This week it’s just a rant about irritating your customers and prospects by using research! Listen and learn!
Likert scales are a very common tool in survey research. But there are specific things you need to consider when setting them up.
The first is BALANCE. Likert scales need to have the same number of options on either side of the neutral point.
The second is LENGTH. While scales with more response options will allow you to gain more granularity in your responses, you can go overboard and just irritate everyone taking the survey.
And finally, think about the CENTER POINT or neutral position. There are a lot of opinions on whether you should have one or not, depending on your goals and the type of analysis you’re doing with the data. I share my 2c, but your research provider may feel differently.
One of the most productive things you can do for your organization is to develop your own, opted-in group of volunteers to participate in ongoing research and discussions. Your proprietary research panel (or “Insiders” or “Advisory Panel” or whatever you want to call it) can serve a variety of valuable roles:
- They can reduce the cost of reaching respondents for your future research efforts. When you have a highly engaged and invested group of respondents, you can easily and inexpensively source respondents for focus groups, or for creative or web testing, or whatever.
- They can provide a powerful customer perspective on new initiatives, content, creative, etc. While they may or may not include prospects (depending on how you build your panel), being able to quickly gain feedback from a large group of customers is an incredibly valuable resource.
- They can be a word of mouth engine for your brand. When customers feel heard, feel consulted, and can see the impact they’re having on your organization’s decisions, they are much more likely to share your news and their support of your organization.
- They are a valuable asset — literally. Having an opted-in group of engaged research participants increases the value of your organization for future buyers, investors, etc.
Watch the video to see how to go about building your own research panel!
If you want your research to be statistically reliable — meaning that you can depend on it to accurately represent a particular audience, guide your strategic direction, etc. — you need to have a certain number of respondents.
So the simple answer to this question is 400. But of course, that’s not the only answer.
Without going into the math, if you’re looking at a large population (like college-bound students, or people who own an RV, or companies who buy printer paper), then 400 respondents will give you a margin of error under 5 percentage points at a 95% level of confidence.
What that means is that if you ran the survey again and again with a similar group of respondents, 95% of the time you’d end up with results that were within 5 percentage points of the ones you got the first time. That’s a well-accepted level of statistical reliability.
My sister Sarah is the statistical brains behind our work at Audience Audit, and she puts it this way: The spoonful of soup you’ve tasted is enough to know what any spoonful from the pot is going to taste like.
But of course, the answer isn’t always just 400.
If you’re in a B2B situation where there are only 200 companies that use the type of product you sell (like some kind of scientific testing equipment, for example) then if you get survey responses from 135 of them you’re within that same error margin of 5 percentage points at 95% confidence. But it may be harder to get 68% of the potential respondents to participate in your survey in this case than it is for a B2C company to get 400 respondents out of the millions of qualified respondents out there.
And even if you have a large population, if you know you want statistical reliability even when you’re just looking at a portion of the respondents (such as GenX participants, for example) then you should plan on getting at least 400 of those so you can compare their demographics, preferences and other feedback and still have statistically reliable results.
And if you’re conducting research to share as thought leadership, having 1,000 respondents may be more likely to gain you speaking engagements or press coverage than if you have 400, because it sounds like a much more impressive number (even if you really only need 400).
So the starting point is 400, but your situation and goals may require fewer respondents or more. Talk to your research partner about what you are hoping to accomplish and how your respondent strategy should work to help you achieve that goal.
Agencies often think of research as a significant cost, but fail to recognize its ability to generate revenue and ROI as well. Whether conducted for client work or for the agency’s own thought leadership and business development efforts, research can generate ROI in a number of ways — both by generating revenue and by reducing costs.
To download a free reference sheet about ways to increase ROI through research, go to FunWithResearch.com.
An important aspect of conducting, interpreting and using research is this idea of context.
All research projects have a context — when they were conducted, how they were conducted, who conducted them, who was invited to participate in them, how respondents participated, etc.
All of these considerations affect how we should look at the results of a particular research project, regardless of when it was conducted.
As I record this, we’re in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic here in the United States. Many of my clients are asking, “Is this the right time to do our research, or should we wait until things are back to normal?”
The answer to that question depends on the context in which you’re conducting and planning to use the results of your research.
If you were planning to launch in-person focus groups, you should instead be looking at how to proceed using online focus group technology.
If you’re doing research for a hospital group, you need to think about what you’re trying to learn from the research. If it’s how people feel about their healthcare options and how your hospital group is performing against those expectations, you need to consider how current events may be affecting consumer’s opinions on those topics. and whether it’s important for you to understand how they feel right now, or whether you want to understand how they will feel once panic starts to subside. This can affect the timing of your research.
You can ask questions in your surveys about how people USED to go about buying supplies for their home improvement projects, and then ask whether and how that has changed given the current situation. That will help you understand the results in context.
So if you have research projects in development, talk to your research provider and discuss whether the context in which the research is going to be conducted changes how to want to proceed.