Here are the major challenges all surveys face today:

1. The willingness and ability to reach potential voters or customers for your product or service is no longer that easy. Over 40% of the people you might want to survey have now made their phones unaccessible to third party companies that conduct surveys or sell something. The fact that you can only survey about 50% of most respondent bases negatively impacts the reliability of any phone surveys.

2. What type of person is most likely to participate in a phone survey? Young adults 18-34 are a tough group to reach for many reasons. They are often not at home and tend to be less receptive to participate in a phone survey. Older stay at home adults tend to be more likely to participate in a phone survey. Many are glad that someone is actually calling them.

3. To compensate for the lower participation of young adults, most research companies will adjust their model to project a higher participation level then actually occurs. What this means is that a smaller number of young adults is now modeled to become a larger group for the survey. Fewer people participating reduces the confidence level of the survey results.

4. If the right type of questions are not asked then the entire survey becomes flawed. For example, asking people if they intend to vote in an upcoming election is not a good way to predict results. What's more important is finding out if they voted in the last congressional election and their participation in other elections. Many people say they intend to vote but never do.

5. Hard core party members be they Republicans or Democrats tend to be most likely to vote. Most elections seem to be decided by turnout and those voters from either party who are more moderate.

6. Eric Cantor's defeat seemed to be more a factor of voters wanting a change and having a low opinion of most members of Congress. For any new product or service to succeed it must reach people who are open to trying something new or are unsatisfied with their current relationship. It is important to both ask the right questions before asking "Who are you going to vote for?" and to make sure your respondent base includes the right mix of your target group. Obviously if Eric Cantor's research company over surveyed people who liked him because they were easier to reach the results would not be accurate.

7. Given the important role that consumer research often plays, is it surprising that nine out of ten new products fail in the market place?

8. The only way anyone can have a reasonable degree of accuracy is to have a multi-platform approach to consumer research. For example the best way to make sure you are going to ask the right questions is to first hold some focus groups to get a feel for how people are actually thinking. Then, rather than rely upon one method -- i.e. phone or online -- to conduct the survey, use both! Yes, this may cost more money but it’s much more cost effective then failing in the market place.

Image at top courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Steve Blacker's book You Can't Fall Off The Floor - The Insiders' Guide to Re-Inventing Yourself and Your Career chronicles his 50 year career working for over 25 different companies with 189Steve Blacker lessons learned. Blacker is still going strong today as a partner in Frankfurt & Blacker Solutions, LLC. His web site is blacker-reinventions.com and e-mail address is blackersolutions@aol.com

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