In this post, we’ll be covering how to brainstorm an initial list of questions to help you get your research efforts underway

Don’t force your questions

Many new researchers fall into the trap of filling their survey up with the first handful of questions that pop into their head. They figure once they get the data back, they can start to make sense of it and decide how to best glean insights from it. This is a major mistake. Rather than finding an ah-hah moment where everything about their business comes into focus, they are left with a report full of useless data.

Start by identifying your end goal

Each survey should have one research goal. For example, you may be looking to better understand the iPhone case market in order to create a new product in this category.

Write your goal out on a piece of paper. Under it, list ten questions that provide information to help reach this goal. This doesn’t need to be final, quickly brainstorm your questions and write them down.

Now reread your ten questions. Cross out the ones that don’t seem to provide new information you could act on.

For instance, it might be great to know that lots of people are enjoying the new iOS 10 operating system which bodes well for future iPhone sales and the associated iPhone case market. However, I would venture to say that anyone looking to bring an iPhone case to market already knows that the addressable market for iPhone cases is massive. There is no sense in wasting a survey question reaffirming this.

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Expand your question set

Now that you’ve honed in on the types of questions you should be asking, expand your list. Shoot for 15-20 questions.

Circling back to the iPhone case, the market for iPhone cases is extremely crowded and competitive. To differentiate yourself, you decide you want to explore the idea of developing an iPhone case that includes a second e-reader screen on the back. Your list of 20 questions may look something like this (again this doesn’t need to be perfect):

  1. Do you prefer a second color screen or an e-reader that consumes less battery, and works better in daylight, and doesn’t emit blue light?
  2. How big would you like the 2nd screen to be?
  3. Do you prefer an extremely thin case or a slightly thicker case with better durability?
  4. Would including a battery in the case make the case considerably more appealing?
  5. The iPhone 7 does not have a headphone jack, would you like a headphone jack built into the case knowing it will increase the size of the case?
  6. What content would you like to consume on the e-reader? e-books, email, news, calendar details?
  7. Are you okay with the fact that you will not be able to use a web browser on the e-reader?
  8. Should the marketing focus on the fact that the e-reader uses considerably less battery than the built-in iPhone screen?
  9. Should a backlight be included on the e-reader screen for night use?
  10. Would you pay a premium for wireless charging?
  11. Which case colors do you prefer?
  12. Shiny or matte colored?
  13. Should the case include graphics or images?
  14. Does including a free screen protector appeal to you?
  15. Would you like the case to be waterproof (this would include an overlay on the existing phone screen)?
  16. How long do you intend to use such a case?
  17. Would you participate in a pre-order offer if it included a pricing discount?
  18. Are you willing to pay a premium price to have a phone insurance plan included with the case?
  19. Would free shipping impact your decision to purchase a purchase?
  20. What price are you willing to pay?

Let your questions sit

Your mind needs to dwell on your questions. Let your questions sit for a day. Your patience will pay off when you return to your list with a clear mind. From here, you can refine your list down to the most critical questions.

Understand that these are not your final survey questions. This exercise is to get you to focus in on a research goal and identify some key questions that can help you realize that goal. You’ll need to take these questions and adapt them to fit the various question layouts your survey provider offers you.