Differences That Make a Difference

SMB owners have hundreds of questions they’d like answered, in order to better run their business. Does being pet-friendly give me a competitive edge over the other boutique down the street? Should I be launching new variations of my product every year, or only when I have a major change to the item? How do my store hours affect my revenue? Should I switch from 1-ply to 2-ply toilet paper in my office or store?

Small businesses contemplate countless questions and make decisions accordingly, every day.  No matter how many questions you have, surveying your customers, partners or prospective clients can help you resolve a range of different issues facing your business. However, instead of launching a survey asking all the questions you have, take a moment to step back and determine which of those issues you’re having is actually the most vital to the success of your business, the one that has been weighing on your mind for months that you thought you needed to solve on your own.

The first step is to actually decide which problem is most important to address. Is your revenue fluctuating? Does your product have too many variables? Do you need to expand your client base? By focusing on the broader issue, you can cut through random day-to-day questions, and use surveys to gather actionable insights for your company, which in turn will enable you to make better business decisions that give you an edge above your competitors.

For example, let’s assume you’ve decided the big issue at hand is your customer base, you want to understand if there are specific demographic segments that are more interested in your product than others. Then it’s time for the process of explicating – a fancy research word that just means you’re taking a broader concept and breaking it into little pieces that will serve as your research questions. You could just ask people who they are, and if they’d buy your product and move on from there, but if you’re launching a survey don’t you want more detailed information? So you can solve your business issue?

If men in their 20s are most interested in your product, that insight can inform your marketing or advertising plans. However, what about asking them if they’ll continue to use your product in their 30s? Or determining if there is a slight product alteration you could make that won’t drive away your 20 year old customers, but will expand your customer base all the way to men in their 40s? These little differences can make all the difference between building a successful business and struggling to pay your electricity bills.

Here are some key considerations to determine what question you really need to answer in order to improve your business:

  • Decide which issue (revenue, product, etc.) will cause your business the most harm if you don’t address it in the near future.
  • Determine what kind of data will help you solve this problem.
  • Break out the different areas of questions that could help you gather the data you need.

Understanding the innate research question you have in the back of your mind is the most important part of surveying. Taking the time to walk through these steps before you begin creating your survey will ensure the data you’re collecting will directly address a current pain point for your business.

Come back next week for a discussion of how to build quality survey questionnaires, so you can begin gathering this data!

Philip Garland
<div> Philip is responsible for ensuring that SurveyMonkey's products produce optimal data quality.  He spearheads new survey tools that help researchers do more of their work in one place.</div> <div> <a href="http://surveymonkey.com" target="_blank">SurveyMonkey.com </a><a href="http://www.score.org" target="_blank"> </a>|<a href="http://www.facebook.com/surveymonkey" target="_blank"> Facebook</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/SurveyMonkey" target="_blank">@SurveyMonkey</a> | <a href="/author/philip-garland/all-posts" target="_blank">More from Philip</a>   </div>


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question ensures you are a human visitor to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.