30 August 2013

Louis Eksteen

The research industry, like many others, has for decades benefitted from excellent margins in an offline world. With no real alternatives, market intelligence in the real world came at a premium. Not any more.

SurveyMonkey is an inspirational example of a digitally disruptive offering that is delivering a quality service online. Cheaply. With no physical infrastructure needed, doing surveys online works well. Many others tried online surveying, but for my money, SurveyMonkey is the bomb.

The numbers agree. This Fortune article says the company’s revenue reached $113m and its 40% annual growth looks set to continue.

The company was in the news earlier this year when it became evident CEO Dave Goldberg wasn’t interested in an IPO a la Facebook, where his wife Sheryl Sandberg was COO. He reckons Survey Monkey is generating enough cash for investors without having to sell shares.

Six reasons to use SurveyMonkey

1. Ease of use

It’s probably got something to do with the name, but one feels quickly at ease with the (actually fairly complex) steps required for an online survey. It must have been difficult to get to the current user interface, as a few design elements still do not flow exactly right, but in the main this sets the online standard for survey tools.

2. Quality survey templates

If you’re doing a market research survey about how user friendly your company’s website is, you’re not the first. One of the important benefits of using SurveyMonkey now is its many years of experience it draws on for your benefit. Of course you can do completely bespoke surveys, but if you need to get a quality, run-of-the-mill study out quickly, a lot of the work has already been done.

3. Question banks

The wrong wording and style can easily render questions useless. But not if you are guided by tested and verified questions. I think this is an important part of SurveyMonkey’s success. Even a relatively inexperienced person can create and conduct a survey that contains questions guaranteed to deliver the intended results.

4. Useful reporting

Any market research is only as valuable as the decisions it inspires. Reporting can be a drawn-out, tedious affair in the physical world. But SurveyMonkey does not fall over this final hurdle. With a correctly set-up survey asking the right questions, results that make sense come easy at the analysis phase.

5. Quick turnaround

Need a few quick answers to satisfy the C-suite’s desire to “gauge customers’ opinion on the new store layout”? In the past you had to brief a research specialist and the process could take weeks. Now you can do it yourself. Quickly.

6. It’s cheap

Although the first level of SurveyMonkey is free, you need more. The premier packages (with the cost in rand if you’re in South Africa), offer tremendous value. You only need to shell out about R2 500 for the gold service upfront, but then it lasts for a year. Professional users can buy the platinum package that allows you to use your own unique URLs, for instance.

Upgrade from a free account

Let’s face it. If you’ve done one online survey, it’s likely not your last. The plain vanilla free version of SurveyMonkey is a great way to learn how the service works, but if you’d like unlimited questions and responses, go for gold. (The entry level paid services puts you on the low road with a monthly charge. I recommend learning the ropes for free and then commit to gold for a year’s worth of quality surveying. It’s little wonder this is the most-bought option.)