Before wasting your time and effort on any survey, you need to set your objectives. You need to know exactly what you want out of your research in order to get the most out of the survey. Surveys are best when they are focused on a singular goal, so the best practice is to define your objectives before starting your research.
Breaking Down Goals and Objectives
Before tackling any objectives, an easy first step is to set a goal for your survey. This is your primary aim for the survey, essentially what you want to know and why you need a survey. A goal is not strictly measurable and tangible. Then, there are the objectives of your survey. Objectives are more specific and they break down the steps to take in order to achieve the survey goal.
Let’s use an example.
You are a company that has a large customer base and there are currently no viable opportunities for expanding that customer base into new markets. You are concerned with keeping your existing customers as well as poaching potential customers from your competitors. You want market research to validate your strategy to drive customer loyalty among existing customers.
Your Goal: To understand what drives customer loyalty
- To determine the percentage of the current customer base that are likely to purchase our product again over the next 6 months
- To assess the level of customer loyalty towards your competitors
- To describe what unique need our products are filling that leads to increased customer loyalty
- To explore marketing factors that influence customer loyalty
How to set survey goals and objectives?
It can be pretty easy to set a goal, other times, it requires looking at the bigger picture and asking yourself some questions.
- What is the subject matter? This is the general field that you are concerned with. Examples of the subject matter includes the product your company offers, your brand, customer experience, competitors etc, etc
- What do I want to know? This is a pretty straightforward question to ask yourself and the more specific the answer the better e.g. satisfaction with your customer support, effectiveness of your digital marketing, etc. I would also follow up with the question “What do I not know?”. While sometimes the answer to these two questions are the same, other times you want to know something without having enough foundational information to actually learn what you want to know.
- Who should I ask? Do you want to ask existing customers? Is there a specific demographic that you want to hear from? Is there a specific demographic that you don’t want to hear from?
- What do I want to be able to accomplish when I have my final results? This is a very useful question to ask yourself when it comes to your objectives. Knowing what you want to achieve at the end of the process helps you identify the practical steps needed for your objectives.
A simple tip for writing survey goals is to start with the word followed by an action verb, such as describe, explain, explore, identify, investigate, gauge, measure, assess or test – for example: “To understand what makes our product unique” or “To explore our customer needs and requirements”. While your goal can be more generic than your objectives, narrowing the scope of your goal helps you decide on your objectives.
Aim to have two to five objectives for your survey. Have at least one objective that is concerned with quantitative research, e.g. what percentage of our customer base have visited our online website. Your objectives can involve qualitative research but be as specific as possible about what you want to know. Objectives should follow the specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) rule.
Why do you need a survey goal and objectives?
Defining the survey goal sharpens the focus on what you are trying to achieve. Survey objectives can also prevent ambiguous questions, which can ruin the reliability and usefulness of a survey. An ambiguous question is defined as one where there is no specific query. Examples of an ambiguous question include a question that could have more than one meaning, asking for several responses, or not clearly defining the subject/object. If a question doesn’t specifically relate to one of your survey objectives, then you need to get rid of it. If you, the researcher, don’t know exactly what you are asking your respondents, then your respondents definitely won’t know how to answer your question.
The objectives also provide a framework for asking the right questions. Often, pre-setting objectives creates a template for researchers. Depending on the objectives, researchers know how many questions to ask, what type of questions to ask and create a better logical flow to the survey. Following your objectives also helps researchers to craft better questions that allow respondents to give higher-quality responses. Furthermore, sticking to your objectives actually keeps your survey concise and short. Bad survey design is part of the reason that response rates within the industry are so low. By improving your survey design by sticking to your objectives, respondents will more likely complete the survey and have a positive experience with your brand.
Throughout the survey process, you should keep your goal and objectives in mind. Don’t stray from them, otherwise you risk getting responses back that don’t actually provide you with the information you need to achieve your goal. Objectives help keep you focused when writing your surveys and when you have finished your survey design, you should feel happy that each question within your survey helps achieve one of your objectives. Most importantly, resist the urge to dive head-first into designing your survey. Your goal and objectives need to clearly outline first so that you know exactly what you want out of your survey.