Ask Your Target Market

Get inside the minds of your target market with AYTM's intuitive
online survey tool - the first affordable Internet survey software with a built-in consumer panel. Use the online survey creator to build your survey, define the criteria of your target market, and watch the results begin to pour in immediately.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Not even the finest musician can coax wonderful sounds from an instrument that’s poorly constructed or out of tune. If you want your survey instrument (the questionnaire) to yield information that’s clear, on-key and in harmony with your purposes, remember three basic parameters: Keep it short, simple, and professional. Review your draft through a survey respondent’s eyes, and you’ll see how important this is.

1. Keep it short. 
Conventional wisdom used to be that people would complete a 20‑minute online survey. These days most market research professionals, including this one, recommend keeping it under 15 minutes. Five minutes is better yet.  In fact, most AYTM panel surveys are completed in around five minutes.  That might sound extreme, but you can collect a lot of information in five minutes. Besides, seven to ten solid questions in a five-minute questionnaire can get you better data than a 20-minute questionnaire that gets answered without the full focus and engagement of the respondent. Indeed, shorter is better, for three reasons:
  • Response Rates and Completion Rates. You want to maximize the number who say “Sure, I'll do that!” when they see your survey invitation. People are more likely to agree to spend five minutes of their time than 15, so a shorter survey will maximize your actual response rate. It also helps your completion rate. Imagine the nice person who is willing to start your survey, but two or three questions in, starts getting a little bored… then the doorbell rings, the baby cries, the dog barks...and they’re gone. Now you have an incomplete survey, never a good thing.  Think about this the next time you want to survey your list and you don’t have AYTM recruiting your respondents.
  • Attention Span.  You want to make sure that people read your questions, answer options and instructions carefully.  Let's say you're doing some research to gather reactions to a new product concept.  You want honest responses to a carefully worded description of your concept. You want your survey participants to read that description word for word, not skimming it.  If they've already answered 15 questions before they get to it, guess what?  They've started to zone out a bit.  If you want people to read your carefully crafted questions, keep your survey short. 
  • Accurate Communication.  Keeping it short increases the odds that people will follow instructions correctly.  Is this a “select all that apply” question or a “select one” question?  AYTM’s UI design helps enforce that logic, but you don't want people selecting only one item because they assumed that was the requirement when they could have selected more than one, resulting in a more accurate description of the behavior or attitude you’re measuring.

2. Keep it Simple
Remember, we're talking about online surveys here.  Look through your respondent’s eyes: I’m on my computer, looking at a survey screen, maybe on a laptop or tablet with a very small screen. The first question of the questionnaire is a dense mass five lines long. Am I really going to read through that when one mouse click can banish it from my life? Besides making an unpleasant visual impact, those five dense lines suggest an onerous experience, not a simple, enjoyable task. People shouldn't have to work hard to take your survey.   Now you understand why AYTM has taken a Twitter-like approach and enforces short character limits on questions and answers.  This also explains our obsession with the user experience and UI design.
In addition to general wordiness, another common mistake to avoid: asking questions that require a lot of effort. Let’s say you're doing research on shopping behaviors, and you ask me to please go find my most recent clothes shopping receipt and tell you how much I spent on the last shirt or pair of jeans I bought.  You’re making me work too hard, and I am likely to drop out or just guess. Instead, give me an approach that's  simple and quick to respond to, but that will give you information precise enough to be useful. Maybe this would work instead, “Including tax, was the most recent shirt you bought less than $10.00, $10.00 to $20.00, $21.00 to $50.00, over $50.00?”  Those ranges will be a lot easier for me to respond to.

3. Keep it Professional
The tone of any survey should be conversational—a comfortable discussion between friends sharing honest opinions. But do keep it professional. 

  1. Triple check. A questionnaire with spelling and grammatical errors tells potential respondents that you want their opinion, but not enough to properly edit your questionnaire.
  2. Avoid intrusive questions. I recently saw a questionnaire draft in which the survey asked not just for net worth ranges and how much equity respondents had in their homes. Such intrusive questions lead respondents to wonder if this is a legitimate survey or sneaky lead generation—it’s a huge turn off.

Keep it Short, Simple, Professional
Keeping your instrument short, simple and professional will maximize responses, minimize dropouts and leave survey participants feeling good about their experience. So tune your instrument to perfect pitch, and your reward will be the sweet music of accurate data, and a satisfied audience.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How To Use Surveys To Find & Profile Your Target Market

Scientists studying endangered animals examine their behaviors and track population counts. They know where the target species lives, how it behaves, and what it needs to thrive. While we certainly hope your target market isn’t “endangered,” there are parallels. To sell to your market successfully, you need to  know where it is, how it behaves and what it needs (or wants) to buy.

Online surveys can be an efficient tool for finding and profiling your target market. With some careful planning, you’ll get data that will inform important sales and marketing strategies. Following are the two key steps to thinking through this process.

