How to perform due diligence research using surveys

Is your prospect actually worth your time and cash? You could hire an expensive specialist firm to help perform due diligence research—but you don’t have to.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through how to conduct due diligence research using surveys in order to inform better decision-making and data collecting. Read on to learn more. 

What is due diligence?

Let’s clarify what we mean when we talk about due diligence and outline a few instances where you might need to use it. Due diligence is any research that can help you understand the attractiveness, appeal and prospects of a future partner, acquisition or investment. Investment research into the organization’s historical performance, transactions, legal status and deals should be carried out in order to determine whether the prospect is an attractive investment. The main types of due diligence are:

  • Merger or acquisition due diligence

One of the most common purposes of due diligence is when a company is considering whether to invest in, acquire or merge with another. The goal here is to determine whether the prospective company is legally and financially secure. A due diligence audit is designed to gather as much information about that business as possible so that the investing company can make a well-informed decision. 

  • Financial due diligence

Financial due diligence is undertaken when a buyer is seeking to purchase an expensive asset, such as a piece of real estate. The purpose here is to try to determine that the asset is worth the purchase price, and to identify any areas of risk. 

  • Customer due diligence

When seeking to develop new client relationships, a business will often want to make checks on a new customer in order to reduce the risk of conducting business with them. This is particularly important if the client is expected to bring in a significant proportion of sales. The level of customer due diligence that is needed will vary depending on the nature of the client and the expected relationship, but may include investigation into the customers’ business practices and financial health.

  • Vendor, buyer or supplier due diligence

Just as you might investigate the financial and legal stability of a prospective customer, so too might you perform due diligence on a company that you are seeking to develop supplier relationships with. It is common business practice for suppliers to grant longer payment terms to companies, and due diligence can help you determine whether a buyer is in a position to make payments.

  • Third party due diligence

Increasingly businesses are outsourcing core activity like IT or HR management to third party companies. If you’re considering this, it would be worthwhile performing due diligence on the firms on your shortlist before making a final decision.

So, due diligence can be undertaken in a variety of different scenarios. Below, we’ll show you how to use market research and gather feedback from customers through surveys as part of the due diligence process. 

Market research

Market research is necessary for conducting detailed and accurate due diligence research. More specifically, we mean research both into the way that the target firm is performing in its target market and perceived by consumers as well as any market trends that are likely to have any impact on the firm in the future. This will involve the collection of both primary and secondary data. By triangulating data of different types, you will be able to answer questions such as:

  • What is the size of the company’s market?
  • Who are the target markets, and what characteristics do they share?
  • Is the market growing or shrinking?
  • What are the most salient macro trends and micro drivers shaping the market?
  • What is the company’s current position in the market?
  • How positively is the company and its product offerings perceived by the target market?

Let's take a look at the different types of primary and secondary research you should consider for due diligence research.

Primary market research

Primary market research involves gathering your own, original data. There are a few different ways that you can use primary data in due diligence research, but market research surveys are one of the most effective ways to collect original data. Using surveys, you can glean insights from customers about their awareness of the target company, their perceptions of it, their understanding of its position relative to those of competitors and the degree to which they are satisfied. We have a little more on how you can use primary market research as part of your due diligence process below, but it might be beneficial to learn more about what SurveyMonkey can do to help you get started with collecting primary research.

Secondary market research

When performing due diligence research, secondary market research can also contribute to uncovering insights. This involves analysis of data that is already in existence, including both statistical data about the market and industry, as well as specific data that pertains to the firm of interest. The types of secondary data you might want to consider including in your due diligence research are:

  • Industry and market research reports that contain data about the factors impacting segment growth
  • Statistical data indicating market trends available from Statista and other statistics agencies
  • News stories and announcements that pertain to the target company and its competitors
  • Historical annual reports or strategy documents showing the firm’s previous performance, financial health and plans for the future
  • Any licenses or certifications held by the company
  • Any disputes that has involved the company

Target market research

The purpose of due diligence research is to gather as much information as you need to allow you to evaluate various options before making a decision. When researching target markets, using market research surveys is a great way to collect data.

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Brand awareness survey

Brand awareness surveys are excellent for performing due diligence research that is focused on a company you’re considering investing in. Why? Well, simply put, a brand that is well recognized and known by its target market is one that has better prospects for success and high performance than a lesser known brand. If your brand awareness survey reveals that the target audience has little knowledge of your target investment firm, it might be time to walk away from the deal or to renegotiate terms.

