May 13, 2014 by  Ashley Guberman

If Market Research is a critical part of companies being able to offer good products and services, then how come so many of them use the following bogus enticement to get people to fill them out surveys?

Dear <your name>
We value <blah blah blah>
If you would take <N> minutes to fill out the following survey,
we will enter you into a drawing to win <some gift or reward>.

The marketer is asking me to give my time away in exchange for a potential reward.  Any inherent reason I might have for filling out the survey, such as liking the company or its product, or wanting to support them, has now been reduced to a financial exchange. Worse still, the exchange isn’t even guaranteed. Instead, I only break even if

  1. I believe I have a fair chance of winning.
  2. I spend the time on the survey.
  3. I give whatever personal data they want in order to qualify for the reward.
    (nb.: nothing says it has to be accurate data.)
  4. The gift or reward is something personally valuable to me.
  5. The value of the reward is greater than the value of my time.
  6. I win the drawing for the gift or reward.

That’s a lot of hurdles for me to overcome just to fill out a survey when I might have filled it out for free. By linking the survey request to a game of chance for the reward, those who fill it out are either bad at math or don’t value their time very much. And these are the people driving the data for market research.

Something is very wrong here, and the solutions are not terribly difficult.

  1. Just ask me to fill out the survey and give me a reason why it matters and to whom. I will either fill it out or I won’t. It’s entirely up to me. Those who fill it out will have demonstrated enough relationship with the company to contribute to its research, and are probably going to maintain a relationship with the company and its products. These people are valuable to a market researcher.
  2. Tell me that in exchange for filling out the survey, you will donate <some value> to a charitable organization. Better still would be to let me choose where I want the donation to go, such as animal welfare to save kittens, a scholarship fund, or some other set of low-controversy charities. This takes my intrinsic motivation from #1, and adds my own altruistic motives to my decision to fill out the survey. And if I don’t have altruistic motives, at least this is less likely to trigger my own financial exchange system of giving my time for your money.
  3. Tell me that in exchange for filling out the survey, you will guarantee <some gift or reward>. This has the advantage of showing you value my time, and removes the game of chance, but retains the disadvantages that I still have to see the <gift or reward> as valuable enough to spend my time on the survey. If this makes the research more expensive to marketers, then it highlights who really bears the expense when the reward is left up to chance – it’s the participants.And for goodness sake, don’t offer me a “reward” that requires me to buy something else. For example, a gift card of X dollars off for a purchase of Y or more with merchant Z.  This has all the disadvantages of reducing my good will to an exchange, plus requires that I actually want something from merchant Z.  I also know you are not really giving me anything.  Instead, you are offering me an opportunity to participate in what is essentially a sale or discount that still adds to your profits in exchange for my time. Please, just don’t do that. It is not going to motivate me to fill out your survey.  Unless maybe it’s a gift code to without conditions that I spend $Y first.

I am convinced that there are far more effective options to do market research than asking people to enter a lottery for a reward. In fact, for every person who comments, shares, likes, or forwards this post on or before August 31st, 2014, I guarantee to donate $1 to P.A.W.S., up to $200. So there you have it… Let’s help save a kitten.

Save this kitten
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