When Giving Away Money Doesn’t Work: The Surprising Things We Learned About Increasing Survey Response Rate

Let me tell you a funny story.

In an effort to learn more about our target audience, we recently held a survey for SUCCESS agency (which is still running).

We offered $10 Amazon gift cards to anyone who filled out our brief, two-minute survey, and over a period of several months, we emailed just over 1,000 people. We promoted the survey on social media and did whatever we could to get the word out there.

And after all that, we only got 51 responses. We even got some angry “Do not spam me” email responses.

Surprised? We certainly were. We never thought it would be so difficult to give away money!

We found that promoting the survey and offering a financial reward simply weren’t enough to get a high response rate. Here are a few things that we found:

1. Multiple email resends are an absolute must. We sent out two resends to those who didn’t respond, tweaking the copy (and subject line) slightly each time.

2. Sometimes it’s best to just admit that you’re asking for a favor.

3. What’s in it for them? Explain how the survey results will benefit the person taking it.

4. Keep the survey as short, concise and easy to fill out as possible.

5. Tell people how long it will take them to complete the survey.

6. Consider donating a certain sum of money to charity for every response. Using charitable giving as a response incentive could work better than a normal financial incentive or reward (although this was not something that we tested).

7. If possible, it’s best to email people who are already familiar with your company. If you’re emailing people who don’t know who you are, then explain who you are, what you do, and how you got their contact information.

8. Personalize your email to the recipient as much as possible.

Bottom line? Getting a high survey response rate isn’t as easy or straightforward as it seems. It takes a great deal of effort, persistence and strategizing.

But here’s the good news: If you ask the right questions and get enough responses, the results from that survey will allow you to create a more targeted marketing strategy and a more positive customer experience. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s really all about.