Planning for Retention: The Highway to Online Survey Success

One thing drives out another. That’s just as true in the business world and market research as anywhere else, and if you’ve ever missed an exit on the highway because your favorite song came on the radio or the cell phone rang, you know what I mean. Distractions, deadlines, changes in priority and all, there’s an awful lot going on in a day that competes with the information (your survey results) you’d like your managers and colleagues to retain and — most importantly — use.


So let’s focus on the issue of retention. Far too often you’ll share the results of this mind-blowing online survey project you’ve just completed, but fail to get the buy-in necessary to use it. You’ll give a fantastic presentation. You’ll get applause. People will laugh, they’ll cry… and the next day they’ll have forgotten it. They’ll get caught up in their regular work lives and fail to retain anything. Soon the data is collecting dust, and all your hard work was for naught.

What to do? Here are three tactics to help people retain the information you’ve provided.

  1. Handouts — We’re not talking about 300 pages of charts and graphs here. Think easy reference.  If you create a PowerPoint deck, make sure that you have a management summary section of three to seven pages that gets right to the meat of the findings. This should be a stand-alone document that you can hand out, email or put on a server for easy access. Short and sweet, it covers the key points of your research without being overwhelming.
  2. Key points lists — This could be “The top ten things we learned from our customers” or “The top five challenges and opportunities”. Whatever you call it, come up with a clever label.  Make it humorous if that’s appropriate for your company culture.  You don’t have to hire an artist for this but make it look nice and professional and after you print it, laminate it.  That’s right, laminate it.  Make sure people actually touch it and feel the weight of it.  You might even provide it with thumbtacks or magnets (as appropriate for your office environment) so that they have no excuse not to post it conspicuously.
  3. Mnemonics — Nothing helps retention like repetition, and mnemonics make repetition easier. Take your key data and create mnemonic aids so that it’s easy to remember. If your survey was used to profile three target market groups, for instance, look for the distinguishing characteristics of each, and find a label that evokes their style.  Thus, you might have the “Volvos” (who seek security and longevity), the “Ferraris”, for whom speed (and perhaps ego) is everything, and the “BMWs”, who appreciate speed along with practicality.  Just by applying these distinct labels, we’re able to convey information in a way that will be truly memorable, thus aiding retention.

They have to remember

No matter how good your research, you’re wasting your time unless the results are remembered and applied. Making it memorable and keeping it handy are our big, flashing green and white signs marking the exits from the highway — signs they’re sure to see.  Do that, and weeks after the final presentation they’ll remember the data, and be making all the right turns to apply it!

Image: GollyGforce

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Korostoff
Kathryn Korostoff taught market research best practices at Ask Your Target Market, and is the president of Research Rockstar, delivering market research training and support services. She can be reached at KKorostoff AT ResearchRockstar DOT com.