You have been told in various ways that you have to give to get. Your mom told you when you were little, your teachers told you and later all the different business ideas you were exposed to, said the same thing.

So now you want to do that. You want to make that difference. Because you want to “get” in the process.

But you don’t know how. Besides, the last time that we talked, we talked about how you’re supposed to find out what your customers wanted if you have any hopes of sales success. And you simply cannot see how “giving to get” has any relevance to what is called a “marketing survey” or finding out what your clients want.

Well, it’s quite simple really.

To be able to give in such a way that it will be perceived as valuable and therefore will be bought, you have to find out what to give. And to be able to give the client what he wants, you first have to determine precisely how that “what” will look.

If the “what” is what the client wants, it will be perceived as valuable, he will then buy it and you will get.

So, giving is getting!

Ok, so if you want to get inside your customers’ heads, you obviously already know who they are. This presupposes an existing client base, or in the absence of an already existing one, a target market which you have identified on the basis of proper market segmentation. You have also determined this segment’s buying power and know there is money out there.

Of course, it could also be possible that your existing clients are buying quite well, but that you have since the start of your operation developed a new product / service you want to test drive and unsure about how customers will react.

Whatever the case, you need to know what’s going on in their heads. The niftiest tool for collecting that kind of data is the survey.  

This trusty steed usually takes different forms and delivers different kinds of results and successes. Each has its pros and cons and small business entrepreneurs are probably not going to make much use of methods that tend to be capital intensive like telephone and postal surveys.

  •  Telephone surveys are used when the contact period is short, time is limited and funds limited. Pros are the fact that it is quick and any problems / questions can be discussed directly. Cons are that it is easy to lie over the phone and only folks with phones can be contacted.


  • Postal surveys are sometimes better than telephonic ones in that most people don’t like giving their opinions directly and the geographical area might also be too big. The contact person also cannot influence the situation and the individual does not have to react immediately. But, they require clear instructions and their reaction rate is normally low and slow.


  • Personal surveys involve a face – to – face situation. Pros are that more questions can be put and answered. Questions can also be customised for individuals. If the person okays it, tape recorders can be used. However, this method is time consuming and labour intensive.


  • Observation can also be used as a data collection tool. Researchers can try and observe the behaviour of the consumer. Or mechanics / and or electronics like computer scanners at check out counters are used collect very specific and useful information. But a big con of this method is the fact that you can observe what people do, not why they do it.


  • A favourite with researchers nowadays, is the focus group method. Typically the survey entails inviting about ten people to a specific venue where selected topics are discussed in depth. Some researchers will ask specific questions which the customers will answer. Other researchers will merely act as observers and make copious notes of the proceedings. Sometimes tape recorders are used to observe things like body language and tone of voice.


Okay, now you know what kinds of surveys are in the stable, so next up we need to lay out how you actually go about constructing one. You need to formulate a basic questionnaire that includes all four P’s of the marketing mix, namely questions about your product, its price, distribution and promotion.

Take for example a fast food business. You could ask the following:


Q1 (Product / service related question):  If a new fast food outlet opens in your area, which types of food(s) would you like to buy?

Q2 (distribution related question):  If we have a delivery service, will you make use of it at an additional cost?

Q3 (Price related question):  1.Are you prepared to pay $5 for a hamburger?

If the answer is no, then ask:

2. How much are you prepared then to pay for it?

Q4 (Promotion related question):  If you had to advertise a new fast food outlet, which media channel would you use?

And when developing a questionnaire, you must consider the following about the questions you’ll ask:  the type of question, question format, wording and sequence of the questions.

So, now that you that you have your questionnaire in hand (copied some x amount of times); do you go down to the mall and pester the daylight out of some poor unsuspecting souls traipsing through the shelves, trying their best to do grocery shopping?

Heck no.

Not without knowing exactly how big the representative sample size of your target market must be. Because then the data you collect will reflect an inaccurate picture of the market you wish to cater for and should you proceed with plans on the basis of that skewed picture, you’ll run the danger of wasting time, money and effort on air.  No, your sample size must represent the target population as accurately as possible.

And you won’t do any pestering either, because sensitivity to people’s needs and time constraints might have you initially only asking two marketing related questions, namely whether they will buy your product and what they will pay for it. You can always tackle the other questions later, thus preventing customer irritation by not holding up potentially harried and hustled types.

But here’s the big thing. The selection of your samples must be random.

But how do you do the random thing?

Okay, here’s the short version:

Draw 2 random samples of 15 people in each of your target markets (if there’s more than one obviously). For example, interview the first, fourth and eighth prospect according to the random number you draw from a random number table. (See fig 1 below)



3962 70992 65172 28053 02190 83634 66012 70305 66761 88344


43905 46941 72300 11641 43548 30455 07686 31840 03261 89139


00504 48658 38051 59408 16508 82979 92002 63606 41078 86326


61274 57238 47267 35303 29066 02140 60867 39847 50968 96719


43753 21159 16239 50595 62509 61207 86816 29902 23395 726



Fig.1 Example of a random number table.

Summarise the results of each and compare stats. If the results have a less than 20% deviation and correspond in 80% of the answers given, you can assume your sample size is big enough.

If not, you have to double the number of correspondents by drawing 2 new samples of 30 respondents each and then compare results. As soon as there is an 80% match, you can stop.  So you keep doubling up until the 80% matching point.

Easy peasy.

Going down to the mall to do market research, is also just an example. You can be as creative as needs be with the methods you come up with to get the data you need.

Go to someone’s home. Or a football match. Whatever. You’re in charge and you get to say what you’re going to do to get what you need. Short of illegal of course.

Delivering what customers want is a win-win situation. They get what they want and so do you. Everybody gets to go home happy.

Till next time



Elmarie is a wordpreneur for the Entrepreneurial Business School (Pty) Ltd and a freelance creative writer, web writer and copywriter. Email her at










1. Mauritz Bekker. Marketing management. EBS 2009.



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2 Responses

  1. magnificent submit, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector don’t realize this. You must continue your writing. I am sure, you have a great readers’ base already!

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