Surveys should be a staple in every consultant's "tool belt". While data may be easy to find, generally speaking, there are certain more personal topics that aren't necessarily readily available. The Big Four consulting firms - Bain, PWC, BCG, and Deloitte - make use of surveys on a regular basis. Surveys are possibly the most cost-effective and easiest way to garner information from a wide range of panelists.
Marketers Use them All the Time, Consultants Should Too
Guessing what customers want is a tiresome process that isn't worth anyone's while. Trying to ask them for their opinions one at a time is a prime example of prime wastage. Sending out a survey means you can potentially reach hundreds of people in one fell swoop.
With so many free survey tools available, there is absolutely no reason to miss out. The anonymity involved also tends to make panelists feel as though it's safer to be honest, so you have a higher chance of impartial answers than you do in a personal interview. The data generated by surveys is apolitical and assists in shaping and testing theories.
Survey Monkey offers users a list of tips on creating the most effective surveys, which are ideal for consultants who are testing the waters.
Keep your Objectives in Mind
Before settling down to compile your survey, make sure that your research objective is clear. A cloudy objective won't garner the results you need and any survey you create based on wishy washy principles is time wasted.
Give some thought to the results you might expect. What actions will you take based on the results you receive? How will the results affect your strategy going forward. How will you deal with receiving the kind of results you don't want?
While you may want a large pool of panelists, remember that mass marketing is no longer as popular as it once was. You need to target your audience correctly. Separate the wheat from the chaff, if you will.
In order to properly segment your audience, you need to get a bit personal (though within reason). Consider the demographics that would be most useful in your plight.
Keep it Simple and Logical
Organising your survey logically is more important than you might think. Keep your easy questions for the beginning of the survey - treat them as somewhat of a warm up. Put the difficult questions in the middle, and then end off with a few more easy questions. Think of the whole thing as a session at the gym.
Make sure to keep your questions as short and as simple as possible. You need to be sure that your respondents understand you clearly. Try to avoid open-ended questions if you can as they aren't always good in terms of generating accurately measurable data.
Be sure to keep your own opinions out of the questions. Leading respondents to your preferred answer will be considered a cheap shot and reflect negatively on your consulting skills.
Do your best to think like a marketer and you're almost guaranteed to make a success of the survey process.