Give Me One Good Reason to Take Your Survey
Here is the e-mail subject line to a request I just received from a research company asking me to take a survey: Your Help Is Key to Our Success. I find it hilarious that somebody thinks this is an enticing subject line, as if I care deeply about their success. They really want me to participate. Why? Because it will help them.
Trouble is, I don’t care whether they succeed. Sometimes I enjoy taking their surveys, but if they go belly up, that’s one less annoying request in my mailbox.
Instead of thinking about themselves, this company needs to think about their respondents. What’s in it for the respondents? Why would they want to take the survey? Indeed, as you consider conducting a survey of your own, these are important questions you should be asking, as well, and here are some potentially good reasons people might want to take your survey:
1. Some surveys are interesting because they are about new or unusual topics, or because they focus on issues the respondent knows a lot about. People enjoy offering opinions and ideas about topics that are interesting to them, and, in fact, it is one of the top reasons for survey participation cited by people on survey panels. If your topic is interesting, be sure to say right away what the survey is about—it may be the one good reason they need to take your survey.
2. Some surveys are deeply relevant to something respondents care about, maybe because the results are being used to make decisions they want to influence. For example, there have been local surveys in my community about riding bicycles because the city wants to build bike lanes to move towards non-automobile-centered transportation. I love the idea and want to give all the input I can. If your survey is deeply relevant and being used to make important decisions, say so right away—it may be the one good reason respondents need to take your survey.
3. Some surveys offer money or bonus points or free merchandise. If you are not yet offering a financial incentive for your survey, please consider it. It is often the strongest motivator, and since most surveys are for commercial purposes, doesn’t it seem right to pay the people who are helping you? Incentives for non-panel surveys might start at $2 and go all the way up to $200 for extremely complex, burdensome, or time consuming surveys. Money speaks, so tell your respondents right away how much you will pay them—it may be the one good reason they need to take your survey.
In short, identify all the reasons, or the one good reason, that survey respondents might want to take your survey. Communicate the reason(s) quickly and simply and sincerely. Above all, remember that survey respondents care mostly about themselves, not you, which means you need to keep focused on how the survey will benefit them.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.