Skip to main content

Framing Survey Questions

You're a CEO or VP of marketing wanting to research the market for your product. You know the questions you want answered. Why not whip up a quick survey using a free on-line tool such as SurveyMonkey.com?

The main problem with this approach is that the questions you want answered frequently aren't the questions you should include in a survey.

For example, what if you want to know how much prospective customers are willing to pay for your product? You could just ask them, "How much would you be willing to pay for a product that does blah blah," and provide them a blank to fill in. You will not get reliable results.

A skilled product manager would formulate the questions differently:

1. Ask negative pricing questions. How much does it cost for the prospective customer not to use your product?

2. Ask a conjoint analysis question. If a customer has to choose among several different pricing/feature packages, which one would he choose?

Pricing is one of many examples of questions you may want answered, but that you must formulate indirectly in a survey to get meaningful results.

Another important factor to consider when drafting a survey: you can typically draw the most important conclusions not from the direct responses to each question in the survey, but from uncovering correlations between the responses to different questions.

Comments

Sandra said…
So, how does one determine what question belongs in a survey and one that doesn't and how does one determine the "negative price" of a service?
Roger L. Cauvin said…
Good (and nontrivial) questions, Sandra. I'm tackling them in new entries to the blog.

Popular posts from this blog

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Use Case as a Black Box

Consider the following use case: Purchase Items Actor: Purchaser Precondition: Purchaser types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40. Postcondition: For the average Purchaser acting at full efficiency, the number of seconds elapsed is no more than 30 + 20 * n, where n is the number of items purchased. The name of the use case represents a functional requirement. What does the product do, or enable the user to do? Purchase items. What are we to make of the preconditions and postconditions? What relationship do they have to the requirements for the product? Answer: the preconditions and postconditions are the nonfunctional requirements attached to the functional requirement . Another way of expressing the nonfunctional requirement would be as an attribute and associated constraint: Usability: For a Purchaser who types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40, it shall take no

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the