Struggling to Find Survey Respondents? Here’s What Works Best

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As an online survey company, we hear this complaint all the time. You've designed a great, well-thought-out survey, but when launching it to fieldwork you see little to no responses.

Unfortunately, a well-designed survey means nothing if you can't find the right survey respondents to provide the feedback and insights you need.

People are strapped for time and claim to be busier than ever before. As a result, finding survey respondents can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.

In this blog post, our market research company provides 6 options to consider when surveying hard-to-reach audiences.

Finding The Right Sample Size For Your Survey

Consider the survey you’re wanting to run and the number of responses you’ll need to get quality feedback. ]It’s always better to have more information but if your sample size is too big it may take too long to collect enough respondents. 

It’s much better to have too big of a list than too small since not enough data will skew your analysis and may leave you with less than-accurate findings. 

Wondering what the right amount of survey respondents is for your survey? Ask us in the “Contact Drive Research” form on the right-hand side of this post and we’ll try to help consult.

Options for Finding Survey Respondents

1. Customer Contacts

Let's get the most basic form of sampling out of the way. These respondents come directly from your customer contact lists. You can export names, addresses, phone numbers, or emails from your POS system, CRM tool, or newsletter list.

In addition to being the easiest to pull, it is also the least expensive option. This is because you have all of these contacts in-house and you do not have to pay to purchase.

Customer lists are used for customer satisfaction surveys (CSAT) which is likely the most common form of market research. CSAT surveys explore the loyalty of customers and key drivers to satisfaction.

Voice of Customer (VoC) is another common form of customer market research in Buffalo and other markets. VoC explores needs and wants. It is one of the most in-depth and valuable types of projects you can conduct. All you need is a customer list.

2. Social Media

Another excellent sampling option is social media. Read more about the benefits of using Facebook for market research here.

As social media becomes more and more relevant in our daily lives, these platforms are also channels that you can use to your advantage when searching for respondents. 

Social media is all about sharing. Encouraging respondents or followers to share the survey link to their social circles might increase the response rate.

However, with using different platforms comes different demographics, so choose wisely! LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter all have different and unique audiences that are capable of providing you with data points for your survey. 

  • Facebook and Twitter are strong options for B2C market research. This includes both paid and organic posts.
  • LinkedIn is a strong option for B2B market research where you may need to target specific industries or profiles. This includes InMail, sponsored ads in feeds, and group messages.

Social media can help your organization reach non-customers as well as customers. This is helpful if your survey needs to test market perception or associations.

In this type of market research study, it wouldn't make sense to survey only customers. Since they are a customer they already have a built-in bias to your organization.

To learn more about recruiting market research participants on social media, watch this 60-second video.

3. Purchase Survey Respondent Lists

This is a paid option to obtain survey respondents. Several list vendors and providers exist (just a simple Google search will name a few).

Although, we'd recommend against purchasing any type of general email list.

If the recipient has no relationship with your company, the open and response rates are likely to be incredibly small. Not even worth the minor investment.

When to Use Purchased Contact Lists

Lists are mostly used for phone surveys. They can be purchased for B2B surveys or B2C surveys.

List vendors offer cell phone lists and landline numbers for households. You can target by geography, income level, children in the household, etc.

Although, as we wrote about in a prior blog post, phone surveys are on the fritz. A large driver of their death is driven by the inability to purchase strong lists.

4. Use an Online Panel

An option that has emerged over the past decade is the use of market research panels. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase the response rate for your survey. 

A market research panel is a pre-recruited group of individuals who have agreed to participate in studies such as online surveys, in-depth interviews (IDIs), focus groups, mobile ethnographies, or even in-home usage tests (IHUTs).

By opting in they will respond to any survey invite when sent, are quick to respond, and offer quality feedback. They understand and enjoy taking surveys so these panels offer incredible value.

When to Leverage Online Panels

When it comes to paying for panel survey respondents, you will pay a cost-per-complete (CPC). This is largely based on the incidence rate.

The cost to obtain a response from a left-landed, blonde-haired, female aged 18 to 24 is more than the cost to simply survey females.

This is why panels are great if your survey has a broad reach.

If you are looking to target a niche geography (counties, designated market area (DMA), or ZIP Codes), an online panel company won't likely have enough sample to support your needs for 100, 200, or 400 completes.

Social media is an excellent way to backfill these.

