A crucial benefit of using a panel provider is ensuring your audience is the right one. If your questions are answered by the wrong people, how useful is your research? However, 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?
In a previous blog post, we discussed the importance of setting survey goals, and identifying your target audience is quite the same. Different audiences have different characteristics and may answer questions differently. It’s also important 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 we go through 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.
- Location – Another common targeting category is location. Not only does location include the county 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.
- 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.
- Employment & Relationship Status – Similar to income level, employment or 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 have dynamic targeting which keeps an up-to-date profile of every user within our app based on their responses over time. Learn more about our dynamic targeting system here.
If you desire a bespoke audience that pre-defined targeting criteria can’t cover, screening questions may be the answer.
Pre-defined targeting criteria may not always fulfil your research needs, so additional filtering is needed. You can do that 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.
The Size and Balance
After defining your targeting, you need to actually settle on the size of your audience. We discuss choosing the size of your sample in a previous blog post here. 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. 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 – 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.
In conclusion, 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.