Your Survey May be Overqualified

Depending on your goal or your topic, pre-qualifying your audience may be critical to your survey design. The questions you’re asking should be relevant to your respondents. Otherwise, your data─and insights─will reflect the disconnect.

know your audience

From a practical standpoint, it just makes good sense. If you’re asking opinions on the street about whether eating vegan is healthier than eating vegetarian, you’re unlikely to approach the guy stuffing his face at the hotdog stand. The same goes for surveys. If you’re trying to identify how many pet owners dress their pets up for the holidays, it’s probably beneficial to start with the people who actually own pets. The respondents who dress pets up for the holidays but don’t actually have pets, one…probably aren’t relevant to your study, and two…are questionable as humans (but no judgments here).

Ultimately, if you pre-qualify your audience first, your results and your budget will thank you for it. But at what point does pre-qualifying lose its luster? When are you cutting a little too deep into your panel? Realizing, the more niche your audience is, the more imperative it is to screen, we pulled together some helpful tips to help you keep budgets down and actionable insights up:

Don’t lose sight of your goal

When applying pre-qualifiers, keep the ultimate goal of your survey in front of you. That will help you stay focused. For instance, if you want to know how likely parents are to buy a vitamin designed specifically for diabetic children, literally break down your goal to identify your pre-qualifiers. In this instance, since it’s such a defined audience, you’ll want to ensure two factors are accounted for in your screen:

  1. They need to be parents → If you’re using AYTM, our demographic targeting options will cover this.
  2. They need to have at least one child who’s diabetic → If you’re using AYTM, this would be a custom pre-qualifier question.

The majority of the time, it’s not necessary to screen further by age of child, type of diabetes, etc. Once you start building out your survey, that’s when you’ll be able to really drill deep into your questions. If your vitamin is designed for children with Type 2 diabetes, and the majority of your respondents have children with Type 1 diabetes, that’s good intel to have from a potential market share perspective. There are, of course, some scenarios where you’ll want to set a quota for a readable sample of Type 1 and Type 2, in which case you’ll need to pre-qualify them as such for comparison purposes. Otherwise, most of the time you’re best going with the minimum set of criteria.

Don’t assume you know your market

Knowing your audience at the most basic level is often needed to get to know them more. One very common mistake is to assume you know your target market. Going back to the hungry guy at the hot dog stand (just because we like him)…even if you’re a hot dog brand looking to sell your newest jalapeno cheese-stuffed hot dog (mmmmm), you don’t want to immediately assume he’s your target market. Yes, as you see the mustard and relish running down his face, you can probably make a reasonable assumption that he is, but you still want to validate this before approaching him. For all you know, that hot dog he’s eating is tofu-based (in which case he actually would’ve been a perfect candidate for the ‘Vegan or Vegetarian’ Study).

Point being, don’t make quick assumptions. Google is there for you as are a number of other resources to help you better understand your target. Conduct your own secondary research as much as possible before you screen.

Tap into all your options

Don’t spend all of your time identifying the perfect pre-qualifiers without thinking through your demographics first. Through AYTM’s targeting, you can filter your audience by demographics first. Then if you need to drill down more, focus on your pre-qualifier questions. You can choose from a bank of pre-screened questions, or you can customize your question. Keep in mind, you won’t immediately have clear optics into your total spend if you require a customized pre-screened question. Which leads to our next tip…

Professional assistance may keep costs down

It may seem as if adding other resources to the project will only drive up costs. This isn’t always the case, particularly with AYTM. More often than not, AYTM’s Client Services Team can look at what you’re trying to accomplish in a completely unbiased way and can point you in the right direction. If you’re uncertain that you need a pre-qualification question or you start building your survey and the price skyrockets, you can always reach out to the Client Services Team via email or chat. They’re well versed in balancing restrictions with budget and can help get you the panel you need for the results you want.

Relaxing your restrictions may save time

More often than not, tighter restrictions translates to longer survey run times. The more specific you get, the longer the process may be to collect the desired completes. If time isn’t on your side, we suggest you really consider if highly targeted criteria is as important as getting results quickly. AYTM also gives you the option to expedite your results, although you should anticipate higher costs. Once again, the Client Services team is there to help you find a healthy balance between dollars, quality, and time.


Airing on the side of broad versus specific may give you a bigger picture in the end, particularly when you can slice and dice the data on the back-end as you see fit. Once you’ve done your own due diligence on your target audience and have truly honed into your survey goal, you should be favorably positioned to pre-qualify your audience. If you’re on AYTM’s platform, you’ll have the flexibility and cost transparency to make key decisions about your panel. But if you still have questions, by all means reach out for support. In the end, their time on the front-end can save you money down the line.