SurveyMonkey can be a quick and inexpensive vehicle for research projects. What’s more is they’ve done a fantastic job of building out tools you need to both acquire respondents and analyze the data they give you. They’ve even provided robust tutorials for neophytes who are planning their first projects. That said, there are times when it may not be the right fit for your project. We’ve outlined a few situations where partnering with a research provider may be optimal for your situation:
1) You might not have any previous experience with surveys and/or research
When creating a survey on SurveyMonkey, you are the survey writer. And writing an effective survey, even a simple one, takes practice. Tips for writing clear surveys abound (including on our own site!), and the more you practice, the better you’ll become. Make sure you write your questions and have someone read them over to ensure they aren’t misleading or fall into some other common traps. If you’ve never written a survey before, it may be safer to use an experienced research supplier. Otherwise, you may be making costly mistakes without realizing it.
2) You have a very specific and hard-to-find target
Between deciding what your niche is and finding your niche, reaching the right audience can be difficult. The narrower in scope your research sample target is, the lower your effective sampling incidence becomes. SurveyMonkey is one panel. While it does have tools for reaching a target audience, depending on how specialized your target is, they may have difficulty finding your target and helping you hit your goals. This can have implications for both cost and basic feasibility. For example, you may need feedback from recent purchasers of your product. But if your product has a purchase cycle that is years in length, something like major appliances or automobiles, finding recent purchasers will be more difficult. Working with an experienced research supplier can help mitigate any frustration, as they’re accustomed to this and have solutions. They’re more likely to be effective at finding your specific sample target.
Additionally, a research supplier can help you think more broadly about who your actual sample target is. For example, an appliance manufacturer may be introducing a new line of high-end appliances. The most obvious target is current owners of high-end appliances. However, there may be other targets/other way to think about targets. You may want to interview owners of mid-tier appliances who are looking to upgrade. Or you may want to talk to people building new homes who will need to furnish their entire kitchens. As before, research suppliers can help identify and find these alternate, but potentially important sample targets.
3) Your study is a B2B Study
Finding and getting responses from professionals for your survey is much more difficult than your standard consumer survey. As in the example of finding narrow consumer samples above, a research supplier will have professionals they can access for surveys, and know how to incent them to respond.
4) Your survey is long and/or complex
It’s critical to keep a respondent engaged while they’re taking your survey, especially if the survey is long. You can’t list question after question and expect the respondent to stay focused and give thoughtful answers. It takes skill to craft a survey that is as engaging on its last question as it was on its first.
Additionally, you may be planning intense statistical analysis. Questions designed for studies that utilize conjoints or MaxDiff questioning are difficult to write well and are also tricky to program. Your research supplier will be an expert at survey writing and ensure the appropriate handling of your survey regardless of length or complexity.
5) Your back-end statistical analysis is complex
The statistical analyses offered by services like SurveyMonkey will suit the needs of simple surveys. However, if you need a more robust analysis on the back end, this can be difficult if you’re not already an accomplished statistician. You could take a stats class to learn how to do multivariate analyses such as conjoints, MaxDiffs, regressions, or factor or cluster analyses, but is that the best use of your time? A research supplier will have statisticians on staff specifically to help with these in-depth analyses.
6) You simply don’t have the time to do it all yourself
Developing a survey, analyzing its results, and writing reports on those results take time—sometimes more than you initially anticipated. This can be especially true if you’re new to the process. You need to be realistic about resources, and whether you’ll have the time to devote to fully running a research project. Don’t forget, your time is valuable as well. If you weigh the opportunity costs, you may find that your time is better spent working on other tasks while a trusted research supplier runs your project.
In the end, SurveyMonkey is an excellent tool for basic research. If you’ve already got some survey writing experience, aren’t planning any complex statistical analyses, and have the time to dedicate to the reporting, SurveyMonkey will help you plan your research at a reasonable cost. If you need to go above and beyond, reaching out to a trusted research partner like The Stevenson Company will help you achieve those complex goals. Want to know whether your project would benefit from having a research supplier? Contact us today and we’ll help you determine what’s best for your project!