5 Key Steps to Design and Plan an AMAZING Survey for Your Target Audience (+ Planning Template)

Researchers working on a whiteboard

I know how it is. You want to get going. You’re ready to design your survey following all the survey best practices you can.

Your target audience is being elusive and hard to understand. You can see the outline of your target audience, but there’s no illumination, no clarity.

You have decisions to make and they need to be accurate. You want to be inspired by insightful data. Decisions need data, right?

You’ve got a survey to design and get out there!

But, planning and designing a survey doesn’t start with the questionnaire.

It starts by defining what you want to know, identifying the decisions you’ll be able to make so you can design and execute the survey seamlessly and successfully. 

PLAN. THIS. OUT. Trust me. The time you spend before you get to the design phase, pays off later.

1. List the business challenges that you're up against.

What’s are the challenges you’ve got in front of you? These challenges can be small but repetitive issues like generating a list of really good email subject lines. 

They can be big and mind-blocking like considering what new products to add to your line. 

They can be cumbersome and unwieldy like identifying the multiple layers of your target audience’s shopping behaviour. 

It might handling questions you get from your stakeholders about your target audience that are hard for you to answer, or impossible to answer. 

Whatever they are, get as detailed as you can, and if you get stuck, here’s some probes to get you thinking about them:

  • Think about upcoming planning milestones – do you have the information you need to execute?
  • What was the last big decision you found hard to make?
  • What scheduled tasks are always a pain for you, or stakeholders, because of lack of information?
  • What was the last question you had about your target audience?
  • What was the last guess, or assumption you made about your target audience?

2. Tie those challenges to the decisions you need to make and tasks that need to be completed.

So now you’ve got all your challenges listed out. Your business challenges are challenges for a reason, right? They are stopping you from moving forward, they’re stopping you from making decisions, they are stopping you from connecting you with your target audience. 

So take these challenges and connect them to the decisions you want to be able to make confidently and easily. Use the decisions you’ve got listed to finalize your objectives.

Here’s some examples of the types of decisions or tasks that market research makes easier:


  • Creating content that grabs your target audience – When content does well, you know, right? But when you’re not getting traction, it’s hard to know where to start. The right answer is always to start with asking your customers or client about the content they want.
  • Ad campaigns – Same as content, when things are good, you know you can keep going, but when you’re missing the mark and things aren’t sticking, think about what your customers could tell you that could ensure your ads resonate in the right way. 
  • Product development – Selling product is hard. I know, I’ve been there. Evolving and developing products and product line involves so many micro-decisions along the way it can be hard to anticipate them all. Planning out research touch-points along the way will give you the flexibility you need to ask and then take action.
  • Avatar Building – You can stop staring at that blank avatar template now. If you ask a series of key questions focuses on pains, gains, barriers and motivators, with a little lifestyle thrown in there, you’ll get a super clear target audience profile built out in no time.

3. Outline Your Questionnaire

Don’t dive in completely, just build out the questions that are forming in your mind now. You don’t have to make it perfect, don’t worry about finessing the wording, just get it structured enough so that you can get a strong sense of what you’re going to be asking.

Best survey practices are to build the topics like a funnel.

Start with demographics, then the most general or broadest topics first like general behaviours with your category, working down to the most specific questions like specific behaviours with your company or brand.

4. Bring in Your Team

If you have stakeholders that you’re accountable to for the results, you can pull them in now. If you don’t have consistent stakeholders, but have someone you have someone that you bounce ideas off, like a mastermind group, or peer group, use them now.

The survey you design process is an exercise in logic and idea progression. Whatever you design will be better for the ideas within it. Let them add their ideas and challenge yours.

Once you’re done, your outline might look messy, that’s totally cool, just make the trade-offs and decisions you need to based on what they’ve included. Go back to the objectives you wrote earlier as a reference point.

5. Write that Questionnaire, freind!

You’re ready to go, my friend! You did the leg work, and now you have to write your final questionnaire and start programming. You have everything in front of you to make it happen now. It’s going to be awesome.

If you’ve got any questions, reach out! I’d love to chat. You can book a call with me here.


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