Surprising Ways to Reduce Survey Costs: Give Respondents Money Before They Take Your Survey
One refrain you will see on these pages throughout 2021 is that the time of cheap and easy online surveys is probably coming to a bitter, crashing end. Response rates are plummeting, even lower than we thought possible. Cheap online research panels (which are used for the vast majority of market research) are rife with fraud.
This means old-fashioned sampling strategies and recruiting techniques will again come to the fore, because if you want reliable data from a survey, you will have no choice.
Here are some techniques that researchers at the top of their game in our industry are experimenting with. Researchers from the RAND Corporation built a probability-based sample of teachers to conduct ongoing surveys with this hard-to-reach and hard-to-sample population. They tested all kinds of strategies to recruit the teachers. Here are three of the top findings from their recently published work:
- When recruiting people, pay them a modest amount right away, instead of promising a large payment (an incentive) after they participate. Most people will take the money and disappear, but the token of goodwill gets substantial numbers to pay attention and take you seriously, which makes them far more likely to participate. This reduces your recruiting costs, and actually saves money in the end.
- If you are sending communications by mail, use FedEx instead of regular postal mail. Just like paying them up front, it gets people to pay attention and take you seriously, which makes them more likely to say “yes.” And just like offering a pre-payment, it reduces your recruiting costs, and saves money in the end.
- Forget about gift cards. People want cash or checks. Giving them payment in the way they want will boost your response rate and make recruiting easier.
If you are doing any kind of DIY survey work, start paying attention whenever you see new research evaluating techniques of sampling and recruitment. I promise you will need this information sooner than you think!
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.