Q&A with Jane Frost: CEO of the Market Research Society.How to get the best from your member surveys
10 July 2017
Posted by: Olivia Palmer
The results of the 2015 general election, the EU referendum and Donald Trump’s presidential victory were all wrongly predicted by the opinion polls. When the polls pointed to a large majority for Theresa May on 8 June and were once again proved wrong, not surprisingly, people started to wonder - what exactly is the value of surveys?
Admittedly it’s not a precise science, but there are no more reliable alternatives.
The only way to get real value from surveys is accurate representative sampling and good design as Jane Frost, Market Research Society CEO explains to Louise Clarke.
Q. How should membership organisations prepare for surveys?
A. A successful quantitative research survey is all about preparation. It’s important to have clearly established objectives setting out what you hope to find out. Are you trying to gain insight to a clearly defined issue or broad insight across a range of business challenges and issues?
Q. Do you have any advice on good survey design?
A. If possible, it is always best to work with a research specialist with experience in crafting quantitative research surveys – 90 per cent of the problems we see with poor quantitative research is the result of inexpert survey design. Remember that research is more than just a list of questions: things like question order affect the outcome more than you think. Wording is important too, for example it can be far more effective to ask a member something more specific – for example how they found their last interaction with your organisation – rather than just asking for their general opinion.
Q. How do you ensure that your sample respondents are representative of the target audience?
A. Factors such as the size of your membership, the demographic range, the types of membership grades and so on, would need to be taken into consideration when determining sample sizes, sample selection and robust results.
Q. How can associations encourage members to participate in the research?
A. You could consider providing an incentive to encourage participation. This might be cash, or a voucher (but must not be your own products or services), but could also be sharing the detailed research findings which might be a greater incentive among your membership community.
During the research send out reminders to your membership encouraging response, and you may also want to consider different research methodologies to top up results if you are not achieving the levels of response required. If using online survey methodologies, you also need to consider whether your survey is suitable for desktop or mobile – ideally it should be optimised for either to maximise the chances of response.
Q. What are the benefits of qualitative research?
A. Alongside quantitative research surveys, which tend to be a popular methodology for membership research, associations should also consider qualitative research to gain greater in-depth insight behind any quantitative findings. If you are investigating complex issues around attitudes, behaviours and opinions, qualitative research can give you the opportunity to find out why members feel the way they do, and enable you to explore potential solutions with members to overcome any significant issues identified as a result of the research.
For more helpful tips and information go to www.mrs.org.uk The Market Research Society (MRS) has a research supplier directory, the Research Buyers’ Guide, which is the definitive list of regulated research suppliers in the UK and Ireland, and is free for anyone to use. This Guide enables you to find research suppliers with the appropriate knowledge and skills to help deliver the best research solution for your membership.