Top ten ways to increase your survey's response rate

1. Keep it short. It's ideal to send your survey by email or at least have it all on one page. Participants can see how long it is and mentally judge how long it will take them to respond. They will be more likely to finish the survey if they can see the end of it. Ideally 20 questions or less yields the best response rates.

2. Open-ended is good, in moderation. Open-ended questions allow a survey participant to type in anything they want. This type of question is very valuable in helping to collect information that is unique to each participant. However, open-ended questions can make data analysis quite cumbersome so use them in moderation, one or two per survey.

3. Honesty is the best policy. What are you going to do with the data you are collecting? Are responses anonymous, private, or will a participant's responses be identified by their contact information. In most cases, as long as you are up front about what you are doing with your data and how it will be shared, participants are happy to respond to your survey.

4. Motivate and reward. You're asking for your participants' time. Why not give something back to them to motivate them to respond? After all, it's unrealistic to ask for something and not give something back. Keep it simple-offer promotion items or coupons as a thank you. Or offer a sweepstakes in which every respondent is entered to win free chance at a worthwhile prize for everyone that responds (Amazon.com gift certificates are a frequent favorites and easier to offer via email).

5. Do a test run. Select a handful of people to pre-flight take the survey with before it's launched. Ask them to critique your question wording and flow. Did they get stuck anywhere? Was there any question that they were unsure of how to answer? Review the test responses and see if the data is helpful. The more you can refine your survey to clarify any confusion or miswording, the less of a chance that participants will get confused and exit your survey before completing it.

6. Don't be a stranger. Should you list your name or email address as the survey sender? Depends. If you are familiar and recognizable to your participants, yes. If not, consider using the name or email address of a more familiar face in your organization, making sure, of course, that this person approves. A survey can also be sent from a general company address too.

7. Send out invitations. Invitations work wonders. A good invitation simply says "we'll be sending you a survey shortly and we'd like your feedback." Put the send date if you know it. When your survey participants eventually receive your survey by email, web site link or however you send it, mentally, they've already booked time to complete it. In a sense it's a "scheduled event" -- something they'll be more likely to make time for.

8. Be considerate about timing. Sending on weekends to businesspeople is not as effective as a weekday, whereas consumer surveys can be quite effective when sent during non-business hours. Summer months and holidays are typically bad for sending to anyone. NOTE: Seems that this sentence could potentially hurt business in summer months. May want to consider taking it out. Avoid getting dumped into the "Monday Morning" pile-the daunting stack of email that accumulates over the weekend that most people spend their Monday mornings wading through.

9. Give them a second chance. A week or so after you send your survey, send it again (keeping in mind the same guidelines you used before to choose your timing). You may have caught them at a bad time-crunch time during a big project, leaving for vacation, or just a plain bad week. Remind them of the reward you're offering.

10. Thank your participants. It doesn't have to be big, just an email note but do send a note of thanks letting participants know that you appreciate their time. Let them know how successful the survey campaign was. Tell them about surprising and exciting learnings that have been garnered from the survey results. Consider including some preliminary results or statistics from your survey. Why? Because the next time you want to send a survey, you'll be even more likely to get responses.

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