How to Create a Demographic Survey


Demographic surveys can provide vital information for businesses. They help to define the extent of the target market they serve as well as determine potential markets for future reorganization or expansion. Designing a demographic survey isn’t difficult if you know the right questions to ask and have an established plan for collecting and interpreting the data.

Things You'll Need

  • Online site
  • Self-addressed and stamped envelopes
  • Template

Identify the reason for the survey. New businesses or ones moving into a new area use demographic surveys to identify the number of potential customers within their service area. Existing businesses often use them when they are thinking about adding new products or services. Waning businesses use them to determine customer satisfaction and to identify improvement requirements.

Develop a list of questions. These vary slightly depending on the survey’s purpose. However, there are a few standard questions common to most demographic surveys. These include age, education level, gender, household income and marital status. Some may also ask questions about race and religious affiliation.

Outline the basics. These may vary depending on the demographic survey's intent and the type of information collected. How the survey will be conducted--one-on-one, by mail, online or through some other method--may also affect the basic needs. However, every survey should contain an introduction that details who the surveyors are, how the survey will be used, an explanation the questions and a thank-you to those who participate.

Provide multiple-choice answers for surveys that are meant to determine customer satisfaction. Include choices such as excellent, good, average, below average or poor. An alternative could be a basic number rating scale.

Keep the survey as anonymous as possible to get the most participants. Some people won’t answer questions if it means they must provide personal information such as their name, address, email or phone number.

Decide how to conduct the survey. A personal one-on-one interview with members of the target audience usually ensures a good cross-section of survey participants. However, these surveys require sufficient numbers of trained personnel, which can be expensive. Mail-in surveys generally receive the least response because people tend to put the questionnaire aside and forget about it. Surveys filled out on site can be mixed. Online surveys are currently the most popular and the most successful type of survey.

Format and prepare the survey. Keep it pointed toward its intent without meandering off course.

Consider leaving an area on the survey for customer comments. Sometimes customers have something to say about an area other than those covered in the survey questions. Such comments are often as important as the questionnaire itself.

Offer an incentive for participants to take the survey, such as a coupon. Give them a trial sample of the product. In some states, surveyors are even allowed to pay a small dollar amount.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep surveys as short as possible, no matter the format used. If they are too long, most people will toss them. Make sure the survey questions make sense. Anything ambiguous will be avoided and left unanswered. Have an upbeat angle for the survey that stresses how the survey will improve the business. Have surveyors record the information themselves for a one-on-one personal survey rather than asking the customer to stand there and do it for them. Use well-trained and effective surveyors for one-on-one personal surveyors. Customers won't stop for people who look miserable at what they are doing.
  • Never hedge or avoid questions about the intent and reason for the survey. If you don't answer, neither will many potential customers. Don't ask questions that clearly have nothing to do with the survey's intent.

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