How to get reliable survey results


I would like to survey a community of prospects about a new service we are thinking of developing. A question I would really like answered is "How much would you be willing to pay?" The problem is people, well, lie, expecially when it comes to money. Frankly, in the hypothetical they may not even know what they are willing to pay. Yet I would still like to come up with a reliable stake in the ground when it comes to price. So what survey questions would result in truthful and accurate information?

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asked Feb 8 '11 at 07:50
Kenneth Vogt
2,917 points

3 Answers


Asking Them Directly

The key is to ask them when a) they already have in their mind a good of what your sample product should do and b) they are relaxed and conversational, and know for sure its not a sales call.

A great way to get them in this state is to start them off talking about their business process, what they like, what they don't like, and what their problems are. Then mention some details about the kind of thing you're working on, making sure its obvious its just something thats 'in the works' so they don't start to feel you're selling them something. Then if you think they understand the concept, ask them how much they'd pay for something like that.

For the reasons you mentioned, you won't get a straight answer. But the number should be around 1/2X-2X of the actually answer. This can be enough information to put you on the right track - e.g. sometimes people will say $200 for something that you were going to sell for $20.

Throwing a number out

People are bad at putting a specific number on how much something is worth to them, especially if the product category doesn't exist. In this case if you have a large enough audience to get a good sample, just throw a random number out and get their reaction. Sometimes they'll even give you a number in their reaction.

You: would you pay $200? Person 1: Holy crap no way. I wouldn't pay more than $40 (way too high)

You: would you pay $50? Person 2: Yea I guess. (about right)

You: would you pay $20? Person 3: Yea definitely, that would save me so much time. (maybe you can go higher)

Guesstimating through other questions

If you can't get them in the right mood such that you'd feel comfortable asking directly, ask questions that will give you a sense of what they spend on products like it and how much their problem is costing them.

  • What kind of software products do you use to manage X business process?
  • Have you worked out how much the problem you're describing to me costs you?
  • If a software service was available to solve your specific problem, would you buy it?
  • What if there was a product that does , would you use it? (use the level of enthusiasm in their response as a gauge for how serious they'd be about buying it)
answered Feb 8 '11 at 11:03
Derek Dahmer
306 points
  • While there is a lot of good information in your answer, I am explicitly looking for how to format survey questions, not one-on-one meetings/calls. – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago
  • Ah, in that case 'throwing a number out' can be your best bet if you can send multiple versions of the survey to get feedback on a few different numbers. Make sure to have a box afterwards thats 'why or why not'. How many users is this going out to? – Derek Dahmer 13 years ago
  • +1 for throwing out a number. Although I'd tend to say that (depending on how valuable the service is) people are generally willing to pay more than what they say they will if they don't have a good alternative to your service. Throwing out a number has another advantage making it less likely they'll give a lower number than they actually think it's worth. If you ask me how much I'd pay for a service, I might say, $30 a month, but if you had asked whether I'd pay $50 a month I might still say yes (just as an example). Do multiple versions and have high numbers in at least some of them. – Davy8 13 years ago
  • We could invite several thousand to respond. I can see how throwing out different numbers could get the result I am after. – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago
  • Very interesting point of view here, thanks for the insight. – Prix 12 years ago


If your new service is like other services then you could check what they are asking.

answered Feb 8 '11 at 07:58
Thom Pete
1,296 points
  • Yes however our new service is an entirely new idea. – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago


Easy: Ask the customers to pay what they think it is worth. That way they are putting their money where their mouth is.

answered Feb 8 '11 at 10:27
Peter K.
377 points
  • That would meaning developing the service first. The whole point of this exercise is to determine if the service is worth developing. – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago
  • Ah. That wasn't clear from your question. – Peter K. 13 years ago
  • Ok, I edited the question to be more clear. – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago
  • Cool, that's better. :-_ – Peter K. 13 years ago

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