Marketing surveys: the good, the bad, the misleading

3 min

Marketing surveys: the good, the bad, the misleading

What Surveys Are

Surveys are often misunderstood as a data source in marketing, which like most things in marketing isn’t entirely wrong, but also isn’t entirely right. We'll delve into how surveys predominantly serve as a quantitative tool, and in doing so, explore their strengths and limitations. The blog will offer two key takeaways: firstly, the role of surveys in validating or pivoting existing marketing strategies, and secondly, why they are not typically suitable for crafting initial strategies.

Why Surveys Are Quantitative in Nature

Surveys are highly structured tools that elicit specific responses, making it easier to quantify and analyze data. Whether it's a Likert scale, multiple-choice questions, or even yes-or-no questions, surveys are designed to yield numerical data that can be plugged into spreadsheets and subjected to statistical analysis. This positions them firmly on the quantitative side of the data spectrum. 


As marketers, we need to exercise caution when relying on surveys, as they can instill a misleading sense of confidence. In our quest for data-driven decision-making, it's easy to overlook the inherent limitations and biases that come with survey data. This is particularly concerning because the very confidence these surveys provide can steer us away from acknowledging their flaws.

The Limitations of Surveys

It's tempting to use survey data as a foundation for crafting marketing strategies—after all, numbers don't lie, right? The truth is, relying solely on survey data for creating initial strategies can lead to a lack of accountability. If a strategy fails, it's too easy to deflect blame onto the survey data, claiming, "Well, this is what the data told us." Also note that surveys typically lack the capacity to capture the nuanced, contextual insights that are often essential for formulating an effective initial strategy. These insights are better acquired through qualitative methods like in-depth interviews, focus groups, observational studies, and ultimately, robust experience.

The Strength of Surveys: Validating and Pivoting Strategies

Where surveys truly shine is in their ability to measure the effectiveness of existing marketing strategies. You can use them to conduct A/B tests, measure customer satisfaction, or collect other performance metrics. For example, if you’ve been running a newsletter for a year, a follow-up survey to your subscribers can tell you what’s working and what needs tweaking. The responses can serve as a crucial feedback loop that guides data-driven adjustments to your current strategies, ultimately helping you achieve your marketing objectives more effectively.

Takeaway 1: Surveys for Strategy Validation and Pivots

The key takeaway here is that surveys are excellent tools for validating or adapting existing marketing strategies. If you've rolled out a new social media campaign, for instance, a quick survey can provide quantitative data for content preferences. This allows you to make informed decisions on whether to continue down the same path or pivot to a new approach, based on real metrics and not just gut feeling.

The Balance of Quantitative and Qualitative Data in Marketing

While we emphasize the quantitative nature of surveys, it’s crucial to remember that an over-reliance on either qualitative or quantitative data can be detrimental to your marketing mix. For example, understanding complex customer behaviors often require qualitative data. So, while surveys can validate and tweak existing strategies, they should not be used in isolation. Qualitative methods provide the depth and context that numbers alone can't offer, making it essential to integrate both for a robust marketing strategy.

Takeaway 2: The Risk of Survey-Based Strategy Creation

The second key takeaway is a word of caution against using survey data as the sole basis for crafting new marketing strategies. Such an approach can create a false sense of security and make you prone to overlooking the nuances that qualitative data would reveal. For more rounded and effective planning, it's crucial to complement your survey data with qualitative methods.

The Wrap-up

Surveys are primarily quantitative tools that are excellent for validating and fine-tuning existing strategies but are not ideal for the creation of new ones. A well-rounded marketing strategy will leverage both qualitative and quantitative data, using each for what they excel at.

Call to Action

If you're a marketing manager, director, or business owner, we encourage you to critically assess how you're using surveys in your current strategies. Are you using them to their full potential, or are you leaning too heavily on them at the expense of qualitative insights? We invite you to engage with us and explore how you can implement a more balanced approach to data in your marketing efforts. Come spend 30 minutes with our strategist, together we can do a deep dive into your qualitative and quantitative data and what it means to your marketing strategies.


[Deep Dive in Strategy]