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Savvy Surveys: The Invitational Email

Here are points that an effective, enticing message should cover. The order is deliberate:

Why you are doing the survey. The reason for the survey should be clearly explainable and honest. “The senior leadership team would like to understand and respond to attitudes toward its Work From Home (WFH) policy and practices.”

Why the invitee should carve out time to complete the survey. The benefits of submitting a response should also be clearly stated, e. g., “We want to shape our policy around the working, commuting, and personal lives of all our members.”

Who is being invited to take the survey. “For this client satisfaction survey, we are inviting a randomly chosen half of all of our internal business partners above the level of Manager II within the operating units.” The email might state how many total invites are going out or how the sample of people were selected.

What is the format and content of the survey. Give people a preview of how manageable the survey is. “It has 18 questions, and you do not need to research any answer. Most are quick to answer. There are a few ranking questions (1 to 7 rankings), some multiple-choice questions, and only two questions that you must answer – your level and your business unit. Comment boxes let you give feedback. We expect it should take you less than eight minutes to complete.”

How long the survey will be open. From my experience, many people put off responding to a survey. What happens is a small surge of replies on the first day or two from the diligent or the involved, but then a trickle, until you send a second reminder.

If you tell invitees that the closing date is in two weeks, a majority of them will likely wait until the second week if even then. I do not know of a way to encourage people to respond relatively promptly. Everyone pleads overwork and more than a few lack interest in the survey topic. Nor have I researched whether the tenor of answers changes depending on how long people wait to respond. Almost inevitably, sponsors end up conceding an extended period in which they will accept responses. In furtherance of deciding your ultimate final date, You might add your participation goal, but I am unclear whether that motivates anyone to take a survey who would not otherwise do so.

What kind of feedback will invitees receive. If people invest their time to give information, the least they should receive is a summary of key findings. Even better, send them the full analytic report (which lacks the recommendations of consultants or internal advisors, but presents clearly the data results from the responses) so that they can reflect on the findings. Who knows, one or two might be inspired (or irritated enough) to say more.

Where to get help. The email should close with an explanation of where the recipient should go if they encounter technical problems with the survey. It might be third-party assistance, such as a consultant or contractor, or it might be an internal group such as Human Resources. “Technical help” means if the survey link doesn’t work, the user can’t navigate through the survey, it doesn’t render properly on their smartphone, a screen freezes, the total refuses to sum to 100%, or they claim they lost some data they just typed in, or another of the vast tribe of glitch attacks. (I find that it is often impossible to figure out what happened, and can only say “I’m very sorry, please try again”.)

Close the invitational email with a thank you and an expressed openness to any questions or comments about the survey project. Bulk email software might tell you at least who (or how many) opened the survey by clicking on the link.

Post-script: In addition to the invitational email, other ways to alert possible participants to the survey, and lure them, have been covered in “reminder emails.”

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