Tuesday, January 17, 2012

14 Tips for Creating Your Best Survey Emails

Last week, I posted a mini-series on maximizing survey response rates in which I mentioned the importance of survey invitation and reminder content, deliverability, and timing. In today's post, I'll delve a bit deeper into content and deliverability and list some guidelines to follow when creating your survey emails. (I'm assuming these emails are going to your customers, not to a third-party list or panel.)

The content of your emails impacts deliverability (gets to the recipient, doesn't get stuck in spam filters/folders), readability (ensures the recipient wants to read it), and response rates (entices the recipient to click the link to participate in the survey). The emails are the gatekeepers to the success of the survey campaign!

1. Ensure the From Name is recognizable and not one that recipients will likely ignore; the same holds true for the From Email Address. And the From Email Address can't be sent through an open relay; when the receiving server does a reverse lookup and the domains don't match, your message will bounce or get stuck in a spam filter. Use a real email address.

2. Write a compelling subject line that is truthful and free from words that are considered spam flags.

For both #1 and #2, you'll likely want to run some tests to see what works best for you.

3. The email should be personalized, i.e., when the recipient opens the message, they should see "Dear Jane Doe," not "Dear Valued Customer." (How valued does THAT make you feel?)

4. The content should be customized to the individual. Include information relevant to the trigger event or to your relationship that (a) sets the stage for the recipient and (b) confirms what they should be thinking about for the survey that follows.

5. Your message should be compelling, i.e., compel the reader to want to take the survey. You'll want to outline why (topic, objective) you are conducting the survey, why they should participate, and what you'll be doing with the feedback. Customize the message based on the audience; that might mean writing several different versions of content.

If you have been conducting the survey for a while and have made changes to the survey, think about refreshing the content of the emails, as well. And include a mention that you've made changes to the survey; this will keep respondents from saying, "Oh, not that survey again."

6. The email should state how long the survey will be available. When does the survey link expire?

7. State how long the survey will take to complete, either by providing the number of questions or the estimated length in minutes. If you choose the latter, give an honest assessment; you'll only frustrate your customers if you tell them a 20-minute survey will take them only three minutes to complete! This does impact completion rates and future response rates. It's about trust!

8. If the survey will be confidential and/or anonymous, indicate that in the email. If it will not be, don't state it!

9. I used to recommend that clients send their invites as text rather than HTML, but HTML is fine; go "light" on the code and don't use a ton of crazy images and unnecessary HTML. Make it look nice, preferably using branding that is seamless with the rest of your organization's branding.

10. Avoid spam flags, i.e., words that will likely get your message caught in spam filters/folders. This applies to the subject line and to the text of the body. Limit the use of words like "free," "winner," "opinion," and even "survey." (I had a client who wrote an entire invite without use the word "survey" once!) And don't use crazy symbols, excessive exclamation marks, or all caps. I've also learned that using "click here," especially excessive use of that phrase, will land an email in a spam filter.

Run the content through an email deliverability or "spam checker/scoring" tool to ensure there are no "offensive" words or triggers that you'll need to avoid. Pilot test the content with your team or a small subset of your target audience.

11. You'll need to ensure that your emails comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. In order to do so, I always make sure that clients' emails include the following:
  • Company name and physical address
  • Privacy policy links for both the client and the survey vendor
  • Opt-out link where recipients can unsubscribe from receiving further surveys (Be sure to opt them out; don't just have a link for the sake of having a link.)
It's good to revisit the guidelines now and then to ensure you're meeting the standards.

12. The email signatory should be relevant to the trigger event or reason for the survey. An example of a disconnect would be a post-support survey whose invitation is signed by the VP of Marketing.

13. Translate the email into the recipient's preferred language.

14. Keep the email short and sweet.

You might have some other tips to follow when creating emails for your surveys. I'd love to hear them!

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