by John Page, VP, Integrated Insight
Published June, 2020
“Please take a moment to provide your feedba…” (clicks “delete”).
Does this sound familiar? We do it every day, sending survey invites into the virtual wastebin with little thought as we weed through more emails than we could possibly ever hope to read. It’s especially true of our work emails, where we may feel even less connection with the sender than invitations sent to our personal accounts.
So, we increase incentives and send more reminders, simultaneously increasing our costs while annoying the recipients. We try even more dramatic subject lines (“Only one day left!”) hoping to fill out the minimum we need to report out our findings. And, when the generous few respond, we fail to acknowldge them, disincentivizing their response to future invitations.
A Better Way
We don’t have to live in this cycle, particularly with B2B surveys. We have options and best practices to make the most out of our invitations, leading to happier respondents and better research.
Rule #1: Don't avoid surveying your customers.
Rule #2: Make it personal.
Rule #3: Promise to keep it short...and keep it short.
Rule #4: Your thanks can mean more than an incentive.
Don't avoid surveying your customers.
It can be tempting to trust your gut and the feedback you get from your team on what your customers want. Past survey attempts that didn’t succeed might serve to rationalize a lack of need. Don’t fall into this trap!
Soliticing feedback from your customers in the right way shows that you care about growing and evolving in meeting their needs. It’s a win-win when done right.
Make it personal.
Think about your own email habits – are you more likely to open an email from a business contact you know or an email from one of their generic corporate addresses? The same goes for survey invitations, which, if at all possible, should come from someone they know.
Recently, we programmed and fielded a survey for a client in which they contacted their business customers, asking for feedback on recent interactions. The invitation was relatively standard, and looked like many you likely receive on a regular basis. Of the 2,300+ invitations sent in two waves, only 19 completed the survey.
After reassessing with the client, we negotiated having each of their internal contacts for the businesses reach out with personal email invitations. We provided standard invitation language to draw from, but entrusted the internal contacts to send out the invites. This time, of 750 invitations sent, 130 completed the survey. That’s a 17% completion rate compared with fewer than 1% for the original invitations!
Promise to Keep it Short…and Keep it Short.
It’s always tempting to leave in that extra question, wondering “what if” if it’s not captured. Keep in mind that it’s better to get a completed survey covering most of the content you want than a high dropout rate on a survey that has everything. In the example above, the initial average survey length was nearly 12 minutes. The second version, which saw the dramatically increased completion rate, was only 5 minutes.
It’s tempting as researchers to think that there’s little difference between 5 minutes and 12 minutes, but for B2B surveys that extra length can break your best laid plans. Keep your survey length manageable, and be sure to note a 5 minute length in the invitation if accurate. It can make all of the difference in a response if your customers feel they can complete the survey in between everything else going on in their day vs. having to plan to spend the equivalent of “half a meeting” responding.
Your Thanks Can Mean More Than an Incentive.
Incentives are tricky, particularly for B2B surveys. Navigating corporate and government policies is difficult, as potentially appealing incentives or sweepstakes might land your customers in hot water with their legal departments.
Rather, build in a plan to thank those who complete the survey. It can go a long way toward building the relationship and will help a great deal with future response rates. Of course, sharing information on what you’ve learned in the recent survey is always helpful, but may not always be realistic.
Taking these steps can go a long way toward building more efficient, less expensive and generally better research. It can take more time and coordination to “get personal,” but it’s worth the effort!