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Survey vs. Questionnaire: Definitions, Differences, and Where They Fit Into Your Market Research

Don’t let the subtle differences confuse you. In order for your information search to succeed, you must be utilizing the appropriate research techniques.

February 5, 2023

Survey vs. Questionnaire: Definitions, Differences, and Where They Fit Into Your Market Research

Don’t let the subtle differences confuse you. In order for your information search to succeed, you must be utilizing the appropriate research techniques.

This is no tomayto/tomahto spat. This is serious business.

To those who have never seriously considered the differences between the terms survey and questionnaire, the formats for the two are often confused for one another. Similar to how the subtle differences that separate shrimp from prawn or alligators from crocodiles are often muddled, the designs and purposes of these two distinct tools are frequently misconstrued by those who have little experience with the subject.

While the differences between a survey vs questionnaire may seem superficial, they are anything but.

For those looking to gather information from their clients, customers, or employees - choosing the right style of questions is crucial. Running the incorrect format not only puts you at risk of wasting your panelists’ time - it’s a waste of your time, money, and valuable resources.

In this article we will clearly define both questionnaires and surveys, discuss the difference between survey and questionnaire, and how these tools can be used in the process of collecting data from a group of people.

Let's take a look at some of the key functions of surveys and questionnaires.

Surveys and Questionnaires - Commonalities and Differences

To the layman, the difference between a survey and questionnaire might not appear readily apparent - and it’s easy to see why.  

On the surface, it would seem that surveys and questionnaires possess more similarities than they do distinctions.
  • Both involve asking participants to answer a set of questions - most often in list format
  • A survey and a questionnaire are equally likely to utilize close ended and open ended questions
  • People are regularly asked to fill out questionnaires and surveys by businesses in order to gather customer feedback
In reality, the differences between the two stems from their purpose, design, and the questions used.
  • Questionnaires ask questions to paint a bigger picture for a narrow problem
  • Ex. Gathering demographic data for the census.
  • Surveys are comprised of multiple sets of questionnaires designed to gather data for analytic use
  • Ex. Asking 100 consumers to share their sentiments on a product.

The differences don’t end here - but once you’re able to get a better understanding of how these tools are used in practice to collect data, you’ll never mistake one for the other again.

customer feedback

The Questionnaire: Probing For Information

A questionnaire is defined as a specific list of questions, with options available for the audience to respond to.

Questionnaires are a set of questions designed to gather exploratory data from panelists, usually in regards to a single sole topic.

It’s important to note that questionnaires are not used to gather data about trends, consumer behavior, or to develop marketing profiles. They may include open ended questions, but they are not designed to be used for deeper analysis.

Examples of a questionnaire can be found at every single medical office. Before patients ever see a medical professional, they are asked to fill out extensive questionnaires. These forms are designed to gather pertinent medical information from the patient for the purpose of the visit. The questions listed on these forms only ever look to gather cold hard data from the patient in regards to their medical history.

When you can't decide if you're better off running a survey vs a questionnaire, it's important to remember this:

Questions in a questionnaire are often limited in scope, do not gather feedback from participants, and the data gathered is rarely - if ever - analyzed in the same manner survey data is.

The Survey: A Powerful Analytical Tool

Surveys are like the older, cooler brother to the questionnaire.

Surveying is the collection of data and subsequent statistical analysis of experiences and opinions from a target audience. These questions are often more detailed and probing than the kinds asked in questionnaires, and will often ask participants to give feedback. Surveys can be comprised of many unique parts and question sets. One part of a survey might ask participants to share their demographic information; another part of a survey may then ask them to share their thoughts and opinions about brands, customer service, or even current events. Surveys can include a mix of open ended questions, closed questions, questionnaires, and even tasks or activities.

Surveys are a far more useful tool to researchers and marketers because the results that are generated by these surveys can be utilized for a multitude of purposes.

Market researchers utilize surveys to gather data on everything from consumer sentiment to purchasing habits; this data can then be used to create intimate consumer profiles that marketers can use to better assess their customer’s needs and values.

Market researchers surveys

Choosing The Right Tool For The Job

Now that we have a clear understanding of the mechanics behind what makes each of these research tools distinct, we can look to pairing the tools to their appropriate scenarios. If surveys and questionnaires were our hammer and screwdriver, all we need to do is identify which problems are nails and which ones are screws.

Businesses should utilize questionnaires when looking to gather data like:

  • Health information about a patient
  • Email addresses, phone numbers, and other information that can be used for lead generation
  • Information from job interviewees
  • Membership information
  • Volunteer sign-ups
  • Data for Event Planning

Businesses should consider using surveys when looking to obtain:

  • Information from a targeted audience
  • Data on buyer behavior, consumer preferences, or data that can be used to address other pertinent marketing concerns
  • Feedback on customer satisfaction with their brand, customer service channels, etc.
  • Advice & opinion on design considerations
  • Constructive insight from your consumers, business partners, or employees

Ultimately, surveys prove to be one of the most useful tools businesses can rely on to gather pertinent information about their customers.

Questionnaires absolutely have their place in our tool-kit - but the data provided by surveying can be turned into real, actionable information that helps us improve customer satisfaction, increase the morale of our employees, and grow our businesses.

What Helpfull Does Best

Helpfull is the premiere surveying software for anyone looking to get the most out of their marketing efforts.
With a vast variety of different survey and questionnaire types to choose from, a set of questions for your survey can be generated and delivered to thousands of panelists in minutes.

real-time surveying software
These are just some of the features that make Helpfull a must-have tool for those looking for quality consumer feedback:
  • No Locked-In Price Plan
  • Affordable Surveying Options
  • Create Simple Surveys with Pre-Set Questions, or Design Your Own
  • No Extra Cost For Multiple Questions in a Single Survey
  • Wide Variety of Polling Demographics to Choose From
  • Get Responses & Feedback in Real Time
  • Save Your Favorite Answers for Easy Reference
  • Aesthetically Pleasing UI and Easy-To-Use Interface
  • Easy to Access Prior Surveys

consumer feedback survey design

With Helpfull’s open-ended survey design, users can design visually-striking, multi-question surveys for any occasion!

A simple survey could be all that stands between your company and the renewed success of it’s online marketing efforts.

An intuitive user-interface, coupled with the ability to gather hundreds of consumer responses in just minutes, are just a few of the features that make Helpfull the ultimate tool for any artist, designer, marketer, or inquisitive spirit.

Refine your marketing - sign up with Helpfull today, and get surveying within minutes!

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