By Marc Tillman
In this economic environment, many companies are looking for ways to save on the cost of conducting marketing surveys. Difficult choices often need to be made. This research is critical to business operations, but the budget just isn’t there for a full-scale project covering all of the nuances that need to be addressed. And budgetary restraints are often a circular issue where the results from a marketing survey might directly influence the company’s bottom line and provide an avenue for improved cash flow.
One option is to delay the marketing survey until additional dollars become available. But, if a company is flexible and can accept a scaled back approach, the project might still move forward at a reduced cost. This can be a challenging decision for a client since market research firms typically administer marketing surveys with the goal of achieving as close to a “perfect” solution as possible. Therefore, when discussions turn from how best to conduct a marketing survey to what services or deliverable can be eliminated to reduce the project fees, both the client and market research firm must “get over” the fact that the best solution is not possible within the project budget.
Our belief is that clients should not scrimp on survey design or engage in self-service design unless the person drafting the questionnaire is qualified and experienced in marketing surveys and questionnaire writing. However, many clients seem to believe that this is the first option to save on costs. Unfortunately, in-house familiarity with a company’s product or service, or a professional degree in engineering or finance, does not qualify someone to write marketing surveys. Survey design fees should generally be a low cost item for market research firms. If you don’t have the budget for a high quality survey instrument, consider not doing the project.
Before turning to the costs of data collection and what options might be available, it is often helpful for a client to focus next on reporting needs. When reporting costs are combined with survey design fees, and subtracted from the overall project budget, the end result is the amount available for data collection.
Reporting is one of those areas where a client needs to carefully consider the scope of the project and must often make difficult choices. Where marketing surveys are limited in length and/or encompass a smaller number of survey respondents, they can often be tabulated and reported in top-line format as the sole deliverable (plus the underlying data file). This allows a client to view bar charts of frequencies of responses for each question along with relevant statistics such as means, medians, and standard deviations. Most top-line reports are generated by market research firms using automated software and are a low cost item.
On the other hand, if one of the goals of the marketing survey is to compare responses of different sub-groups (such as age brackets, income levels, regions of the country, etc.), this can be a more expensive deliverable, often referred to as “banner tabulations” or “banners”. Banners allow a client to view side-by-side columns of sub-groups with notations of whether differences between banner points are statistically significant i.e., are meaningful. Fees charged by market research firms for banner tabulations are often slightly more expensive than the cost of designing marketing surveys, and can be similar in cost to the combined price of survey design and top-line reporting.
A key consideration is whether a client is comfortable working with banners or has a statistical background. For first time users, banners can be confusing and therefore a wasted expense if the client cannot fully understand the results. In these cases, an executive summary report of key statistical findings can produce a higher return on investment and can be similar to the cost of banners if there is a limited length or number of respondents. Full statistical reports are the best option if the budget allows for it.
This concludes Part 1 of our discussion on cost saving ideas for marketing surveys. The next article will address the subject of data collection and the different options that market research firms can provide. Keep in mind that the cost of survey design and reporting should be identified first, with additional price adjustments coming in other areas.
About the Author: Amplitude Research, Inc. is an independent market research firm that specializes in aa href=”http://www.amplituderesearch.com/marketing-survey.shtml” rel=’nofollow’>marketing surveys.
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