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Sometimes an insight community is the right answer to a business problem, but sometimes a series of ad hoc surveys might be a better solution. The key question for organisations wanting to gather consumer feedback is the following: When should we pick a community and when does the ad hoc survey option make more business sense?

Both options have their benefits, and your choice should depend on your current circumstances as well as your plan for the near future. Here are five questions you need to consider to determine which approach fits best:

  1. Are you looking to research customers or non-customers?

Most key research these days is conducted with customers, and that favors the community route. Insight communities build on your relationship with your customers and can provide deeper insight. Sometimes, however, you want to research the whole market, or even focus on non-customers. In these cases an ad hoc solution can be the best solution.

  1. Do you just want to run surveys, or do you want to conduct qual and quant?

If all you want to do is send surveys to people, then a survey platform or an ad hoc solution is the way to go. An insight community is about having an ongoing discussion with customers, not just sending questionnaires. Indeed, if you build a community and then just send it surveys, you are likely to reduce its engagement levels and its benefit pretty quickly. Communities work best with a blend of approaches, including discussions as well as surveys to get the best from them.

  1. Do you have an endless supply of email addresses?

Some organisations have hundreds of thousands of customer email addresses and are happy to burn their way through them. If you are in the situation of having a vast number of email addresses, then you could use a survey platform, and simply keep sending survey invitations, ignoring the low response rate, until you collect enough responses for your project. Insight communities tend to be for organisations that don't have an almost endless supply of email addresses and for those companies who are not happy sending survey invitations by the bucketful and getting response rates of under 10% (or even under 5%).

  1. Do you want to create an on-going relationship with your customers?

An insight community is an ongoing process. If you want to work with your customers, engaging and getting more from them, an insight community has the tools for you to create a rewarding experience. If you are only going to speak to research customers (or a particular group of customers) occasionally, then a one-off solution is the best solution.

  1. Do you want to build a longitudinal picture?

One-off surveys are the research equivalent of one-night stands, whilst communities are relationships. If you want to build a longitudinal picture, then you need an insight community. With an insight community, the learning is iterative: you learn something, which shapes what you do, which shapes what you ask next.

No Spam Surveys - an ebook from Vision Critical


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