Why Surveys Could Be Sabotaging Your Startup

Dear Founder,

When you last answered a survey, did you pause to deeply consider each question and provide a thorough answer? 

Or did you rush through to get that survey off your to-do list? 

Or, more likely, you ignored the survey altogether? 

This is the norm for surveys. 

And it’s dismal.

Yet surveys are used all the time by businesses to seek out information to understand their market. 

For startups, it’s even more dire.  

Consider the story of startup founder, Alex, who developed a platform for freelance graphic designers. 

Initially, Alex, like many others, believed that distributing surveys was the golden path to understanding her market. 

Weeks later, armed with pages of survey data, she felt confident. 

Yet, six months down the line, Alex’s app struggles to gain traction. 

What went wrong? 


Surveys can seem like a straightforward solution for market research, but often, they barely scratch the surface of what your potential customers truly think and feel. 

Just as wearing a fitness tracker to count steps doesn’t necessarily correlate to real fitness gains, collecting responses from a survey does not automatically equate to understanding deep customer needs. 

Both actions provide a number, a data point. 

But they lack the depth and nuance needed for deep understanding of the customer, to drive significant changes or decisions. 

In Alex’s case, she received data, but not understanding. 

For founders and startups, this is an all too common and tragic scenario. 

The bottom line is – for startups, surveys are not an effective method for doing market research and user research. 

Keep in mind, this research is foundational for your product design, plus it will be critical to your go-to-market strategy.  

Therefore, this research is a direct contributor to your startup’s success. 

So, the method of this research matters a lot. 


The far more effective way to understand your market is by direct interaction. 

There’s a profound difference between ticking boxes on a survey and having a real conversation. 

Direct interactions – through genuine conversations – shed light on the nuanced needs of your customers, offering clarity that survey data often fails to capture. 

These conversations provide a goldmine of insights, as they allow you to observe genuine reactions and hear the nitty-gritty details that uncover real needs. 

Through that initial conversation, you’ll spend 80% of the time listening to them. 

This builds trust and credibility, as almost no one actually takes the time to do market research and user research properly. 

This engagement goes beyond gathering data and insights; it’s also about building connections. 

Connections that are super valuable for the next key activities in your startup. 

Once you’ve confirmed these market research candidates are in your target market segment, you’ll then want to do follow up conversations. 
You’ll present back the patterns of problems you found. 
And then show them the concept of your solution, that you position so it demonstrates exactly how it could help them be successful. 

Lastly, gathering their honest feedback on the solution concept – their recommendations on features inclusions (and exclusions), how they’d use them and so on. 

Having taken the time to get to know deeply about their needs and their situation, they’ll be more inclined to have these follow up conversations. 
Crucially, in doing so, you’re validating that people in your target segment actually have the problem that you think they do. 
Plus, you’re validating the solution design – from which you dramatically reduce your risk of building a solution they don’t need and won’t buy. 
Having removed these two key assumptions, you’ve dramatically improved your startup’s chances of success. 


One last thing that direct conversations do that surveys don’t: 
When someone takes the time to talk to you, it often means they’re not just passing by; they’re looking for a solution. 
Their engagement indicates a vested interest in finding a better answer than what they currently have – a significant opportunity for any startup. 
And the “vice versa” is particularly useful also: 
If you’re struggling to get them to talk to you, then it could be their problem wasn’t big enough (wasn’t significantly impactful enough) for them to need an alternate solution. 
In this case, heed the warning – and prioritise looking for another problem, one that potential customers are desperate to have solved. 

So, there we have it.

None of the above can be achieved through a survey.

And this is why traditional surveys are a hidden stumbling block in startup journeys. 

Instead of surveys, here’s what you do instead:


  1. Initiate Genuine Conversations


  1. Adopt Active Listening Techniques
  • In your research conversations, focus predominantly on listening. 
  • Use techniques such as mirroring (repeating some of the customer’s words) and affirming to show understanding and encourage them to share more. 
  • This builds trust and reveals deeper insights into their problems and their impacts. 
  • Seek to uncover the significant problem(s) that they desperately need to have solved. 
  • Then seek validation of your solution concept to overcome their significant problem(s).  


  1. Build Relationships
  • Treat every interaction as a step towards building a long-term relationship. 
  • Keep the dialogue open with continuous engagement. 
  • Convert market research candidates into your initial pilot users and early adopter, paying customers. 
  • They will become fans and advocates by you showing them how passionate you are about solving their problems/challenges and taking on their input and feedback. 


  1. Listen and Adapt
  • Treat every piece of feedback as a stepping-stone towards product-market fit. 
  • Adapt your product continuously. 

In summary, it’s crucial to recognise that the startup journey is paved with continuous learning and adaptation. 
This learning is most effective when it’s based on deep, meaningful interactions with your potential and existing customers. 
These interactions help you to not only understand but also genuinely connect with the needs and desires of your market. 

If you’re a founder and need some help identifying your niche target market segment, fill out this short questionnaire to tell us about your situation, and we’ll get in touch with your next steps.

Jump Ahead!




Whenever you’re ready, here’s how we can help you.

If you’ve got a startup idea, or you’ve already embarked on your journey – you might be facing one or both of these situations.

1. You’re struggling while going it alone, unsure of who to turn to for advice.  

2. You’re wading in the muddy waters of some not-so-great advice, wondering how to move out of that situation and into better guidance.

If you’re ready to get the help you need growing your startup, our Startup Builder™ solution was created especially for you. 

The Startup Builder™ process is specifically designed to take you from idea to global success – in a way that’s simple, sustainable, and scalable.

If you’re ready to grow your revenue, profit, and social impact faster without wasting time and money on the wrong things at the wrong time, share your situation with us by filling out this short questionnaire and we’ll get in touch with your next steps. 


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