There was a time when people were simply grateful you asked them for their opinion. Those times are not now! Unless you have a fervent fan or customer base odds are you will have to offer some form of incentive to encourage response. This tome is not about the merits of whether to incent or not, but about some of the incentive methods and considerations available to market researchers.
Considerations are included because there are various state laws that govern drawings over a certain dollar value. This is why many promotions, if you read the fine print, will state it is void in certain states. If you are conducting an employee morale survey then this may not be a critical issue, but if you are going out the general public then consult your legal counsel. Other organizations, especially those in the public sector, prevent their employees from receiving incentives, either in total or above a certain dollar amount. If your audience is the public sector consider offering a copy of the results, if your study permits it. This is a common practice in B2B market research.
If you are going to offer incentives then the question becomes do we offer it to all or do we conduct a drawing? Increasingly it is becoming popular to offer a $5 gift card to the app store or coffee shop of the day. This has appeal, but it also feeds someone else’s brand. An alternative would be to offer your own branded item such as a coffee mug or flash drive. Regardless, you will have to budget for this and determine how many incentives will be needed. A common practice is to say the first 50, 100 or 300 respondents will receive the incentive. This makes the incentive a fixed cost, easier to budget for, and can drive early response.
If your project utilizes a “known” survey then there are opportunities for a soft followup. Known surveys capture contact information which can be used to send respondents an offer after the survey. If your research plan is based on a limited number of incentives, then consider a follow-up using a discounted offer for your product or service. This soft-sell allows you the opportunity to thank the audience for their survey participation and encourage potential sales.
All of this may sound academic. To move it to reality consider asking respondents about the incentives they prefer and then use a test and control procedure to assess impacts to response and completion rates.