One important factor to consider when using a panel provider is to ensure your audience is the right one. If your questions are answered by the wrong people, how useful is your research and the data from that research? Having a broad idea of the audience you want to reach is different to successfully targeting that audience. To reach the correct respondents, you need to understand the capacities of targeting, from demographics to screening questions and everything in between.
Why Should You Care?
Previously, we have discussed the importance of setting survey goals and objectives, and identifying your target audience is no different. Different audiences have different characteristics and may answer questions differently, therefore, it’s so important to ensure that you are asking the right people the right questions and to narrow your scope to get the most out of your research. Defining your target audience is essential to creating a good survey. This is why you should think about your target audience before even beginning your survey design. The characteristics of your customer base may be a good guide to who you should target, but first and foremost, your target audience should depend upon your research objectives.
Basic Targeting Criteria
Many panel providers have pre-defined targeting criteria that you can use to send your survey directly to the respondents you want. Understanding these criteria can save you time and money when you creating a survey. The range of pre-defined targeting criteria is dependent on the specific panel provider, however, below is the basic targeting criteria you should be aware of:
Age & Gender – The most basic targeting is age and gender. You probably have a general sense of these two categories. If your brand’s main customer is young people, targeting only 18 to 35-year-olds helps you save money on survey costs and allows you to focus on the people that matter. Similarly, if your customer base has a female skew, then you should be thinking about setting quotas that allow for that skew.
Location – Not only does location include the county/area the respondent is living in but it can also include whether they live in a rural, suburban or urban setting which can be an incredibly insightful factor for brands and agencies. Similarly, if your product/service is only available in certain areas, then it wouldn’t be recommended that you receive answers from those located outside of those areas.
Income & Education Level – Many panel providers, including Bounce Insights, have the ability to target respondents in a certain income range or depending on their education or job level. For example, if you were only interested in speaking with students or a certain social bracket, then you are able to set certain targeting to allow for this.
Employment – Targeting by employment status or a specific area of employment can be helpful where you only need to speak with full-time employees or similarly, those who are unemployed.
Relationship Status – Similar to income level, relationship status can be extremely useful for certain brands or companies that have niche markets.
Specific Targeting – Outside of basic demographics, many panel providers have more specific behavioural targeting, such as coffee or alcohol drinkers. At Bounce Insights, we capture 100s of different data points on our panel and keep this up-to-date by using dynamic targeting. Dynamic targeting allows for these data points to be redefined by the panel after a certain period of time has passed. This ensures that we are not asking a respondent a survey which no longer applies to them. Where we do not have the targeting you need, you can always ask your Account Manager if this is possible to get set up.
If you desire a bespoke audience that our pre-defined targeting criteria doesn’t cover, screening questions may be the answer for you.
Pre-defined targeting criteria may not always fulfil your research needs, so additional filtering is needed. This can be done by using a screening question. A screening question, when worded properly, will disqualify those respondents who may be a fit from a demographic standpoint but aren’t an exact fit for your specific research needs. Screening questions do increase the size of your survey so avoid using multiple screening questions. If you need help designing a screening questions, our Account Managers are always available to help with survey design.
The Size and Balance
After defining your targeting, you need to actually settle on the size of your audience. We have discussed choosing the size of your sample and how it important to ensure that you are getting a statistically significant sample – the basic rule is that the higher the sample size, the more statistically significant the sample is.
An equally important factor in survey building that is often overlooked is survey balancing. Balancing is selecting the portion of your audience that is made up of a specific cohort. It is ensures that you are not filling up your sample size with all of the same cohorts and those have simply just answered the survey first, balancing allows for you to ensure that all cohorts that you have selected are getting a chance to answer your survey. You could want 50% of your audience size to be located in a certain location with the other 50% spread across a wider location. However, you should be careful while using balancing, when balancing it’s always important to ensure that the panel provider is able to provide enough respondents for each cohort. It is often best to stick with a national representative sample or as close as you can get to one, unless your research need is bespoke to a niche set of audiences. We can help advise you when it comes to balancing as we know that it can be difficult to know how to do this.
Overall, understanding the tools available to you while building your audience is vitally important. As a researcher, you should make sure you have a detailed understanding of the pre-defined targeting criteria available to you at the beginning of your survey design process. As technology advances, it is easier and easier to select niche audiences. Having the right audience means that you can get the right answers and ultimately, get the most out of your research, which helps make better decisions based on your data.