Getting responses from email outreach can be difficult.  Incorporating research questions to identify meaningful content as well as tune in to new voices can entice people to reply with insight, ideas and new directions.  To achieve this, you must ask the right questions, but crafting the perfect survey can be difficult without adequate preparation.

For expert insight into survey development, we asked Buzzstream’s Content Marketing Director Stephanie Beadell to share some of her essential tips. (See her MozCon 2014 talk here, or follow her on Twitter.)

Q. What proportion of fixed (multiple choice, numbers) vs free response do you recommend asking in a survey?
A: I recommend using free response questions during pretesting to get ideas for your multiple choice and scale responses. Then for the actual survey, limit free response questions and try to create as many interval and ratio questions as you can.

Q. What are some best practices for coming up with questions?
A: You can brainstorm questions with your team, interview a customer, or put together a mini focus group. Once you have an idea of which questions you want to ask, pretest the survey with a small group first.

Q. What is the best medium/process to conduct a survey?  
A: Online surveys are the most economical. Tools like Survey Monkey, Qualaroo, Qualtrics, and Google Consumer Surveys are great.

Q. What are the easiest/simplest fixes everyone could implement in their survey development and data collection/handling?
A: Ask more interval and scale questions and increase your sample size.

Q. How do you cope with discovering halfway through a survey that you could benefit from tweaking your questions?
A: This is why pretesting is important. If you discover a problem, throw out the bad data and start over as soon as you realize you need to.

Q. What are some good resources for those beginning in survey development and data collection/analysis?
A: Survey Monkey and Qualtrics both have blogs and resources on their websites. Google Consumer Surveys is another great resource. There are a lot of academic resources from introductory courses online. Those are probably the best place to start.

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