The Secrets to Better Email Invitations
Written by Scott W. Spain
Inviting respondents via a warm Email list is, hands down, the most effective method of driving respondents to a Web-based survey. The level of success (and response rate) you achieve depends on a number of factors. Follow the advice below, and watch your response rates rise through the roof!
When you send your invitation text to your online research supplier or department, be sure to put a little extra thought into who the message appears to come from. Always use the most recognizable name to them. For example, if I was to send out survey invitations to visitors of our company's Web site, sending from the name "!Research" would probably be more recognizable them than if I sent from "Scott Spain". Nine times out of ten, the company name is a better option than that of an individual. If you want to specify the person sending the message, do so in the signature of the message body, rather than the "display name" field.
The Email address the respondent receives the invitation from is typically less of a response rate driver than the display name. That does not mean, however, that it should be ignored. For the sake of respondent privacy, the message should come from the domain of the company the respondents gave their address to. The last thing you want is for your group to get the impression that you sold your list to a 3rd party. When selecting this Email address, keep in mind that the person could potentially receive a lot of "bounce" messages from incorrect and outdated email addresses. When possible, it's always best to set up a new mailbox to catch these messages.
Keep It Short and Simple
This is an important attention grabber. First, use the shortest subject line you can come up with. Many people with low resolution computer settings will not be able to read the entire subject line if it's too long. I recommend keeping your subject line to no more than 35 characters.
DO NOT SCREAM!!!
In addition to the length of the subject line, the format is also important. As much as you'd like to make a strong impact, avoid using ALL CAPS at all costs. Messages that contain subject lines in ALL CAPS instantly scream "spam" to your visitors and often go unread.
An effective technique for setting your message apart from the rest is the use of special brackets. Try inserting your company name in brackets at the beginning of your message, like so:
[!Research] Your Opinions CountThe more familiar your potential respondents are with your company name, the more effective this technique will be for you.
Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak
We've heard this a thousand times, but it just never gets old. If you're giving an incentive (whether it is an individual incentive or a drawing) to participants who complete your survey, emphasize this in the subject line, rather than the fact that survey completion is desired. What would you rather do, win a new MP3 player or participate in a survey? 'Nuff said.
Text vs. HTML
Many Email clients are incapable of rendering HTML-formatted Email messages. Of those that are, some are user-configured not to display messages in HTML format. Unless you know what Email clients your target audience is using (often the case with employee satisfaction studies), we highly recommend sending text-formatted Email invitations. You'll lose the ability to bold, underline, and italicize, but the gains in having a higher percentage of people being able to read your message will more than make up for it.
Keep the URL in the Fold
If your potential respondents have to scroll to see the URL (link to the survey) you've already lost half the response rate battle. I know, I know. It's a tough group to sell, and you have carefully written 20 paragraphs of text to convince them that participation will increase the quality of their lives exponentially. That's great. Use it. Just do so after the URL. Those who want to read it all, will. To play it safe, try to include the URL within the first 10 lines of text. The further down the message the URL appears, the lower your response rate will be. Its okay to repeat the URL more than once in an Email invitation.
Date Your Request
One of the magical qualities of the Internet is the fact that you can do anything at any time. You can log on and buy a computer right now, at 2:00 a.m. tomorrow, or a year from now. People not only know this, but live by it. Unless you set a specific deadline for completion, many of your invitations will end up in the abyss that is the "to-do someday" list. Make your deadline as near as possible. Have a full week to collect data? No problem. Tell your respondents they have 3 days to reply, and then plan to "extend" the deadline by a few days when you send reminders. You may not need to.
Follow these steps and you'll surely see an increase in response rates, and a decrease in data errors.
Scott Spain is a founder and Chief Technology Officer of DigitalBiz Corporation, and is actively involved in survey operations of the DigitalBiz online research division: !Research.
Scott is a past-president of Salt Lake City Chapter of the American Marketing Association. In 1999 Scott was appointed Special Technology Advisor to the Marketing Research Association's Technology Council. Scott will be serving on MRA's national Board of Directors in 2000-01. In addition, he has long been affiliated with the Advertising Research Foundation, the Utah Advertising Federation and the American Society for Quality. Scott is the sole creator of @ResearchInfo.com, the web's most active online community in the market research industry.
To learn more about the online research offerings of DigitalBiz Corporation, please visit http://www.iResearch.com