How to Start a Survey Business

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Surveys of potential customers can help clients understand opinions and attitudes.
Surveys of potential customers can help clients understand opinions and attitudes. (Image: 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images)

A survey business carries out research for other organizations into factors such as attitudes, preferences, beliefs and satisfaction levels. Business, political, government and not-for-profit organizations use survey results to plan or modify their operations. To start a survey business, you must have an understanding of telephone, mail and online survey techniques, along with research experience in your chosen field.

Assess Your Skills

Clients expect you to provide a professional, ethical and independent service. Therefore, you must have the skills to assess your clients’ needs, design surveys, carry out or supervise research, analyze, interpret and present survey findings. You may have gained this experience in a research firm or in a company public relations or marketing department. If you plan to specialize in a sector such as technology or personal finance, for example, you should have relevant experience in that market.

Identify Your Market

You can either offer a general survey service or focus on specific types of surveys. For example, you may prefer to position your business as a specialist in customer satisfaction surveys or analysis of specific markets, such as the aerospace sector. Developing a specialization differentiates your firm and helps build relationships with both clients and organizations in the sector you analyze. A firm that specializes in surveys of the oil industry, for example, builds up panels of respondents who provide industry data and opinions. That firm may also become the first choice for organizations that need quality data on the industry.

Obtain Tools and Equipment

To carry out telephone or mail surveys, you need basic office equipment, including telephones, computer and word processing software. You also need database and spreadsheet programs to analyze survey results, and you may need presentation or desktop publishing software to create reports or present findings. To carry out online surveys, buy specialist software or survey templates or work with a developer to create your own customized programs.

Market Your Services

To find clients for your business, identify prospects in your area. Contact restaurants, service centers and retailers to offer customer satisfaction surveys. Marketing agencies may have a need for industry analysis or market research surveys. List your services on your website with examples of surveys you have carried out. To demonstrate your capability, carry out independent surveys of market sectors, place summaries on your website and email prospects offering sample reports. Contact magazine publishers with details of your independent surveys and offer executive summaries for publication.

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