Surveys: A Key Tool for Effective Decision Making

What is often viewed as the least “sexy” and most tedious aspect of marketing and business has proved, time and time again, to be the most important. No matter how creative your ad campaign may be, or how many great innovative features your new product may have, it can all go to waste if you don’t base your decisions on thorough and dependable research.

Effective market research gives firms and organizations valuable insights into shareholder’s wants, needs, attitudes and perceptions while guiding them towards profitable decisions by uncovering potential market opportunities.

Examples of poor decisions rooted in incomplete research are everywhere. Take PepsiCo’s re-branding of Tropicana Orange Juice in 2009, which stripped the brand of it’s personality and only upset and confused customers. The uproar was so huge that Pepsi switched back to it’s old branding strategy a few months into the new campaign. What ended up being an extremely costly mistake could have been, in all likelihood, avoided if PepsiCo had placed a greater emphasis on brand research and found out in advance how consumers were going to perceive the new and old campaigns.

Before carrying out a decision that can impact your bottom line, it’s crucial to gather the information to support it. The ideal method is a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques, be it focus groups, personal interviews, surveys, etc.

Using a survey, in particular, as part of the data collection process has multiple advantages:

Standardization: It’s possible to guarantee that every participant is asked the same question with identical wording and tone, removing a potential source of bias in responses. Standardization also allows similar data to be collected from groups and then compared against each other.

Easy to administrate: Surveys, particularly online surveys, are a relatively inexpensive and easy method of data collection. They can be sent out to large populations with the click of a button, completed anywhere on the planet, and results are accumulated in real time.
Able to tap the “Unseen”: Surveys can uncover information and patterns that would not have been visible with collection methods that are limited to smaller sample sizes (individual observation, focus groups, etc)

Flexible: Surveys can collect a wide variety of information, be it values, beliefs, past behaviors, demographics, attitudes, etc, in one document.

While a survey should not be the only method used to gather comprehensive data, it can be an extremely effective tool available to firms and organizations. Using it in tandem with other methods is imperative to gather market research when making important business decisions. At the end of the day, a gut feeling can only take you so far.

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