Collect Revenue from a Survey Project

Most sponsors churn out external surveys primarily for their marketing advantages. They invest time and money as they would for other forms of public relations, market awareness, thought leadership, member benefits, and publicity. A portion of sponsors, however, realize that their extensive efforts to collect, clean and publish useful information need not be done for free; surveys can produce revenue.

The most common way that sponsors earn money from a survey is to charge for the report. They might charge a higher fee to those who have not participated, or they might charge more to participants who are not members of their trade group or organization. Anyone can complete the survey for nothing, but to see the aggregated results of the hard work of finding participants, doing quality assurance, analyzing the numbers, and reporting them, they will be asked to chip in.

My guess would be that fewer than 10% of publicized survey reports are for sale; most are intended to attract customers or clients and those who produce them want the widest readership possible. I won’t comment on the pricing of survey reports – what the market will bear or a nominal amount, mostly to separate out committed purchasers from casual, drive-by downloaders. At times sponsors set one price for larger law firms or law departments and a lower price for everyone else.

A variation on the set price or prices for the generic report is to create custom reports, and charge for that extra degree of specialization. Custom reports typically cost multiples of what generic reports cost.

Some sponsors sell advertising in the report they produce. Advertisements could range from listing a cosponsor on the title page and including a blurb at the end of the report about them, or it could manifest as more pervasive involvement. That could include quotes from clients of the sponsor or sidebars by them or even full-page advertisements placed in the report.

Webinars can command a fee so that when you talk about the findings of the survey and answer questions in a webinar, the sponsor can acquire a few coins. Again, like generic reports, most sponsors welcome as many attendees as they can attract to webinars and don’t want to deter anyone because of an entrance fee.

From time to time, you see co-promotion opportunities that generate revenue. For example, the publisher of a book that is closely related to the topic of the survey might pay the sponsor a royalty or per-book fee in return for promotion of the book (notably if someone clicks on a link to the book being promoted). This technique could apply to a conference organizer. As to that possibility, I have not heard of an in-person conference that is based solely on a legal-industry survey, but it is a possibility.

I will close by abhorring the practice of selling e-mail addresses that have been harvested during a survey project. A sponsor may use the emails of participants for their own mailings, but it is a violation of participants’ expected privacy rights to sell on that important piece of information. It is likewise wrong to skew any survey methodology or results in favor of an entity who pays the sponsor. A survey of software use in law firms, for example, should strive to be completely objective even in a vendor has a financial stake in the survey.