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Boost your survey response rates

Getting people to respond to surveys can be tricky. Let's be honest, nobody loves filling them out. But, high response rates are crucial for collecting meaningful data. So how do you actually get people to take the time to fill them out? Let’s dive into some tips and tricks that can help help move the needle.

Clear and concise questions

First things first, keep your questions clear and to the point. Nobody likes wading through long, complicated questions filled with jargon. Simple language and straightforward questions are the way to go. If your respondents don’t have to overthink each question, they’re more likely to complete your survey without getting frustrated.

When you're crafting questions, think about only the essential information you need to collect. Break down complex ideas into simpler, more digestible parts. So instead of asking, "How satisfied are you with the comprehensive service delivery and support mechanisms provided?" go for, "How happy are you with our customer service?" Also, consider the order of your questions. Start with easy, non-intrusive questions to build momentum, saving more detailed or personal questions for later in the survey. This way, respondents will be more invested and are more likely to stick it out to the end.

Personalize your survey invitation

Personalization makes a big difference. When you send out your survey invitations, make it feel personal. Use the respondent’s name and tailor the content to their interests or past interactions they've had with you or your business. A personalized touch can make people seen and thus more likely to take part.

Think about how you can customize the survey invitation. Instead of a generic "Dear customer," address them more conversationally by name, "Hi Alex,". Reference something specific to them, like a recent purchase or interaction, to show you value their individual feedback. You could say, "We hope you’re enjoying your new running shoes, Alex. Could you spare a few minutes to tell us about your shopping experience?" This approach not only grabs their attention but also makes them feel that their opinion is specifically sought after and valued.

Offer incentives

Everyone loves a little reward. Offering incentives like discounts, gift cards, or entries into a prize draw can be a great motivator. Just make sure the incentive is something your audience will appreciate. It’s a balancing act between offering something attractive and not breaking the bank.

When choosing an incentive, consider your target audience and what they would find valuable. For instance, if you’re a retail store, offering a discount on their next purchase might be a great incentive. If your audience is more professional, a gift card to a popular coffee shop or an entry into a raffle for a bigger prize could work well. At my last company, we found that a simple $20 Amazon Gift Card worked wonders—but that can add up quickly.

Just make ssure that the incentive is clearly communicated in the survey invitation and that the process to claim it is simple and straightforward. Transparency about the incentive can also help build trust and encourage participation.

Optimize the survey length

Let’s be honest—nobody wants to spend forever on a survey. Keep your survey short and sweet. Aim for the right length to keep respondents engaged. To determine the optimal length, think about your audience and their likely tolerance for survey length. Generally, surveys that take longer than 10 minutes to complete see a significant drop in completion rates. To keep it concise, focus on the questions that will provide the most valuable insights.

If you need more detailed information, consider breaking your survey into multiple shorter surveys over time. Additionally, progress bars can be a great tool. They give respondents a visual cue of how much more they have to go, which can reduce the feeling of being stuck in a never-ending survey (we offer this out-the-box at Outerform).

Timing your distribution

As they say—timing is everything. Sending your survey at the right time can dramatically improve response rates. Think about when your audience is most likely to have a few minutes to spare. Avoid sending surveys during busy times or late at night. Finding the perfect time can actually have an meaningful effect.

Understanding your audience's routine can help determine the best time to send out your survey. For example, if your audience is primarily working professionals, sending a survey during office hours might not yield the best results. Instead, try late morning or early evening when they might have more free time. Also, avoid weekends and holidays when people are less likely to check their emails. Use analytics and past response data to identify trends in response times and days. Lastly, consider time zones if your audience is spread out geographically to ensure you're not sending the survey at inconvenient hours for some of your respondents.

Ensure it's mobile-friendly

I almost didn't include this because it seems so obvious—but time and time again I'm proven wrong. The truth is, a lot of people will be taking your survey on their phones. Making sure your survey is mobile-friendly is a must. A design that looks great and works well on mobile devices will make it easier for respondents to complete your survey wherever they are. Test your survey on various devices to ensure it’s user-friendly.

A mobile-friendly survey should have a clean, simple layout that’s easy to navigate on smaller screens. Use larger buttons and touch-friendly elements to make it easy for users to select options without having to zoom in. Avoid large blocks of text and keep questions concise. Interactive elements like dropdowns should work smoothly on mobile devices. Before launching your survey, test it on multiple devices and operating systems to catch any potential issues. Remember, a survey that is cumbersome to complete on a phone is likely to be abandoned.

Send reminders

Sometimes people just need a little reminder. Sending out a well-timed reminder can nudge those who haven’t yet completed your survey. Be mindful not to spam them, though. A gentle reminder or two can be effective without being annoying.

Timing is crucial for reminders. Give respondents a reasonable amount of time to complete the survey before sending a reminder. For instance, if your initial survey invitation went out on a Monday, consider sending a reminder on Thursday. Craft your reminder message to be polite and appreciative of their time. Something like, "Hi Alex, just a friendly reminder to complete our survey. Your feedback is important to us!" can work well. If you still don’t get a response, a second, final reminder a week later can be effective. Make sure to clearly state that it’s the final reminder to create a sense of urgency without being pushy. This might also be a good moment to try out incentives.

Use multiple channels

Don’t just stick to one way of distributing your survey. Use multiple channels—like email, social media, and your website—which can help expand your reach to a broader audience. Each channel might attract different respondents, so spreading out your efforts can give you better results.

It's also worth thinking about where your audience is most active. Say you run a newsletter and communicate mainly over email—an email survey might work best. However, if your audience is active on social media, posting the survey link there can capture their attention. You can also embed the survey on your website or include it in your newsletter. Each channel has its strengths, and using a mix can help ensure your survey reaches a wide and varied audience. As I mentioned earlier, don't forget to track which channels are most effective for future reference.

Build trust through transparency

Trust is huge when it comes to surveys. Be upfront about why you’re conducting the survey and how you’ll use the responses. Assure your respondents that their data is safe and their privacy is protected (assuming it actually is). When people trust you, they’re more likely to participate.

Start by clearly explaining the purpose of your survey in the invitation and at the beginning of the survey itself. Let respondents know how their feedback will be used and the impact it can have. If the survey is anonymous, make that clear to alleviate privacy concerns. If you need to collect personal information, explain why it’s necessary and how it will be protected. Transparency about data security and privacy can build trust and make respondents feel more comfortable sharing their honest opinions.

Follow up with results

People like to know that their input matters. It's another way to build good-will and trust. After collecting your survey responses, follow up by sharing the results with your respondents. Show them how their feedback is making a difference. This not only builds trust but also encourages them to participate in future surveys.

Once you’ve analyzed the survey data, share the key findings with your respondents. This can be done through an email update, a blog post, or a summary on your website. Highlight any changes or actions you plan to take based on their feedback. For example, "Thanks to your input, we’re making these improvements…" Little actions like this show that you value your respondant's opinions and are committed to acting on their feedback. It also sets a positive precedent for future surveys, as respondents will be more likely to participate again knowing their input is taken seriously.

Wrapping up

Improving your survey response rates isn’t rocket science, but it does require a bit of effort and strategy. By following these basic guidelines, you can significantly boost your survey response rates. Give these tips a try and see how they work for your next survey!

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