For the fullest picture possible, we recommend gathering three types of data in your brand awareness survey:

  • Free recall data

Use an open ended question to ask survey respondents to list the brands that first come to mind when they’re thinking about a certain category of goods. For instance, if you’re thinking of acquiring a pet foods brand, you might ask customers: Which brands do you think of first when you think of pet foods? If your target firm is listed, you have some early evidence that the market is aware of the brand.

  • Recognition data

You can also use a yes/no question to ask survey respondents directly whether they recognize the brand. A question like: Have you ever heard of [pet food brand name]? can also be followed up with questions about whether or not respondents have actually shopped with the brand or consumed its goods in order to find out whether brand awareness is translating into sales. 

  • Comparison data

It's worthwhile asking customers about their awareness of the target brand relative to its rivals. To do this, you’ll need a list of competing brands. Then, you can ask customers to compare their knowledge of these brands, or any experiences of them. Ranking questions are very useful here. For example, you might ask customers to rank the list of companies on the basis of which they have interacted with more. 

Customer feedback

When seeking to understand the financial health and stability of another company, it's easy to overlook the importance of customer feedback. However, customers are the lifeblood of any company, and so gathering data directly from customers on their perceptions of the firm is vital. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the different kinds of customer feedback surveys that can be used to perform due diligence. And, if you need help with assembling a consumer panel for data gathering purposes, we can help with that too. 

Customer satisfaction surveys

As you’ll know, customer satisfaction is one of the biggest drivers of business success. When customers are satisfied, they are also loyal, and willing to spend their hard earned cash with the companies that best serve their needs. Customer satisfaction also plays a key role in driving awareness of the brand, and positive word of mouth messages about it. For this reason, you should consider gauging the extent to which your target firms’ customers are satisfied with their product and service offerings, their value proposition and their customer service and customer satisfaction surveys can help to determine key metrics such as:

  • The degree to which customers are able to find what they’re looking for
  • Any customer needs that are currently going unmet
  • The extent to which are satisfied with the business, its products and services
  • Any service failures or other issues that that could present as a risk for customer satisfaction
  • Whether customers are satisfied with the actions that the firm takes in the event that things go wrong

Customer experience surveys

Another type of survey that you should consider as part of your due diligence research is the customer experience survey. Customer experience is all about how customers sense, feel, and react to the different parts of the buying process, including the pre-purchase stage, during consumption and after purchase. 

When customers have a negative experience, they are less likely to return to use the brand or make a repeat purchase. They may also share their negative experiences with others, either directly through negative word of mouth messages, or indirectly, such as through online reviews or posts on social media. If you’re considering investing in, acquiring or partnering with a company, it's worthwhile capturing insight into customer experience as part of your due diligence research. Customer experience surveys can help you gather information such as:

  • How customers found the company’s website, sales stores or any other distribution channels
  • Customers’ experiences of sales and customer service agents
  • The degree to which the product fulfilled their expectations
  • Any issues that the customers had with returning or seeking repairs to the product 

Customer loyalty survey

Customer loyalty describes the commitment of customers to reprioritize or rebuy from a preferred brand or service provider in the future. As such there is a strong relationship between customer loyalty and positive purchasing habits like the willingness to make more purchases with the brand, the tendency to browse the firm’s offerings more frequently and the propensity to spend more with the brand over time. Furthermore, customers develop a psychological attachment to the brand or product through repeated patronage, so loyal customers tend to have more positive attitudes towards a brand, which reinforces its image and perception in the minds of the target market. 

For all of these reasons, customer loyalty towards a brand is an excellent proxy measure of not only the brand’s current performance, but also its future potential. 

That’s why we recommend that you employ customer loyalty surveys in the process of performing due diligence research. Customer loyalty data can help uncover insights into the health of a company, and should be taken into consideration in making investment, buying or partnership decisions.

Start gathering due diligence data

So there you have it: the importance of performing due diligence research for informed, confident decision making, and how market research with surveys of various kinds can assist you. If you’re ready to start with some due diligence data collection, SurveyMonkey Audience can help you put together just the right kind of panel and deliver fast results. Or, to learn more about how to use market research to support your data collection efforts, read our latest market research guide.

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