Please answer! How to improve Survey Response Rate

Writing surveys can take a lot of time and effort (though less if you do it on So it can be exceptionally frustrating to send your survey out to a group of customers, customers, etc., only to get a terrible response rate. In this post we’ll cover some tips and tricks for giving yourself the best chance to get the data you need.

‘Yay, a survey!’ – Nobody ever

We’ve all been there…an email from a brand you may or may not know is requesting your feedback, and your enthusiasm is, well, not high. Our clients work hard to develop the right survey, but then their response rates have been as low as 0.1% and as high as 80% (rare circumstances). The response rate you get is going to be the result of a number of factors, some of which you can control, and some of which you can’t. So let’s focus on the factors you can control.

First off, an example of what might not work – here’s an email that I got no more than 10 minutes before writing this piece…

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I actually love Trade Coffee – if you’re a coffee aficionado please check them out, they’re the absolute best. They do a few things right in this email and a few things that they could improve.

  1. Expectations, expectations, expectations

a) I’ve never previously agreed to participate in studies for Trade. This is not a showstopper, but if you can get folks to opt-in, you’ve got a lot better shot at their participation – this can be one of the specific marketing options that you request when a customer signs up.

b) ‘A few minutes’ is vague and causes me to distrust the actual amount of time that the survey will take. Be specific and offer a number of questions or amount of time that it will actually take.


2. Brevity

a) The message here is overall really good. It’s short, to the point, and clear about what the survey is informing. That’s admirable, and they incorporate the link into the request text. All of these things will give Trade a great chance at getting responses.

b) The survey is also good in its length, but as with any survey, you should continually ask yourself if there’s a more concise way to get the same information. By trimming all of the unnecessary parts of a survey, you get to set an even better expectation in 1b

3. WIFM – Incentives can come in monetary and intangible forms.

a) Be exciting if possible – Trade doesn’t quite tease me with how this survey will let me get to see things that are coming before the rest of the world. New product development surveys can be exciting to customers for example, so don’t sell them short! Trade might have tweaked the language a bit, “We’ve got something big coming! As a valued customer we want to give you a sneak peek and hear your thoughts.”

b) Coupons / discount codes for a new product for participating can be a great way to incentive participation AND to get some early adopters that you’ll be able to get feedback from. Even better if you can offer early access to something new.

c) Financial incentives can help – we find that $20 to Amazon or Starbucks motivate a lot of people to participate. If you really need participants, recognize that your audience’s time is valuable and as a result, you should value it. We find much greater rates of participation if the incentive is small but guaranteed than if it is a sweepstakes.

4. Write and design well

a) Be personal – if you can merge in first names to the email and add a personal detail like ‘we’ve loved having you as a customer since 2012’, then it goes a long way to showing the effort and thought you’ve put in to including each recipient in a study.

b) Use a simple and attractive template – make your HTML email look good and be responsive. Looking professional and rendering well on mobile will give you a good chance that the recipient will get the message and not be overwhelmed by clutter or extraneous text.

5. Use the strongest relationship possible – if you have a firm like Corus helping with the process, your customers may ignore an email from a research firm whereas a request from you directly may be more persuasive.

6. Follow up and share the results! – This one might not be as apparent, but following up is a great tool for continued participation. Let your customers know what you found out, what surprised you, and thank them for their continued support. This will ensure that you have a rich pool of participants that you can pull from when you need input, and set you up for success in the future.

Good luck gathering your feedback and let us know if you found these tips to be helpful!

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