Traditional surveys look like this:

I want all your time and effort in return for some shitty thing. Despite you caring enough to complete my survey, you won’t hear from me again until I want you to complete another one.

Thanks!

*Mark sighs*

No wonder surveys are hard work.

We know people hate surveys and people need a good incentive to respond to them. We also know their time is so valuable and yet offering respondents the chance to ‘win an iPad’ is only going engage people who want an iPad. And even those respondents probably realise there’s a slim chance of winning the bloody iPad anyway so they won’t care about their responses. Not good.

How do we get the best people to submit the best responses all of the time?

The solution is to give the respondents something so valuable that they’re compelled to respond well.

What is so valuable? The information you collect.

The survey should be one question only. That one question needs to be relevant and open-ended enough to encourage enough people to reply with some degree of detail. That question may or may not be directly useful to you – but it must be valuable to the recipient. The question must be targeted specifically for that segment. The more you ‘blast everyone’ with it, the less meaningful engagement you’ll get.

Your promise to the respondent is to collate and email them back all the results in a nicely presented way (a mini report), and you even send the data to people who did not respond. Why? Because them seeing that report will persuade them to reply to the next question.

With that report (and your next email), you have permission to ask another question – which may or may not be connected to the first, though it’s probably best. Again you promise to email them the results. This can be completed weekly, like a ‘Monday Q&A’.

Over time your respondents anticipate and enjoy the exchange, naturally provide more accurate data, whilst growing your open rate of the emails. Oh, and please stop calling them surveys. Marketing murdered the name years ago and recipients delete them instantly from their email inbox.

How does this sound? Will it resonate with your target market or objectives? Still not sure? Would you like a good example of this working? Yes? Well, sorry but I’m not going to give you that.

If you don’t believe that a segment of your email list will react positively to one meaningful question from you specifically for them, and that the promise of giving them a report of all the collated results is valuable, then you are the problem in this equation.

If you don’t believe that this will work, you probably don’t know your market segment well enough to think of a question they will react positively too. Some homework is required there, because I can’t provide you with that one question.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think of this approach and any implementation questions you may have. Don’t ask me here, ask me on LinkedIn. Thanks.

Mark

About the photo:
This shot was taken by Suipixel and found on Flickr. She has lots more amazing shots you should definitely check out. This photo has nothing to do with the blog post because it doesn’t have to be. It irks me that bloggers spend their time crafting great copy, only to stick a sucky pun or cliché photo at the top of it. Stop trying to be The Sunday Times. A blog post image can be like a photo on the wall in your office or living room; it simply brightens the place up and is pleasing to look at. Nothing more.