Taking the plunge

Before putting the final touches on your survey, consider several options for conducting the survey that will produce the highest impact at the lowest cost. In some cases, a client will sponsor an industry survey to ferret out the implications of a specific issue. Clients can help prepare the survey topic, identify the mailing list, and assist with analysis, if needed. Many consultants receive a fee for conducting the survey, preparing the findings, and presenting the results to the client's executive team.

When clients wanted detailed information on how retailers in their industry used trade funds, they commissioned consultants to conduct a survey. The clients participated in the survey development in the first year, and then allowed the consultants to carry on the survey in subsequent years on their own.

Cooperative arrangements work well. Some consultants create teams of experts drawn from consulting, academia, and the media to conduct surveys. When several parties share the costs and run a survey, it's usually completed more quickly and the results are more objective.

Outsourcing is now an option for virtually any activity, and survey design, development, and management are no exceptions. For a fee, you can commission a highly professional survey that requires little participation on your part. Some consultants use this option so they can focus on developing marketing programs to promote the survey, instead of dealing with the administrative details of survey preparation and analysis. Outsourcing can be costly; it will depend on the scope of the survey you plan to conduct.

Just as there are DIYers—do-it-yourself types—in the home improvement business, some consultants prefer to manage the entire survey process from beginning to end. With low-cost, online survey tools, like those offered by firms such as SurveyMonkey.com, conducting a survey is less costly than in the past.

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