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How to get more survey respondents

These days, it seems respondent cooperation is on the minds of researchers and marketers everywhere. After all, the entire market research industry is built on the feedback of consumers. Without it, we wouldn’t have a product to sell.

Even though research is technically exempt from various non-contact regulations, this distinction is of little importance to someone when their phone rings at dinnertime or a bunch of emails from people they don’t know, or care about, show up in their inbox. So, smart marketers (and researchers) don’t try to reach people who don’t want to hear from us.

The result?

Telephone cooperation rates for surveys have been below 10% and falling for quite some time.

Online completion rates have fallen dramatically from the “early days” of the late 90’s. Adding to the consternation about online research, at least a few companies have been telling anyone who will listen how nearly everyone who takes an online survey is cheating or lying.

A crisis of ethics in America? No need to worry about your neighbor’s integrity. Other firms tell us how only a tiny fraction of 1% of the population takes all the surveys, anyway.

Are things really that bad? It’s hard to say. Keep in mind that the people making these claims do have a commercial interest in promulgating these ideas among potential research buyers. Even so, the underlying issues are valid and should be of concern to marketers and researchers.

Keep these tips in mind when fielding your next survey, and your cooperation rates, and data quality, will buck the trend:

  • Keep it short. As much as we’d like to think otherwise, no one is eagerly awaiting a survey from us so they can give us detailed, thoughtful feedback.
  • Keep it relevant. Talk to people about things they care about and they’ll respond. Don’t, and they won’t.
  • Offer them something of value. This doesn’t necessarily need to be money. It could be information, access, or affinity. Know your audience and you’ll be able to think of plenty of things to motivate them to talk to you.
  • You’re a marketer, so market. You need to break through the clutter, particularly with email. Think of the survey invitation as a direct response marketing piece where the conversion is a completed survey. This mindset will keep you focused on the needs of the respondent, which is where your focus should be, anyway.

If you want to hear more, I’ll be presenting a webinar on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at 10am pacific/noon central/1pm eastern time. I’ll be discussing how to implement the tips above when fielding a research study. The webinar is sponsored by the MRA Southwest Chapter.

Registration is free. Get login information.

About the Author

Ed Erickson is the President of Erickson Research, a Chicago market research consulting firm. You can find Ed on LinkedIn and .

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