8 Tips for Maximizing Survey Response Potential

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1 8 Tips for Maximizing Survey Response Potential You ve built a survey and are ready to make it available to potential respondents. But how do you convert those potential respondents into completed responses? Especially when it is so easy for surveys to get lost in today s already survey-saturated Web. Information is your ultimate goal. Without a good number of responses you may not be gathering enough usable data. For example, if you send a survey to 100 people and 10 people respond, the information you ve collected only represents the feelings of 10% of your target respondents. That won t give you an accurate representation of what your survey sample thinks. As a general rule, the more responses you can collect, the better. This best practice guide offers several tips, eight to be exact, on how to optimize surveys to make sure they get noticed and improve your survey response rate. 1. Optimize Invitations When inviting potential respondents to take a survey via there are a number of ways to optimize the to make sure your survey invitation is seen by recipients. Before you can even think about responses you need to make sure the survey invitation is reaching the eyeballs of potential respondents, which is not always a sure-thing when using to as your distribution method. After all of the careful consideration you took while creating your survey, the last thing you want is for recipients to miss your invitation due to spam blockers and lousy subject lines. When building body copy and subject lines try to avoid using words or characters that have potential for triggering spam alerts. The more obvious of these include: Free Amazing Prizes Click Here Form Win Please Read The list of words you shouldn t say via is actually quite extensive. Conducting a simple Web search for spam words should turn up a number of online resources to help you proofread subject and body text. It is important that you trigger a connection with the recipient at first glance, beginning with the From information and subject line. Make sure the From name is something 1

2 your recipients will recognize. If recipients don t know who the sender is right away, they will get suspicious and are less likely to open your invitation. If your organization isn t clearly presented in the From address used, make the effort to create a new address or be sure to at least include your company name in the subject line. While we re on the topic of subject lines, remember: less is more. A general rule of thumb is to limit subject lines to 50 characters or less. Keep it simple and remember to avoid spammy words and characters. Finally, when a recipient opens your invitation make sure the survey activation link is clearly marked among your message text. This is easier to do if you formatted your in HTML. If you chose to send your in plain text, make sure the isn t too wordy and place the survey URL on its own line so that it stands out from other text. Within a handful of seconds a recipient should be able to tell: a. who the invitation is from b. what the invitation is for c. how to access the survey Send a test invitation to friends or colleagues to see how long it takes them to answer to those three questions. 2

3 Recommended Tool: Checkbox s Invitations Wizard allows you to create an unlimited number of invitations for any given survey. Depending on your plan you can deploy between 5000 and an unlimited number of invitations to recipients per month. After an invitation is sent you can filter recipients by who has responded, opted-out, or deleted an invitation, and send reminders if desired. 2. Make a Good First Impression A potential homebuyer makes up her mind within the first 8 seconds of walking through the front door. A website viewer decides whether or not to stay on a page in under 3 seconds. The same rules apply to survey respondents. It s all about the first impression. If potential respondents don t like what they see right off the bat, they could lose interest without even glancing at the first question. Make the extra effort to create a dynamic style template for your surveys. A good survey design includes: a. Majority of survey located above the fold - All of the important information you want to present to a respondent (messages, questions, logos, buttons, etc.), should be clearly placed above the fold, a term borrowed from print media that translates to the web as visible without scrolling. b. Strategic color placement create some visual interest without overpowering the survey questions. c. Contrasting text make sure important information stands out. d. Branding! include a company logo in the header or footer of your survey and use your brand colors in survey elements like borders, progress bars, and navigation buttons. You want respondents to recognize your brand in those first precious seconds so be sure to reflect your company or organization in your survey design. e. No third party branding - If you are using a third party survey creation tool to build surveys or forms, try to find one that doesn t brand every page of your survey with their own company logo. This can be confusing to respondents and diminishes the professionalism of your survey. 3

4 No Style Applied: Style Applied: 4

5 Recommended Tool: Create customized survey style templates within Checkbox s Styles Manager. Templates can be applied to multiple surveys to maintain a consistent campaign look and feel. Customizable features include progress bars, background colors and images, buttons, borders, matrix styles, headers, footers, body text, and more! No technical knowledge is required to create customized survey templates. 3. Set Expectations The information included on the first page of a survey should clearly identify who the survey is from, what it is for, and should set expectations for how long the survey should take to complete. Time yourself taking the survey to gauge an estimate. Knowing the time required to complete a survey in advance allows respondents work it into their schedules. If no estimate is indicated and a respondent begins a survey assuming it will only take 5 minutes, he is more likely to abandon the survey after the 5 minutes he allotted himself have elapsed. Another best practice is to include survey progress markers, such as page numbers and progress bars, on every page of a survey. Progress markers track respondents progress though a survey, encourage them to continue, and set expectations for how much more time will be needed to complete the survey. If there is no end in sight, respondents may be more likely abandon the survey. Recommended Tool: Mention the survey length or estimated completion time in a Message Item at the beginning of your survey. Checkbox also offers progress markers such as page out of indicators and a customizable progress bar that let the respondent know how far they are in the survey. 5

