
Best practices for designing screeners are to use the fewest number of questions possible and to provide an opt-out. This can be accomplished by starting with the most general criteria and narrowing them down to the most specific. In our example, we should ask:
Research technology platforms can dramatically simplify and accelerate the task of developing a survey audience. These systems prequalify millions of consumer participants against a range of demographics.
For example, Feedback Loop offers immediate access to participants based on:
By leveraging prequalification features, you can reduce or eliminate the questions you need to put in your screener, which gives you room in your survey to get more feedback. There is no need to waste limited participant attention by screening them again.
By following these simple tips for developing an audience, you can be confident your research reflects the market you’re targeting. Research technology platforms further simplify the task by giving you immediate access to audiences prequalified against a range of demographic criteria.
Ready to build your audience? Download the Audience Builder Checklist.
You can also learn more by downloading the Beginner’s Guide to Product Research, which covers all the steps in the process for gathering quality customer feedback. Alternatively, watch this space for the next blog in the Beginners Series for research tips and checklists.