How To Use Open-Ended Questions In Marketing Research

A great marketer knows how to get their customers talking. That’s why the ability to ask the right questions and engage your audience is so important. 

But how do you go about asking good questions? How do you start a conversation that helps you learn more about your customer? And what are some examples of good open-ended questions?

The key to asking better open-ended questions lies in understanding exactly what they are, when it’s appropriate to use them, and how. 

This post will cover all of this so that next time you’re conducting a customer interview or survey. 

You’ll be on your way to getting real answers rather than “yes” or “no” that can help inform your marketing strategy. We even included 29 examples at the end (you can jump ahead if you want!).

Analyzing Responses to Open Ended Questions
1. Open-ended questions provide qualitative insights beyond numbers.
2. Crafting effective open-ended questions involves avoiding leading language.
3. Open-ended questions are versatile, helping uncover emotions, preferences, and trends.
4. They complement quantitative data, offering context and depth.
5. Analyzing open-ended responses through thematic analysis reveals valuable insights.

Why Open-Ended Questions?

The main advantage of using open-ended questions is that they tend to elicit the most in-depth answers from your respondents. 

The reason for this is that you aren’t asking a specific question and then providing them with a limited number of answers. 

Instead, you’re giving them room to answer on their terms, which will help them feel more comfortable talking about whatever it is that’s on their mind at the time.

For example:

“What do you like most about our brand?” vs “What do you like most about our brand?”

In the first example, there are only 3 possible responses (or 4 if we include not answering at all). But in the second case, there are infinite options! 

A good example might be something like “We offer great customer service” or maybe even something less common such as “I like how affordable our toothpaste is.” 

The goal here isn’t necessarily for everyone who takes part in your survey to say exactly what they think but rather for each respondent to feel comfortable sharing what’s important to them and open-ended questions help make sure this happens!

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Formulating The Right Question

When you’re ready to ask your research participants a question, there are several things you can do to make sure that it’s the right one.

You want a specific question in terms of what information is being sought out. For example, if you’re looking for consumer opinions on an ad campaign, specify which ad campaign by providing its name and any other relevant details. 

You also want an open-ended question because this will give respondents more room to provide detailed answers and avoid leading them down certain paths.

It’s important that your questions be clear as well; this means being specific about what information you are looking for without using jargon.

Or acronyms that may not be familiar to people outside of your industry (e.g., when asking how often someone buys coffee at Starbucks). 

This will help ensure the respondent doesn’t get confused or lose interest before they’ve given their response.

Finally, keep in mind that good questions should be easy for respondents to answer and remember later! It’s helpful if they can be answered with simple yes/no choices rather than having users type out lengthy answers; 

However, sometimes allowing free text responses can expand upon what might otherwise have been an incomplete response.

Because users feel pressure toward brevity when typing out everything they know about something online (which is why we recommend including both types).

Choosing A Sample

In the first section, we’ll walk through choosing sample size. This is important because it’s the first step in ensuring your research will be accurate and useful for making decisions about how to proceed in your business. 

While it may be tempting to just use the same number of people as last time, you should consider whether you need more or fewer participants this time around. 

You might want to do more research if your situation has changed significantly since last time, or less if things have stayed pretty much the same. If there’s no obvious reason for changing how many people you’re using, then stick with what worked well before!

Next up: deciding on which type of sample will work best for your project. Remember that there are two main types of samples: convenience samples and probability samples. 

Convenience samples are generally easier than probability samples because they involve asking people who happen to be available at the moment rather than having them respond via random selection; 

However, they can also lead to bias since those who agree to participate may be different from those who don’t (and this isn’t always true). In contrast probability sampling involves finding a representative group based on certain criteria such as age range or income level; 

While this method is usually considered better than convenience sampling because it reduces bias against underrepresented groups like minorities who might not have responded due to their lower representation among respondents (if any).

It can still introduce errors into results due to its reliance on estimates rather than actual counts from across entire populations.

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Defining The Scope Of Your Questions

The scope of your research is defined by the purpose and objectives of the project.

A good way to think about this is that every research question has a scope, which can be defined as “the range of things that are being discussed or considered”. 

This can also be referred to as “what we will look at” or “what we won’t look at” in the context of our research question. It’s important to clarify this before asking any questions because some potential answers may not be relevant within the scope of what you’re researching (and vice versa).

For example, if you’re trying to determine why customers decide not to purchase from your company, then it wouldn’t make sense for someone who never considered buying from you in their life (because they don’t even know who you are) to tell you why they decided against purchasing from your company! 

So make sure that everyone involved is on board with defining what “in” means before starting any kind of conversation about it.

Ensuring Actionable Results

There are a number of ways you can improve your research results. This section will outline some tips for ensuring that all participants in the process are aware of their role, and understand what it is they have to do to ensure optimal results.

Ensure you have the right people in the room: It’s important when discussing how to use open-ended questions that you know who you need on board with this idea, and who will be responsible for implementing suggestions from interviews or focus groups. 

Are there any stakeholders involved? If so, make sure they’re included in discussions about open-ended questions and their use. 

Bringing them up early will help ensure that everyone understands what an open-ended question is, why it’s being asked (and how), as well as allow them to suggest other types of questions based on their experience

Make sure those involved are also included throughout each stage of testing: The same goes for decision-makers if someone is going to be making decisions based off data gathered from interviews or focus groups.

Then they need a chance at expressing concerns or ideas before any changes are made! 

Remember not only does this person need some say in how things go down from here on out but also needs time beforehand so he/she can provide feedback early enough so changes aren’t rushed upon implementation

State The Problem

When you’re writing your question, you should state the problem clearly and concisely. You need to get to the point! If your reader is a busy people, they will not want to waste time trying to figure out exactly what you are asking them. 

