7 Best practices for writing a killer survey invitation

survey invitation7 Tips for writing a killer survey invitation

I’ve been in survey research for ~20 years and have seen some abysmal response rates to studies.  I’ve seen market research professionals spend months working with clients designing an online survey, hundreds of hours programming the questionnaire, $25,000+ to rent email lists (and more to pay for an incentive) yet spend no more than 10 minutes on the invitation.  Ironically it is these same people that complain about renting the lists and the ridiculously low response rates.

 Writing a survey invitation that will be read is one of the most critical aspects of a study yet research suppliers rarely put much thought into the process.  Nearly all the rules of thumb that work for an email marketing campaign apply to creating a noticeable questionnaire invitation.  Here are a few recommendations in order of importance:

1) Make it through the spam filters.  Many suppliers will try to send a survey “for you”   A lot of survey invitations are never seen from the potential respondents because they are flagged as phishing emails.  If you’re using a vendor to send the invitations, make sure you configure an SPF record & DKIM records.  Also make sure you test the subject line and email body on a free spam tester.  Also review lists of words frequently flagged as spam. 

Another important aspect of this is to make sure your invite is NOT too “flashy”.  Limit the number of “pretty” images in the email (or don’t even create an HTML version and stick with plain text).  “Flashy/Pretty” emails look too much like spam / marketing emails and respondents will ignore the invitation believing it is coming from a company rather than a person.

2) Make sure the “Reply to” is from a person/source that is recognized (or of interest) to the potential respondent.  Having the invitaiton come from a senior person or expert at your company is better than “Joe Shmoe” 

3) Keep subject line & message short!  (50 characters or less).  If people don’t read your invite, you have no chance for them to click the link.  The subject line is the most influential parameter to get someone to open and read your survey invitation. 

4)Your invitation must get them to want to participate.  Here are a few appeals that work:

a) Explain how their answering will help THEM (you’ll create products more to their liking, etc.)

b) Offer an incentive (Cash, raffle, discount, donation to charity, etc.)

c) Tell them they are experts

d) Beg, plead, and ask for help!

e) Have more than one link to the questionnaire

f) Thank them for their participation ahead of time

5) Pre-test 2 or 3 variations of your invitation.  Depending on the quality of your email sample and expected incidence rates, you probably want to have cells of at least 50 w/max of 500 without using more than 10% of your available list.

6) Give them an accurate idea of how long it will take to complete the survey

7) Be human-  People are much more likely to want to help another person than a company.  Write the invitation as if you are having a direct conversation with your recipient.  The more they feel a connection, the likelier they are to complete the survey.

 If your research provider does not have the expertise, have them work with a company that does!  Email campaign management companies are experts and can crank it out very quickly.

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