Offer Incentives for Invitees to Take the Survey

Survey sponsors crave as many qualified respondents as they can get. They resort to all manner of invitations and publicity to bump up the number. But one form of boosting, aside from taking the survey to learn from a report about a subject near and dear to the respondent, deserves special attention: offering an incentive for respondents. A handful come to mind from my consulting experience.

Sneak previews: For some invitees who are on the fence, knowing that they will receive a preliminary, quick view of the early findings might persuade them to plunge in. They want the guts, not the glitter, and rapidity of getting a partial report with an early glimpse may persuade them. “Take the survey now and get the first-look at the data by June 1st!”

Quick delivery of earlier version: A variation on the sneak preview of this year’s data is to promise a participant that you will send them the most recent version right away (this assumes you are preparing cumulative reports or carried out the survey the previous year.

Custom reports: A custom report presents data that has been tailored as closely as possible to the circumstances of whoever ordered it. For law firms, a custom report typically is based on a subset of firms of similar numbers of lawyers to the firm that orders the custom report. Law departments want their bespoke group to consist of industry members of similar revenue. A firm or department might take the time to complete a survey because they want to order a report fitted as closely as possible to them.

Tailored reports: Much less crafted and bespoke than a custom report are what I call tailored reports. For example, you might create a tailored report based on a subset of your survey group, like only financial services firms or only law firms on the West Coast. It’s an incentive to invitees in the category who are debating whether the time spent on the survey will be rewarded with a tailored report, at no cost or less cost than a custom report, more suited to their circumstances. In one of my surveys I offered metropolitan-area data as a form of tailored mini-reports.

Analytic reports: A third variation of special reports deserves mention. With one of my surveys, I offered to anyone who spread the word about it a so-called “Analytic Report.” It had more statistical analyses and different graphics than what made it into the final report. It was an incentive and a thank you for their support.

Webinar: It’s an inducement for some people to take a survey that they can attend a webinar. Rather than wade through the report to pick out what is important, sit back, watch the slides, and leave the flying to us of distillation. A webinar put on by the sponsor to discuss the findings also introduces attendees to others who cared enough to fill out the questionnaire AND took the time to sit through a webinar session. Webinars enable networking of like-minded souls through knowledge.

Donation or prize: I have seen surveys that promised to donate a small sum to a worthy charity if the person takes the survey. This incentive is not paying the respondent to participate, as happens with panel members, but it might tip someone who is on the fence. This is what Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA) offered in conjunction with its 2022 Partner Compensation Survey, as well as a prize to a lucky winner. MLA agreed to make a donation to The Legal Aid Society for each respondent who completed its survey. Additionally, participants became eligible to receive a $1,500 American Express gift card. A co-sponsor, Law360, randomly selected one respondent to receive the prize.

Related tie-in: Another possibility would be for the sponsor to offer some number of the early participants a copy of a book that they would like. This might be the fruit of a promotional deal with the publisher of the book. Or the sponsor might offer a discount on an upcoming conference. Again, the conference organizer, like the book publisher, might also help publicize the survey. Both sides benefit.

Feedback to shape survey: The first few participants might be privileged with the right to add to selections, drop them, or make other suggestions for how to improve the survey. I have not seen this offer, but it should be an arrow in the quiver.

Having listed these various inducements, I still believe that the content of the report to be received motivates invitees the most. Still, a range of sweeteners helps the medicine go down.