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Surveys – time vs. incentive

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Wednesday September 12, 2007 )

I’m often asked to participate in surveys from marketing companies relating to marketing or ecommerce issues. Usually I don’t participate as the request note fails to provide some important information. If you’re contemplating running a survey, here’s how to grab the attention of folks like me – and I suspect many other types of people too.

Surveys are incredibly powerful tools for helping to improve your online business – but in certain sectors, requests to complete various surveys come thick and fast and many potential respondents ignore them based on past experience.

Emails requesting my participation often include the line “it will only take a few minutes of your time” along with a promise of something for free – a report, entry in a draw etc. etc. etc. Freebies are good.

But how many is a few minutes? 4, 8, 10… more?

Will I get halfway through it and then find multiple choice questions turn into questions *requiring* comment and therefore I’ll probably just abandon it without my freebie? Will the survey be flexible enough or will it ask questions from me that aren’t applicable, yet require an ill-fitting answer?

Given previous experience with “just a few minutes” type surveys that turned out to be inquisitions rivalling senate inquiries, I tend to delete the request email and move on – and I supect I’m not alone.

When requesting participation in a survey, think of it as not just asking for the person’s valuable time, but part of their life that they won’t get back. The incentive must match the effort needing to be expended by the respondent. The more “high end” your survey targets, the more likely the potential respondent will value that time.

Short surveys require small incentives. Long surveys; big incentives, particularly if you’re going to be asking probing questions. Personally, I feel that being thrown into a draw with X other entrie for a chance to win $50 gift certificate is not a good incentive. Heck, I wouldn’t provide an email address for that, let alone any further information. I want something for my time.

Let people know approximately how long it will take to complete. If possible, set the survey up so you still get to collect the data from sessions that are abandoned. Better still, try and rig it so a person can save their session if they are short on time. If you’re offering some sort of incentive; try to grab the email address from the outset; that way you can follow up with those who abandon the survey, if only to ask why they did – that will provide good information for further surveys you run.

If you’re looking for a professional survey platform at a economical price – take a peek at Survey Gizmo. Basic accounts are free, the service offers a great range of features and their professional packages are quite reasonably priced.

Pick up some more tips on running surveys and polls.


2 comments for Surveys – time vs. incentive
  1. Thanks for the heads up on survey gizmo,Mike. Also “Let people know approximately how long it will take to complete.” That’s a great tip for those who want something good to result out of surveys. If people know how much time the survey taking will eat, then they can decide whether they’d take it or not. A good incentive or two won’t hurt too.

    Comment by Gerri Bryce — September 14, 2007 @ 2:52 am

  2. Hi Gerri, welcome to the blog! Yep, I really think we fall into the trap of undervaluing people’s time these days; also added to that is that we’re pretty much the fast food generation – everything needs to be done quickly and there better be a burger or beer at the end of it :)

    Comment by Michael Bloch — September 14, 2007 @ 5:21 am

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