5. On-Site Intercept Survey

A final option seems almost so basic, you may have overlooked it. A simple way to obtain survey feedback is to go right to the source and talk to customers directly through on-site intercept surveys.

Although this is a more costly option, it is also one of the most insightful methodologies.

Intercept surveys allow a company to collect feedback live and in-the-moment. With this market research tool, analysts have access to gather opinions from customers or visitors right after their experience.

Therefore, using on-site intercept surveys as a means to collect participants for your survey collects high-quality data!

Additionally, because this is completed in-person, response rates will be higher.

Face it, it's easier to ignore a survey invite through email than it is to ignore a person asking you to take a survey.

Recommended Reading: How to Collect Customer Feedback with In-Person and Online Intercept Surveys

Option 6: Gather Survey Respondents From Your Site

Similar to Option 1, you have the ability to get your own list of potential survey respondents from your website.

You can make a simple landing page to get them to sign up, by asking for feedback for example. With a decently designed landing page and enough traffic, you’ll get a sizable list that you can use in your future surveys.

This is a method we at Drive Research have used before but it does take time to build up enough of an audience to effectively use.

It’s also important to note the audience for this type of list will be broad and won’t be helpful for specific surveys targeting a small audience.

Tips for Increasing Survey Responses

1. Offer a Reward

Offering an incentive is critical for feasibility. One of the dangers of DIY market research is that researchers will buy a cheap email list only to offer the wrong incentive or no incentive at all.

The best way to conduct research with specific decision-maker audiences is to pay per response. This is typically most effective when working with a research vendor specializing in research with specific audiences. 

Choosing the best market research reward can not only help increase the survey response rate but actually reduce project costs. More on that here: Higher Rewards Can Equal Lower Market Research Costs.

2. Keep the Respondent Experience Top of Mind

It is always important to set and meet respondent expectations when conducting an online survey. For instance, if your email survey invitation says the survey will take no more than 5 minutes - then the survey should take no more than 5 minutes.

When drafting the survey it's always best to consider ways to make the survey easy to complete. 

Earn more survey responses by doing the following in your questionnaire:

  • Mix up the question types being used in the survey
  • Make the questions clear and concise
  • Keep the survey as short and succinct as possible

3. Think About the Survey Flow

Ensure all questions that would disqualify someone from the survey are asked upfront.

For example, let's say you want to survey content creators and bloggers.

Before diving into questions about their preferred social media channels and brand partnerships, you need to make sure they are actually content creators. The first few questions should screen respondents to assure they match your ideal demographic.

In this case, the first question could be "Do you post sponsored content?" Those who respond no, should be disqualified from the survey.

Also, consider the question order throughout the survey to avoid order bias

Final Thoughts

Lastly, ask yourself if the survey is having a hard time reaching respondents because there is one of two things:

  1. A high drop-off rate: respondents are leaving the survey without completing it)
  2. A low incidence rate: there is a low likelihood of a respondent qualifying for the survey. 

If either of these occurrences is happening, now is the time to consider shortening the survey and/or loosening respondent requirements. 

Ideally, strive to keep the survey to as close to 5 minutes or less for respondents to complete.

Additionally, our online survey company recommends asking less than 3 open-ended survey questions. It can also help if the open-ended questions are skippable, which can lower the drop-off rate.

Recommended Reading: A Closer Look At What Impacts Survey Response Rates.

Contact Drive Research to Find Survey Respondents

As a market research company, our team is always working hard for our clients to find survey respondents. More data is always better than less data.

The more customers or respondents a market research company has to analyze the more reliable, trustworthy, and credible the findings are. However, finding survey respondents is not always as easy as it sounds.

Struggling to obtain data for your online survey? Contact our team for help.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

Author Bio George Kuhn

George Kuhn

George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX-certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.

Learn more about George, here.

Frequently Asked Questions About Finding Survey Respondents

What are survey respondents?

The people that answer questions for your survey. Different types of questions can mean different types of responses from your respondents. Finding the right survey respondents mean better answers to your questions.

What do you call survey participants?

Typically in market research, the person conducting the survey is referred to as a Surveyor or sometimes even a Pollster. The people responding to the survey (usually collected somehow) are called the Respondent(s).

How do I find survey respondents?

  1. Customer Contacts (from you or elsewhere)
  2. Social Media (check where your audience is)
  3. Purchase Lists (avoid general lists)
  4. Use an Online Panel (read more to know when to use one or not)
  5. On-Site (go to your customer!)
  6. Collect Them on Your Website (and email them!)




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