How to double your survey responses

Overcoming the ‘your survey sucks’ blues

Let’s be clear from the start. This isn’t a theory lesson. This is based on experience, hard-earned experience!

You’ll know that I’m heavily involved in the Facilitators Inner Circle, which provides fantastic (IMHO) resources who needs to run meetings and workshops. In the start-up phase we needed to find out what the potential clients were thinking. The online survey was one tool I used to do this.

I got busy with the survey design and had some pretty darn good questions to ask.  Structurally I had most things in place – and I’ll go through these in a moment.

A BIG mistake

The trouble was I fell at the very first hurdle – tripped up by my own BIG mistake when I should’ve known better.

You see the aim of the survey was to firstly develop new material for potential clients. Specifically I wanted to understand the challenges people were facing in facilitation. And from all over the globe. So after all the design work and testing I sent it out, calling it …drumroll… ‘The Global Facilitation Survey.’

That first hurdle? The headline! Put simply, ‘Global Facilitation Survey’ sucked. It was lame, too corporate and basically, a bit ‘wanky’ (that’s a technical term.)

And I started getting all these emails. Some from other professionals, some from academics, some from representatives of industry organisations. All had loads of questions – “Who’s it for?”; “Will you be sharing all the results;” “What are you trying to achieve” etc. This was a tad distracting. It was time to regroup.

Fixing the mistake

Fortunately I have been smart enough (I need to give myself some credit) to subscribe to some great newsletters on marketing over the last few years. So I was able to draw upon the lessons learned from these.

I basically relaunched the survey. Same survey, new headline – this time with some sugar. The headline was ‘Dealing with difficult participants?

BANG! It more than doubled the response within a few short days. Why? Because I was helping people with an existing problem.

Eight steps to take

I sent out the email (and Linked In posts) that mentioned this as one of the great challenges facing facilitators. Then I provided a resource (an ebook I’d compiled) to assist them. In return I asked for them to complete the survey. Sounds so simple now!

Righto – here are my eight top tips for designing a survey that stands up and gets responses:Tips for Survey Design

1.    Be 100% clear on your objective and don’t get sidetracked – otherwise your respondents will too
2.    The survey should take seven minutes or less to complete (any longer people won’t respond or will get bored or sick of typing and drop out). If you need more detailed data ask them if they’re willing to provide this in a follow up interview or focus group
3.    Provide a guaranteed return (i.e. gift) for completing the survey (something that’s cheap for you and valuable to your target audience)
4.    Provide an exciting prize. I started with a one-hour consultation ($350.00 = lame), then scrapped that and went to a half day consultation worth $1000.00 – now that carries some weight!
5.    Avoid open-ended text responses as much as possible. Use a range of scaled responses, choice options or yes/no responses. Think of your question and what the responses may be. Use a comments box to get more open-ended answers
6.    Invite respondents to leave their contact details for future follow-up
7.    Set up a ‘redirect’, so when people have finished the survey, it takes them to a ‘Thank you’ page on your website. This should then provide them with an extra bonus resource.
8.    Test your survey with colleagues or friends – preferably those who know little about it

There you have it. If you have any questions, just let me know.

PS – I use ‘Survey Monkey’ which I find simple and easy to use. It’s worth paying the subscription
PPS – remember to place your survey in the places your target audience go

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Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

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