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Prying with a purpose

The Success Survey

​‘Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.’

Zora Neale Hurston, writer and anthropologist

The fact that Millennials believe they’re facing a future where they will never give up work completely, and will need a £1m pension pot to retire, is just one of the striking findings from The Success Survey. The research, carried out by One Poll on behalf of Praxity participant firm Mazars, asked a representative sample of 2,000 UK adults about their attitudes to success. It’s just one recent example of how valuable surveys can be in helping to generate actionable insight for your business, and you can read more at

The value of survey research cuts across all industries and disciplines. It’s a tool for collecting information that can enhance customer satisfaction, offer insight into your company’s product and services, pinpoint the mood of your employees, gauge public opinion on social issues and help firms’ clients to understand how they benchmark against their peers.

Low response rates are a continuing problem.  They will typically skew the results if the sample of respondents is not representative. Drawing conclusions from erroneous data can cause serious problems when used to plan and direct organisational strategies, or changes to products or marketing. 

Acceptable response rates vary by how the survey is administered – inward-looking employee surveys typically attract higher interest – 30–40 per cent, on average. 

External-looking surveys receive far fewer responses with often as little as two per cent of consumers bothering to complete a questionnaire. 

‘Rather than sending out blast marketing emails, Aronson has found success in sharing external surveys through social media channels and personalized emails,’ comments Edita Vatenaite, Senior Marketing Manager for the Praxity participant firm, based in the U.S. 

Time, behaviours, technology and how people prefer to interact have a significant impact on response rates. 

• Over 30% now complete surveys on a mobile device 

• Attention spans are diminishing – the average person gets distracted in 8 seconds 

• By 2018, more than 84% of communication will be visual 

• The number of new or unread messages in people’s inboxes is 300% higher than four years ago. 

Combatting survey fatigue 

The rationale for survey participation can be attributed to reasoned action (with incentives or shorter survey lengths), or psychological (appealing to reciprocal interest, aligning with an authoritative organisation or sponsor, offering anonymity or emphasising exclusivity). 

‘Target the right audience and adjust your survey tone, length, type of questions and process depending on your objective,’ advises Janet Kyle Altman, Marketing Principal at Kaufman Rossin. Like many Praxity participants, the Florida-based firm performs several annual market and service line analysis and thought-leadership surveys. ‘They help us stay current with client and employee sentiment and satisfaction.’ 

Aronson, which recently conducted its third annual employee benefit plan benchmarking survey and cyber risk 360° survey, concurs. ‘We find we have the highest response rates when we appeal to our clients’ desires to understand industry trends and where they fall in the competitive landscape,’ comments Edita. ‘We clearly describe “what’s in it for me?” – perhaps a free copy of the final report that will delve into how their peers are reacting to the same challenges.’ 

Janet’s survey tips: 

Define your business objective. It’s not just a survey; it’s a marketing program. Is your goal to gather data for technical analysis, build awareness of an expertise, or connect to a new audience by driving them to your website? 

Target the right audience. The list is key to both quantity and quality of response. Narrow your list to the right geography, industry and title. Then use a qualifying question at the start of the survey to filter out the wrong people. 

Drive traffic. A series of emails with provocative subject lines, social media campaigns, drawings or gifts for respondents, and pre-survey live events are proven tactics to drive survey traffic. 

Keep it simple. Make the survey easy and fun to complete, using different question types. Limit to 10 questions or fewer. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly. 

Make your survey do more. Instead of just sending a link on Survey Monkey, create a landing page on your website with a link to it, so you can gauge the traffic and engage visitors with your brand. Drive them back there when you release the data. Use different formats to share it – report, infographic, event – and feed the data to appropriate media to get coverage and further distribution.

Some research reports from Praxity Alliance firms:

Kaufman Rossin’s AML Compliance Trends 2015 surveyed 95 compliance officers at Florida financial institutions to obtain a better understanding of how they assess, improve and sustain their BSA/AML compliance programs

Mazars’s study 2017: Unleashing Africa’s corporate innovation potential, showcasing how intrapreneurship and open innovation is driving decisive transformation across the continent

Aronson’s third Annual Employee Benefit Plan Benchmarking Report surveyed more than 200 businesses to help companies understand where their retirement plans stack up against others

Coming soon …

Moss Adams 2017 Wine Industry Financial Benchmarking Survey

Mazars: Managing Risk in the Digital Age

A version of this article first appeared in the latest edition ofHUB​ magazine.