B2B audiences are a hot target for market research and marketing communications, which can make it difficult to get their attention for surveys.
Market Strategies has conducted research among hard-to-reach B2B audiences—including IT managers, physicians and executives—for more than 25 years. In our experience, securing healthy response rates boils down to:
- Establishing rapport
- Providing just compensation
- Managing respondent fatigue
- Following up appropriately
To help, I’ve identified ten ways to motivate response rates. Many of the suggestions increase cost and some are not appropriate for certain study designs. So, the approach that best balances response rate, budget, timing and analytic needs depends on your research requirements.
Ten Ways to Motivate Response Rates Among B2B Professionals
1. Use a Panel
Panelists are conditioned to respond to invitations to complete surveys, largely because panel providers work to address the issues raised above. Their business model depends on establishing credibility and rapport and frequently includes built-in mechanisms for managing fatigue and following-up with respondents.
2. Openly Sponsor the Survey
The credibility of an unsponsored recruitment process can appear suspect to professionals, particularly if a panel is not used to source sample. In cases where revealing sponsorship does not compromise study results, using your company name in introductory communications and the survey screener can bring immediate credibility to the survey invite that fosters participation.
3. Send Pre-Notification Communications
In many cases, a simple invite to participate in a survey is inadequate to motivate healthy response rates. Depending on context, use of phone recruitment or a physical pre-notification letter signed by a member of your organization can be useful in building credibility and rapport for the survey process.
4. Use Multiple Channels
In the past, offering respondents flexibility to complete surveys in the mode they prefer—whether by mail, phone or internet—was a popular recommendation for improving response rates. In today’s connected world, providing a mobile enabled survey is an increasingly important option for tech savvy respondents (learn more about mobile enablement and unintentional mobile respondents here).
5. Provide a Help Desk
Some B2B audiences—such as IT professionals—are a common target for spam. Providing a responsive “help desk” where potential respondents can call, chat or email to promptly verify the legitimacy of your survey invitation can be helpful in establishing the rapport that leads to increased cooperation.
6. Offer a White Paper of Results
Offering professionals a white paper based on a portion of survey results in return for their participation can generate curiosity and rapport that motivates participation. Developing a white paper requires the design of a module of content that can be abstracted broadly enough to share with respondents so that it does not compromise your company’s interest in the study. At the same time, the content offered must be compelling enough to be of interest to respondents and must be delivered in a timely fashion to support rapport for future survey efforts.
7. Offer Financial Compensation
Many professional audiences are so over-researched that they have become accustomed to receiving some degree of financial compensation in exchange for survey participation. Incentives take many forms including sweepstakes, cash payments, points, gift cards or gifts to charity. The optimal value of the incentive depends on things like industry and profession, screening criteria, study budget, whether a panel is involved, how much sample is available and how much sample you need to fulfill quotas. Prompt delivery of compensation is an important component of follow-through that builds longer-term credibility for on-going survey efforts with your audience.
8. Employ Best Practices for Survey Design
Employing best practices for survey design assists response rates by encouraging participants to complete specific surveys and to respond to repeated surveys over time. Articulating the full breadth of best practices is beyond the scope of this posting, but includes things like limiting survey length and using appropriate question presentations and response options. If you’re new to the topic a couple of good books on best practices can be found here and here.
9. Manage Sample Fatigue Over Time
A plethora of research suggests that as respondents become fatigued, the quality of their responses suffers. In addition to combatting fatigue through best practices for survey design, procedures that specify periodic quarantine or resting of sample is a good practice for encouraging positive participation rates. This involves setting up rules, such as limiting participation in tracking research to a single survey per year or limiting participation to a single survey with 90-day intervals.
10. Build Trust Over Time
Although it’s listed as a tactic, building the trust which results in conditioning respondents to participate in surveys from your company or research partner is the long-term goal. Market Strategies is skilled at building rapport, promptly delivering incentives, managing fatigue and following-up with respondents over time in a way that builds trust. We have a long history of developing survey programs that maintain healthy response rates, even among hard-to-reach audiences.
What do you do to increase response rates among hard-to-reach B2B audiences? Contact me to learn how we can help you increase participation.
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