As web workers, we sometimes live in an information vacuum, not knowing our target markets well enough to design the products we want to sell to them. That’s when asking questions becomes important, and when you want to ask a lot of people for feedback, the survey is your essential tool. Once the domain of direct mail, surveys made the leap online in the dot-com era and are now firmly entrenched there.
There are a lot of online survey management tools out there, including SurveyMonkey, InstantSurvey, Vovici. I recently took a look at another contender in this crowded market, Zoomerang, and I’m impressed by what I see. If you have serious research needs (beyond just banging together some questions whose answers may or may not end up meaning anything) and the budget for their Pro service ($599 annually, with discounts for education and non-profit users), their range of services can likely help you out.
Zoomerang does have a free online survey tool that is comparable to that provided by many others in the market: it has over a hundred pre-built survey templates available, or you can develop your own survey from various question types. When the survey is ready, you email your participant list, wait for the results to come in, and analyze them using Zoomerang’s online tools. The whole process is pretty slick and easy to use, but that alone doesn’t make them stand out from the herd.
At the Pro level, you can use your own branding and graphics on surveys, so that they’re less obviously from Zoomerang. You also get to download results to Excel, as well as more advanced online analytical tools, and access to a larger knowledge base of support articles (though there is a good amount of support available for the free user as well).
But the real distinguishing factors come when you add in Zoomerang’s other services. One problem all too many online surveys run into is a lack of any sort of statistical validity because they don’t ask a large enough, or representative enough, population of respondents. For a price (the typical project runs a bit over a thousand dollars) you can take advantage of ZoomPanel, a list of two and a half million consumers who are profiled on 500 attributes. If you’ve got a new product that you think is of interest to housewives, ZoomPanel can help you find them – and if it’s of interest to neurologists, ZoomPanel can help you find them, too. This sort of targeted market research is next to impossible for small companies to pull off on their own, but it can save you from wasting a ton of money on ideas that won’t fly.
Zoomerang can also help out with pre-survey research, through their Zoomerang Online Focus service. At about two-thirds the cost of an in-person focus group, they’ll pull together a focus group to your specifications (or help you figure out what focus group makes sense for your research needs, provide a moderator, run the software, and write up the results for you. When you don’t even know what you need to know, this can be a much more cost-effective alternative to trying to bang together a meaningless survey.
I’ll confess, my college coursework in industrial engineering and social sciences have made me heavily prejudiced against people who assume that anyone can design and administer an online survey that will give statistically valid results. If you’re running a survey to figure out what to have for lunch next week, by all means, use any free tool you can find, or program your own. But if you’re staking your next product launch or your company’s future on the results, you ought to look into the higher-end options. Zoomerang is definitely one of these.