6 4. Simplify The above the fold rule doesn t stop on the first page of a survey. If at all possible, avoid long lists of survey questions. Scrolling through pages wastes time and can be frustrating for a respondent, reducing the likelihood that they will complete your survey. Try to keep the number of questions on a page under 5 to ensure your navigation buttons (next, back, submit) are kept in sight at all times. Having the buttons visible encourages respondents to continue. Ask conditional qualifying questions to determine whether certain questions or pages can be hidden from a respondent later in the survey. This not only tailors your survey to each individual respondent, but condenses the overall survey by weeding out irrelevant questions. 6

7 Use conditions and skip logic to condense and personalize surveys. Had the survey creator in the example above asked a qualifying question about whether or not the respondent donates online, those respondents who do not donate online could have skipped over this page entirely. In the same vein as conditions/skip logic, text merging can be used to prepopulate default values, such as contact information, to save the respondent time. Recommended Tool: Set up page conditions, item conditions, branching rules, and use merging to tailor surveys to respondents. 5. Positive Reinforcement Although we like to think that respondents want to spend their free time completing our surveys, the truth is most of them need a little motivation. Offering an incentive for completing a survey is a sure-fire way to increase a survey s response rate. Commonly used incentive offers include: Gift certificates Vacation draws Store credit Free training Although incentive offers almost always yield a higher number of responses, be aware that the quality of responses can sometimes be compromised by the desire win a prize. If you think respondents might be racing though surveys for the reward without putting much thought into their answers, consider changing the incentive offer or removing it all together. 7

8 A tip for positively reinforcing respondents to complete surveys on the long term is to divulge survey response data. Unless explicitly told, respondents don t usually expect to see the results of a survey they take, but if the opportunity arose, they would jump at the chance to see if their opinions align with the masses. Not only are respondents curious about the data, they like the feeling of inclusion they get when such information is shared with them. Rewarding respondents with the knowledge that their participation in your survey directly influenced positive changes in your organization will likely encourage them to not only complete future surveys, but provide thoughtful responses. Below are two examples of how you could reveal response data to respondents: a. Display hard facts, such as an aggregate visual report, at the end of a survey to show respondents where they fit in. b. respondents with results after the survey closes: 80% of students indicated that evening classes are preferred over morning classes, therefor we will be increasing the number of evening course offerings beginning Spring 2012 semester or As a result of your helpful feedback, EcoLight.com has decided to extend our holiday support hours from 9AM-5PM to 8AM-midnight through January 10, 2012 Recommended Tool: Checkbox s reporting tool allows you to generate engaging, sharable visual reports. The application also doubles as an tool, which can be used to distribute response or incentive information to respondents. 6. Make it Count Give respondents a meaningful reason (other than a prize) to complete your survey. Think about who is responding to your survey and establish your relationship with them right away. Are your target respondents employees? Customers? Whoever your respondents are, they aren t going to give your survey a second look if they don t feel invested in it in some way. In your survey invitation or on the welcome page of your survey, explain (as concisely as possible): a. your relationship to the respondent b. why the respondent is being asked to take the survey c. why they should complete the survey 8

9 The latter could be accomplished by describing how the respondent feedback could benefit them down the line. In the welcome message above you can easily pick out the relationship between the survey sender and respondent (respondent attended sender s show), why the respondent is being asked to take the survey (sender requests attendee opinions, comments and questions), and how completing the survey will benefit the respondent (relevant and useful content in future shows and the chance to win two free passes to next year s show). 7. Test Before making a survey live to potential respondents, make sure you and a few others test the survey for grammar, flow, and ease of use. If you include conditions in a survey, test all of the possible logic paths. Remember, if you have difficulty taking a survey so will your respondents. Avoid confusion and survey abandonment by always testing surveys before launching it. Recommended Tool: Checkbox allows you to test surveys at any point during the survey creation process. You can even share a test link to allow others to submit test responses, which are separated from actual responses. 8. Remind, Remind, Remind Sometimes all respondents need to complete a survey is a little push. Just because they didn t respond to your survey the day you launched it doesn t mean they didn t want to. Maybe they simply got busy and forgot. Because this is often the case, it doesn t hurt to send or post a reminder towards the end of a survey response period. Create a sense of urgency in survey reminders by informing respondents that time is running out to get their voices heard. Don t get carried away, though. One or two reminders should be enough to boost your response rate. 9

10 Filter Recipients by Response Status: Send a Reminder to Recipients Who Haven t Responded: Recommended Tool: Using Checkbox s powerful Invitations Manager you have the ability to filter recipients by response status and send reminders to anyone who hasn t responded. 10

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