The Role of Termination Points in Market Research Survey Design

The Role of Termination Points in Market Research Survey Design

The purpose of a termination point is to ensure, to the best of your ability, that you’re getting the most qualified and useful data via your survey. Subsequently, red herring questions are “trap questions,” deployed to pick up on any respondents who successfully snuck past the initial screener questions.

The goal of market research is to get accurate and timely answers to questions your product, channel, marketing, brand, and leaderships teams have. To get the best output from external market analysts and internal customer insights teams, first, improve your quality of data input.

You need to get the most significant data to draw accurate conclusions; this means you must always screen respondents and weed out those who aren’t a good match (or aren’t even human).

What are Termination Points in Market Research?

When you are designing a survey for market research, you must first determine who your target respondents are and set parameters accordingly. The only way to know if a potential respondent is qualified for a particular survey is by including screening questions, or “screeners,” in your survey design. You might even set up a short prescreening questionnaire.

If the respondent doesn’t provide the answers you’re looking for to correspond with your predetermined criteria, or if they answer a Red Herring question incorrectly, then they would be disqualified from completing the rest of the survey. This is known as a termination point.

The purpose of a termination point is to ensure, to the best of your ability, that you’re getting the most qualified and useful data via your survey.

Another reason to terminate a survey response is because you’ve already reached your quota for that particular type of respondent. For example, you might be trying to get a diverse age range of respondents, and once you’ve met your quota for individuals who are “25 to 40,” that would become a disqualifying factor, while you would still want respondents in other age groups to keep going so you could get an adequate number of completed surveys without overspending on your survey completion incentives.

What are Examples of Screening Questions?

If you’re conducting a customer usage and attitude (U&A) survey, you may be looking for professional contractors and DIY homeowners who have used your products in the past or for a certain number of years. For product development research, you’d want to include some people who are involved in the industry but not necessarily just those who are already familiar with or have used your product lines, especially if you’re introducing an innovative solution to the market.

Once you know who your target audience is, you can set up pre-screening questions—also known as screeners—to identify those potential respondents who match the criteria. These could be demographic questions related to age groups or geographic regions, or you could find out how many projects the respondent is completing annually or what building materials brands they’re familiar with.

Screener questions can also be designed to screen out bots. Utilizing open ended responses throughout the survey is one method to help screen out bots as well.

Take time to phrase the questions well so you only have to ask a few before you can determine whether the individual falls within the right parameters for your surveying purposes. The screening process shouldn’t be confusing or arduous.

Although market researchers typically try to front load quality control to the beginning of the survey by establishing screener questions, termination points provide another layer of quality control. You may include more termination points at different stages, depending on your goals for the research and how difficult it is to pre-screen respondents to preserve respondent accuracy.

For example, our research team at The Farnsworth Group conducts location verification. According to Taylor Pence, our Director of Quantitative Research, “After asking where they reside in the beginning of the survey (by asking something like, ‘what state do you work in?’), one of the final questions at the very end of the survey asks respondents to confirm where they work/live. This helps screen out respondents who randomly picked a state in the screener questions to quickly qualify for a study.”

What is a Red Herring Question in Market Research?

Red herring questions in market research are “trap questions,” deployed to pick up on any respondents who successfully snuck past the initial screener questions. When the incentive for survey responses is high, it’s imperative to use Red Herring questions to preserve the trustworthiness of the data.

Examples of Red Herring Questions for Studies Among DIYers

Here’s one example - from our Director of Quantitative Research - of a red herring question, deployed by the research team at The Farnsworth Group:

“Early on in the screening questions we like to ask a question that ask respondents which of the following activities they did over the past weekend. We populate this question with about 8 options that are not common or realistically able to be accomplished within the same weekend. A few options may include, ‘Visited Alaska,’ or ‘Ran a Marathon’, and ‘Built a Tree House’. Most good respondents will select the ‘None of These’ options. In cases where a respondent stated they did more than one of options, we terminate the survey for that respondent.”

When studying a particular product or project, and when we ask Consumers and Pros if they have purchased a particular item or completed a particular project, we will mask what product we are asking about by making the list of products longer than is needed. We will terminate respondents that either select a dummy product or if they select all the products.

Examples of Red Herring Questions for Studies Among Contractors

We also have the option to add a question that shows several well-known brands of a product, along with obvious dummy brands. We terminate respondents for selecting dummy brands, especially if they are a Pro and should know one of a few brands but do not.

When survey completion incentives are size-able, designed to attract true Tradesmen and Professionals, Red Herring questions not only preserve the integrity of your study results, but also preserve your market research budget. For studies that are fielded among Contractors, for example, we can wind up disqualifying over half of responses from the data set by using Red Herring questions and other quality control measures that show a respondent does not meet our high-quality standards.

Tips for Terminating Survey Respondents

Termination points are a useful and inevitable part of designing a robust survey for market research. However, how you go about disqualifying a respondent and communicating with them about their termination will go a long way in terms of making sure the individual feels valued and maintains a positive view of your brand.

Here are a few tips when including termination points in your survey design:

Thank the respondent.

You should express gratitude to survey respondents at several points along the way, including the beginning and the end. But it’s equally important to say “thank you” to those who are disqualified. Whether you’re conducting the survey in person, over the phone or online, you should have a custom response to go along with your termination points.

Route them accurately.

At all termination points, you should route the respondent to the appropriate page, so they understand what happened and there’s no confusion. Also, wait for them to go through all the screeners. Otherwise, they might think there was a glitch and simply try again, or they might try to adjust their answers to meet your criteria.

Keep your prescreening short.

If you’re going to include a prescreen questionnaire, try to keep it simple and short—about 1 to 2 minutes. You don’t want people to feel like they’ve already completed a survey before they’ve even started. For those who don’t meet the criteria, it can be frustrating if they’ve dedicated more time than that, only to find out they aren’t qualified.

Designing Your Market Research Survey

When developing a survey for your building materials company, there are several steps involved before you can even field the survey: determining your research objective, identifying your target audience, choosing a survey length, designing questions, and including termination points using screeners and red herring questions.

Studying building products customers is an entirely different ballgame than conducting a CPG study, not because of the process or techniques of market research deployed, but because of intense effort necessary to find and vet the respondents to keep your study results accurate. In the Home Improvement and Building Materials industry, it can be a struggle to find genuinely qualified respondents, especially if you’re conducting a study among Trade Professionals. If you’ve conducted internal market research before, you know these pains just as we do.

Over the past 30+ years, our team at The Farnsworth Group has developed and proven our system for finding and vetting Pros like Contractors and Builders as well as ways to distinguish between light-, moderate-, and heavy-DIYers. We will work with you to choose the appropriate criteria for your survey and ensure you’re getting accurate insights from the right people.