On-track online

It’s not hard to see why online surveys are the market research tool of choice for an ever-growing number of companies, according to account executive Kami Schuneman and vice president of information technology David Godwin of Austin, TX-based survey research consultancy Direct Impact. They’re comparatively easy to manage, and they can often be created inhouse with software that constructs the survey as well as calculates the results. As user-friendly as they are, however, there are still some key points to keep in mind:

  • The majority of responses will come in during the first three days, and you can probably begin tallying the results after nine days, says Godwin. “It’s such an immediate time frame in which people address e-mails that if they haven’t responded in nine days, they probably aren’t going to.”

  • The longest most companies will continue to receive responses is 15 days. To see where your company’s survey respondents will most likely fit within that time frame, Schuneman suggests sending an e-mail offering a promotion such as $100 off groceries to a sample. “Give them a three-month due date, and then track responses and see where the major drop-off is.” Two or three tests like this will verify the date after which you can stop collecting results with close to 100% reliability, she says.

  • Online survey response rates tend to be on par with those of the average e-mail marketing campaign: 1%-1.5%, Schuneman says.

  • Follow the same spam-filter evasion rules that you would follow for e-mail marketing; for instance, avoid words such as “free” and “now” in subject lines. Instead of announcing the prize or incentive respondents will receive, use the subject lines to show your interest in customers’ feedback, such as “Company X is interested in your opinion.” Doing so will not only get e-mail survey invites past filters, but it will also ensure a better pool of respondents.

  • Expect to pay as much as much as $10,000 for the outsourced construction and analysis of an eight-question online survey that is sent to 10,000 people, Schuneman and Godwin say. You’ll pay $1,000-$3,000 for the construction and built-in analysis of the same survey using do-it-yourself survey software, which is available from market research firms such as Austin, TX-based Inquisite and Montreal-based Notjustsurveys.com.

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