You also have to make sure that you’re stating the problem in a way that is relevant for your audience. 

Some people might be interested in answering questions about situations related to their work, but others may just want answers about personal issues or things that happened outside of work hours. 

Make sure you think about what kind of information would be useful for each person reading it before adding anything else to your question!

Also, remember State both sides of things as much as possible so there aren’t any misunderstandings later on down the road when it’s time for analysis/ interpretation 🙂

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Create A Question Pool

You can use a spreadsheet, mindmap, checklist, or template to create a question pool. The best way to do it is by creating an Excel file that has each question and its answer options on separate tabs. 

This will make it easier for you to see where you need more questions or if there are any duplicates in your list. 

You can also add comments at the bottom of each column so that all research stakeholders know what each question means and how it should be interpreted (and avoid confusion).

Sort And Prioritize Questions

A good way to start is by sorting and prioritizing questions, based on the level of detail needed. If you’re looking for basic demographic information (like age range and gender), you may only need to ask a few questions. 

However, if your research has more complex goals (like market segmentation), you’ll need several more open-ended questions to get the data needed to answer your research question(s).

The second step is prioritizing which questions need detailed answers versus those that only require quick responses. 

For example, if you want to know how many hours per week people spend watching TV on average as part of a marketing audit study for an existing brand or product line extension and this information isn’t essential it’s probably fine not asking about it at all! 

In contrast, if it’s critical information then go ahead and prioritize that question higher than others so that it gets asked first when someone completes your survey.

Don’t Make It Too Formal

One of the most important things you can do when using open-ended questions is not to make the language too complex. 

This will help you avoid putting off potential participants, and can even lead to them moving on from your research entirely if it’s too difficult for them to understand.

Make sure that all of your questions are easy to understand by using simple, everyday language. 

Don’t use jargon or technical terminology in any way; these terms will confuse many people who may want to participate in your study.

But don’t have an understanding of what they mean and even those who do will find it frustrating when they see these words used repeatedly throughout a survey. 

Similarly, avoid acronyms (e.g., ROI) and abbreviations (e.g., US), as well as metaphors (e.g., “I am happy like a pig in mud”) and puns (“Are you happy with our product?”). Do not use idioms like “a black sheep”, cliches such as “There’s no accounting for taste” or “Happy as Larry”.

Make It Conversational

To make it easy for your target audience to respond, you will want to use a conversational style.

In addition, you should avoid using long sentences. They are difficult to read and may lead the respondent to lose interest in what you are saying.

The best way to keep your questions short and simple is by using words or phrases that can be understood by anyone with even a basic education level. 

For example, instead of using “the United States” or “the government” when referring to these institutions/entities, use words like “America” and “the people who run our country.” 

This makes it much easier for respondents who might not have completed high school yet since they won’t feel intimidated by big words such as those mentioned above!

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Make It Easy On The Respondent By Keeping It Short

It’s important to keep it short for the respondent, so ask only one question at a time. You can even break this rule if you need to make sure you’ve covered everything, but don’t fall into the trap of asking two or three related questions in a row.

Try to limit yourself to one question per page on your survey (that is if you’re using paper surveys), and be mindful of how many questions are asked during each interview. 

If possible, try not to have more than three total interviews per research session this helps keep things moving quickly so that participants won’t get bored or annoyed with interviewing for too long.

Keep Interviewers In Mind

You probably haven’t spent much time considering the interviewer in your research. It’s easy to forget that they’re a critical part of the process and one of the most important factors in its success. 

But it’s important to remember that they need training, as well. If they’re not comfortable asking open-ended questions or asking them in a way that will help you get useful responses, then you’re going to have problems with this method.

The interviewer is responsible for setting up interviews with respondents, conducting them, and gathering information from them (through either written or verbal methods). 

If you don’t train them adequately on how to do these things properly, then you won’t end up getting high-quality responses from your respondents.

And this can make all the difference between having an effective marketing campaign and losing money due to stagnant sales or low customer satisfaction levels.

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Now you know that open-ended questions are the best way to get valuable insights from your audience. So, if you plan on asking open-ended questions in your next survey, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Keep the question simple
  • Don’t use “why” questions
  • Provide sufficient context for your question

Remember: by using open-ended questions, you’ll be able to identify what makes your audience tick and how they feel about your brand. And this will help you create better products and deliver a better experience for them.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources for further understanding and implementing open-ended questions in marketing research:

The Art of Crafting Open-Ended Questions A comprehensive guide on the art and science of creating effective open-ended questions that yield valuable insights in marketing research.

100 Open-Ended Survey Questions for Market Research Explore a collection of 100 thought-provoking open-ended survey questions designed to uncover deep insights from your target audience.

Mastering the Use of Open-Ended Questions in Surveys Discover the benefits and techniques of using open-ended questions in surveys to gather qualitative data that can enhance your marketing strategies.


What is the significance of open-ended questions in marketing research?

Open-ended questions allow respondents to express their thoughts in their own words, providing qualitative insights that help uncover nuances and emotions behind consumer behaviors.

How can I formulate effective open-ended questions for my market research?

Craft open-ended questions that encourage detailed responses, avoid leading language, and focus on specific aspects of your research topic.

What are some common applications of open-ended questions in marketing?

Open-ended questions are used to gather feedback on products, understand customer pain points, explore preferences, and uncover trends that quantitative data might miss.

How do open-ended questions complement quantitative data in marketing analysis?

While quantitative data offers statistical insights, open-ended responses provide context and depth to those numbers, helping to explain why certain trends or patterns exist.

What strategies can I use to analyze and interpret responses from open-ended questions?

Utilize thematic analysis to identify recurring themes, sentiments, and patterns in responses. This qualitative approach provides valuable insights into customer perspectives.