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Three best-practice tips for using surveys in a market-sizing study

Technology & Data

Three best-practice tips for using surveys in a market-sizing study


Eli Schwartz explains the importance of differentiating between addressable market and true target market size, and how to use surveys to determine true market size.

Whatever your reasons are for building a product offering, you most likely want it to have an impact on the greatest number of people. While you may be selling into a market with a large number of possible customers it is near impossible that they will all become customers or users of your product. Therefore, when you want to estimate a market, it is vital to determine who in your potential addressable market will actually use your product.

This is the difference between addressable market and a true target market size.

To illustrate this challenge in an example, think of the smartphone message marketing which is split between major contenders like WeChat, WhatsApp, Viber and others. Their total market size is anyone that has a smartphone; yet it would be impossible for any of these companies or any similar apps that might be created in the future to ever claim 100% of the market. Everyone in that market has different wants and needs when it comes to the messaging tools they use.

In order to determine how to develop and market a new messaging app, if you were to create a new messaging, you would need to size your exact market by determining who, how and why uses the exact messaging apps. Once you find a need that matches your product that is your true potential market.

Related: Schwartz on how to use survey data to nurture innovations to maturity »

There are a handful of ways to calculate a market size, but the least expensive method is simply to ask people if they are interested in your offering. The research can be done via face to face interviews, but it is so much easier to just conduct an online survey. (Depending on the number of people needed for the survey, you might even be able to do this for free with SurveyMonkey.)

Whether you choose to do personal interviews or an internet survey, the best practices are the always the same.


1. Quantitative data versus qualitative data

When analysing market size, focus on quantitative data (numbers) versus qualitative data (information). In your survey, ask people binary (yes or no, true or false) or scale (likelihood to take a certain action, levels of agreement) questions about their behaviour and emotions.

Text and comment boxes are better suited for product research and should not be used in a market sizing study.

2. Ask the right questions

Ask detailed demographic and population segmentation questions. An individual’s income or employment status affects their ability to afford your product. Likewise, gender and age will also impact buying decisions. Additionally, the usage of required technology devices matters for any product that requires a specific platform like a smartphone or access to the Internet.

3. Avoid biased or leading questions

Do not allow biased or leading questions to appear in your research. An example of a leading question is: ‘Would you buy a car that makes you feel important?’ Everyone always wants to be important, so you are prompting them to say yes. The right way to ask this question is as two questions: ‘Would you buy a new car?’ and then follow it up with ‘Why would you buy a new car?’


If you have used a sample that represents your total population (friends and family don’t count) you should have a pretty good idea of who your potential customers might be. In earlier stages of product development it isn’t a requirement to have granular persona data on consumers, but you should still have a vague idea of what portion of the total market will adopt your new product.

While you may still want to use big shocking numbers in conversations with external parties like investors and partners, you should always use the real number of the total market in internal conversations. Remember, Apple might claim to be disrupting the entire multi-billion-dollar personal computing market with their iPhone and iPads, but their real market size is maxed out in the far smaller pool of people that can afford a phone and believe that it is a better alternative than an Android.

Even if Android owners are a part of the addressable market, many of them don’t care to ever buy an iPhone and only detailed research can find out how many of these people exist.


Eli Schwartz is director of marketing APAC at SurveyMonkey.



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