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Survey incentives

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Use prizes and other incentives to capture the interest of potential survey respondents.

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There are times when offering an incentive may increase your survey’s response rate.

The tips below will help you decide when it makes sense to offer an incentive.

Why people take surveys

Surveys are a great way to improve communication with your audience, learn from them, and build stronger relationships. In most cases, your respondents will feel a connection to you and your business and have a desire to be heard, which is often motivation enough for them to complete a survey.

Tap into your audience's motivation

Before you automatically include an incentive with your survey, consider if your audience needs one—they may not! Since most people respond to surveys because they believe their input will affect something they care about, you may get the best response rate by following the tips below:

  • Keep the survey brief, engaging, and carefully constructed.
  • Let your audience know up front how you plan to use the results.
  • Actually use the information you gather.
  • Report results back to your audience—and any changes you made because of them.

When to consider incentives

Of course, there are times when your audience might need a bit of encouragement to complete your survey. If you are facing one or more of the following factors, you might want to consider offering an incentive:

  • You are trying to obtain responses from a hard-to-reach population.
  • Your potential respondents don't yet have a vested interest in your topic.
  • Your survey will take a substantial amount of your respondents' time (over 10 minutes).
  • You will be asking complex questions or focusing on a challenging topic.

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For more information, check out these 10 tips for creating a great survey.

Crafting an incentive

When offering an incentive, consider the following:

  • Keep your incentive, and how it works, simple and easy!
  • Deadlines create a sense of urgency, and will encourage respondents to take the survey soon after receiving it.
  • Limiting your incentive—say to the first 100 respondents—also creates urgency, and protects your company from having to send out 5,000 iPads.
  • Remember to ask respondents for their email or physical address so they can receive their incentive as quickly as possible.

What types of incentives work?

Incentives don't have to be big to get great results. The key is to make them equally appealing to everyone in your audience.

  • Generic incentives such as money, points, or gift certificates generally appeal to everyone.
  • On the other hand, creative incentives like a drawing for spa packages or a stay at a local hotel can reap great rewards.
  • Offering to donate to social causes—up to a certain dollar amount based on the response rate—works if your audience is the type to jump at the opportunity to help those in need. Make sure to share your results with respondents so they can see the difference they are making.

It's important to keep the size of your incentive in mind. Mega incentives, like being entered into a drawing for a new car or a Mediterranean cruise, may lead some respondents to answer each question at random just to be entered, leading to inaccurate and skewed results.

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For more information, check out these 10 tips for creating a great survey.