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Create e-mail surveys that get responses

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E-mail marketing managers love to include quick surveys in their e-newsletters—so much so that they risk overdoing it.

Melissa Read, VP-research and innovation at Spunlogic, a full-service digital marketing agency, believes managers send surveys too often, causing respondents to burn out on the novelty of providing feedback. Eventually, she said, they'll stop responding.

“Surveys should only go out when you want to understand something about the business respondents,” Read said. Otherwise, “it will become the survey who cried wolf and the next time you really want to know something, respondents won't be as interested in telling you.”

Paring down the number of surveys is a good start, she said. Read offers these other helpful tips to make the most out of such surveys:

Design for distraction. Business clients who participate in surveys won't be able to shut out the long list of ongoing distractions that may be occurring in their office at the same time, so a survey should be designed to accommodate interruptions, Read said. Make sure the survey isn't the kind that times out; and keep it brief, she added.

“If you've got to distribute a longer survey, allow respondents to save their progress and come back to it later,” she said.

Make the survey a seamless fit with a newsletter. A survey that launches from an e-newsletter should have the same look and feel as the newsletter, Read said. “The customer sees it all as one entity, so it can be confusing when they get taken to a page that doesn't look the same,” she said. “Some people may abandon it. Think about the brand guidelines that are used to design the e-newsletter and leverage that in the survey.”

Get what you came for and get out fast. Some managers might be tempted to round three questions up to five, or round nine up to 10. Read said they should avoid that temptation and respect subscribers' time by asking only essential questions.

“Your respondents are in business, and they are already very busy,” Read said. “Trust me, they don't want more work.”

Show readers how they can benefit from the survey. Business respondents are often motivated to respond to surveys that will help them make progress in their business objectives, Read said. Tell respondents upfront in the survey instructions how they could benefit from offering feedback. Then make sure to present questions that immediately get to the heart of what you're measuring so respondents see the relevance to them, she said.

“Don't make the mistake of asking for demographic information first so you can segment the data,” she warned. “Save that to the end.”

Don't assume you need sophistication. “E-newsletter surveys don't need to be written in a sophisticated language, even those that are distributed to the top of the food chain,” Read said. “Even if the potential respondents are highly educated, they don't necessarily need to see formal language or high reading levels. Often, they're going to take your survey as a break from their real job.

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