Step 1: Choosing Your Target Market Selection Criteria

When we talk about finding your target market, we have to be precise about our criteria for selecting one. 
Do you want to focus on customers who:

  • Have high awareness of your product category?
  • Have high awareness of your brand?
  • Currently use a competitor’s product?
  • Have specific purchase plans for your type of product?
  • Have plans to purchase and preference for your brand?
  • Have specific personal values or aspirations?
  • Have specific levels of price sensitivity or “premium” preferences?
  • Have specific behaviors (either related to your product category or related contextual behaviors)
  • Have relevant needs for your product or product category (even if they haven't articulated those needs yet in terms of having purchase intent)?

Some of these may not be possible for your company. For example, if you are a start-up still building brand awareness, then obviously that’s a practical consideration. And in any case, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  So a good starting place is to select two to four possibilities such as the items above, and translate those items into questions for your survey. In the end, your survey analysis may show that some items will be more useful than others—so be sure to include a few.

Step 2: Determining How Will You Find Them

Once you have some possible criteria identified, you need to figure out how to find these groups in the real world. Whether you plan to do traditional advertising, PPC, direct mail, direct sales or a social media campaign, you will need at least some of the following demographics and behavioral data, such as:

  1. Geography, which may be by category (such as urban, suburban, rural), or may be more exact (such as specific countries, regions or cities).
  2. Common demographics such as age, gender, income level, education level, marital status, household type (kids, no kids, etc), and occupation (even a simple status such as employed, self-employed, retired, student).
  3. Retail behaviors. Where do they shop for your product category? Or for related products? Are they shopping online?
  4. Media behaviors, which includes print, television, and online behaviors. For example, online behaviors may warrant asking questions to identify the sites, games and applications they use, and which ones they like best.

Not all of these items may be relevant to your category, but this is a good list to get you thinking about what types of questions you need, so that you will be able to find desirable target markets.


With some careful planning, your data analysis will tell you a few things:

  • Does your target market exist? That is, is it large enough to find and measure easily?
  • Does it have any distinctive profiling attributes? And are they compelling enough such that you can determine how to appeal to its members? A target market should have some key attributes that separate it from the general population.
  • How attractive is the target market? Maybe you were seeking to define a target market based on its members having a combination of specific values and needs, but the research shows that those people also happen to have no relevant purchase plans. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker (low purchase plans may be due to low awareness of available products or due to the perception that available products are poor quality), but certainly suggests some challenges.

And always remember: as much as it is important to know what your target market is, it is important to know who is not in your target market. You don't want to waste valuable marketing and sales efforts tracking the wrong species.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

How DO you define your Target Market?

I'm sure you have never used an online dating service. But if you had, you would have taken some sort of compatibility quiz, answering questions to build a profile of your ideal match. Based on your inputs, you would be given a list of selected singles, all of whom should (in theory) be a good fit for you. In effect, you defined your target market and used that definition to find members of it.

The same principles apply to business. For a company, a “target market” is simply a group defined by parameters that describe your most attractive sales prospects. It’s the people who are going to buy your stuff. Or, if you prefer, the people your company wants to “date”. Variables commonly used to define your best prospects include; demographics (gender, age, income, occupation, education, and household size), geography, psychographics (values, lifestyles), consumer behaviors and prior relationships with products.

What does this have to do with online surveys? A lot. When you start a survey project, you need to think very precisely about what types of respondents will be able to give you the best information. But to think clearly about that, you first need to define your company’s overall target market.

Getting Started 

One way to define your target market is to think about people who have been your best customers so far.  For example, for an auto dealership, these might be people in a certain age range who currently spend at least $300 a month on an automobile lease, or by people who have more than two sets of wheels in their garage. Or consider a food industry example. In this case, the parameters might include how often people dine out or how much a week they spend on groceries.

Another way to think about it is to imagine a dream world where you could easily reach people with the greatest likelihood of buying your product. Where would they live—the city or the burbs? What kind of clothes would they wear?  What kind of car would they drive? How educated are they?  Would they have kids? What is it about their lifestyle that makes them a good fit for your company? By answering questions like these, you will have a good start on defining your target market.

Target Markets & Polygamy

In reality, your company may have multiple attractive customer groups to target. In fact, large companies often take an approach of five to eight market segments of interest. For each segment, they may have different products, services, marketing messages, packaging or pricing. 

If you do find that you have multiple target markets—or segments, if you prefer—you will need to do some careful thinking;. Which ones are most attractive? Which ones should you focus on now, versus later? How many can you realistically address at the same time?

Target Markets & Research Planning

Now you’re ready to decide what types of people you want taking your survey. In most cases, that means conducting the research among members of your target market(s)  After all, you don’t want to test product ideas or pricing with a group of customers who are unlikely to buy your product. And you don’t want to let people outside of your target market influencing (i.e., skewing) the data that you will use for decision-making. If you do, you could waste a lot of time making yourself attractive for a really bad date. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SXSW INTERACTIVE Trade Show Exhibitors

Stop by and see us at SXSW.  

We'll be happy to show you just how easily and quickly you can get real consumer insights. 
Bring by some ideas....we may even test them and have answers before you leave!