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How to Improve Your Survey Response Rates Among Elusive B2B Audiences

Angela Burtch, Vice President

5-Minute Read

Have you been here before?  You are conducting a B2B study among respondents from your own database (i.e., clients, association members, vendors, sales leads, etc.).  You write the screener and the questionnaire and proceed to invite respondents. Let’s say you’re 3 to 5 business days in the field to collect 150 responses.  And then what happens?  Crickets. On day 5 you only have 20 completes.

These could be difficult-to-reach respondents who are busy, and their time is limited and valuable.  Maybe they are, for example:

What went wrong?  There are many factors that can influence a poor response rate, including list quality, low incidence, etc.  They are all important to consider.  In this blog, we’re going to examine just a few (but common and important) factors that may impact participation when conducting a B2B study:

Make the invite do your work. A lot has been written about how to improve response rates to email campaigns.  Here are just a few tips that we’ve found deliver a lot of punch:

  • Subject line. 
    • Keep it short and with a call to action, i.e., “Your Participation is Requested”, or if using a whitepaper as incentive: “Your Medical Whitepaper is Available”.
    • Avoid special characters like #, $, all CAPS, etc. which may filter the email as spam.
    • Test a few iterations of the subject line to determine which is most effective.
  • Email body
    • Same as the subject line: keep it short and sweet. These are busy professionals.
    • If you know the first name of the respondent, personalize the salutation.
    • Offer extra places in the email where respondents can click to the survey.
    • Include a link to privacy and opt-out. High-demand professionals do not want to waste their time being bombarded by mailing lists.

Best practices dictate that before the survey invite goes out, have a trusted person at the client company (sales/channel rep, executive level, etc.) reach out with an introduction email to give respondents a heads-up about both the legitimacy of the research and forthcoming invite.

  • Length matters. Is the survey longer than what you told respondents?  No one likes to be lured in to complete a few minutes survey that’s actually 20 minutes long.  Respondent bye-bye. This can be confirmed by checking survey drop-off points.
  • Create some intrigue. Is the content or format engaging?  Sometimes the content may be dry, but there are ways to format the survey to keep respondents engaged.  Ask a few intriguing open-end questions, have the participant do exercises that go beyond simply clicking on an endless row of response options.  Use things like drag and drop, or marking up an image or ad with likes and dislikes. Color can help. Make it fun.

Choose the right motivator. When targeting high-dollar respondents, often the monetary incentive needs to be commensurate. For example, we can pay several hundred dollars for a 45-to-60-minute IDI with physicians. Or $50 to $100 for a short online survey.  But, what if you don’t have the budget for high incentives for a large study?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Charitable donation.  Give the respondents a choice of non-profit organizations to which you will make a donation.  And make the choices relevant.  In the medical example, options may be the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, etc. You can administer on a per-person basis or a sweepstakes for one large donation.
  • White paper. Everyone likes to learn about what their colleagues are doing and what their opinions are. Offering topline results with respondents is often worth more than any monetary incentive! Include a few questions that may be of interest to participants and share after the study closes.

So, these are just a few of many suggestions for increasing your response rate.  The extra time in crafting the invite, questionnaire and rewards are just a few ways we can help you engage your hard-to-reach audience. www.merrillresarch.com