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How can I increase my response rate?

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Many of our customers ask us: How can I increase my response rate?

Well, here are a few easy and useful ways to boost this number.

1. Sender recognition

The sender of the e-mail invitation should be a name the respondent recognises. Respondents are more likely to read a mail if they know the sender’s name. For instance, use the company name instead of a person’s name.

2. Interesting subject

Make the subject line of your e-mail invitation as attractive as possible. Grab their attention, make them curious or tempt them with an incentive. At the same time, watch out your mail is not seen as spam. Words like ‘free’ or too many non-alphabet characters may get caught in a spam filter. Test your creation with a small panel first to see what works.

3. Appearance is everything

Studies show that when respondents receive a mail they first glance at the sender and subject and then if they decide to look at the content, they first look at the mail as a whole without reading the fine print. Make sure there are some key words that stand out. Give your mail a professional look without making it look like a sales mail. Try to be as true to your ‘house style’ as possible. This speeds up the name recognition and increases the trust factor of the mail.

4. Keep it short

Don’t get carried away asking too many questions, most respondents will only give about 10 concentrated minutes. You can better split up your panel and send each one a shorter survey. Which response rate matters, survey starts or completes?

5. Make them feel important

In your e-mail invitation, emphasise how important the respondent’s feedback is for you. If possible state the goal of the survey so that the respondent knows why he is giving his time. For instance, ‘your answer will allow us to improve the quality of our service/product’.

6. Incentive

A great stimulant, to not only get the respondent to start taking your survey, but also to insure that they get all the way to the end, is to offer an incentive. Make sure that you mention that the respondent must complete the whole survey in order to be eligible for the prize. The better the incentive the higher the response. It is a good idea to add an extra question at the end of the survey where the respondent can enter his/her e-mail address. Think carefully about audience when choosing the incentive. While movie tickets are good for consumer surveys, they will have less impact on a B to B survey.Let ‘marketing’ get involved, instead of sending the winners a bottle of wine, give them a coupon to pick it up in your store. No delivery costs and you drove some traffic.

7. Adapted reminders

If you choose to send reminders, don’t just send the original e-mail invitation again. Instead alter and shorten the subject and text. Once again let them know how important it is that they respond. Remind them about the incentive.

For reminders you send to respondents who only partially filled in the survey, you could for instance, thank them for the time they already spent on the survey and politely ask them to continue since complete survey responses are important for your analysis and they will only be eligible for the incentive if they complete the survey. Make sure you change the ‘Start survey’ link to something like ‘Continue survey’ and tell the respondent that they don’t have to start over. They will return to the page they stopped on.

8. Up to date address file

If you plan to distribute your survey via e-mail, it is critical that the addresses you will use are up to date. E-mail addresses change very rapidly, especially free ones like hotmail or yahoo. We often see hard-bounce rates of 10%. A hard bounce is an e-mail message that has been returned to you because the recipient’s address is invalid. A hard bounce might occur because of a spelling mistake in the e-mail address, because the domain name doesn’t exist, or the recipient is unknown.

Take every opportunity to collect e-mail addresses. Every form you send out should have a field for an e-mail address.

9. Watch out for pop-up blockers

If you are planning on conducting a web-survey on your website, watch out for pop-up blockers. Surfers are bombarded with little browser windows that open when they visit websites without being trigged by user action. Most are ads. To prevent this, surfers have turned to pop-up blockers, like the ones from Google, Yahoo, Norton and WinXp SP2. They stop the pop-up window from opening.There is a simple way to avoid this, by using what are called ‘virtual pop-ups‘. Instead of really opening a new window, a box is created with JavaScript and DHTML that seems to float over the webpage. The size, look, and content of the box can be customised. In the box, the website visitor is asked if they wish to participate in a web survey. There are two buttons that either open the survey in a new window, or close the ‘virtual pop up’. The result is then placed in a cookie so that the visitor won’t be bothered by the ‘virtual pop up’ again.

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