person Guy Potter access_time November 3, 2017

We look at what drives respondents to take part in surveys.

This piece follows on from my last piece and asks the simple question who does research?  This simple question is surprisingly difficult to answer.   Sometimes a survey can land that is just fascinating.  I love rock climbing, so if a rock climbing company finds me and asks for 20/30/40 minutes of my time to give my opinion about rope or harnesses I quickly sign up.  However, I also have a bank account, use a mobile phone and top up my car with oil.  I need the brands that supply me these products, just as I need a top quality harness and rope I can trust, but there is no way I want to spend twenty minutes of my life telling anyone about my bank or engine oil.

So the answer to who takes part in research breaks down in a couple of ways.


Motivation is a key reason why people take part in research.  Back to rock climbing….  Everyone has their passions, but it is unlikely to form the staple of market research.  In twenty-five years of hanging from a rope on the side of a mountain I have never been asked about mine.  Tapping into people’s motivation is more-subtle than this.  It is often said that people take part in market research to have their voice heard or to give feedback to brands and companies.  This, of course, is true, but how far can we stretch the motivation (unless of course it is about rock climbing)?  This is something that we as an industry should be thinking about.  How can we motivate people to take part in market research surveys.

MaruUsurv’s answer; keep it short, keep it simple and make it easy to answer.


People like to be rewarded for their time.  We all go out to work and (hopefully) get rewarded for a days’ work that is commensurate with our experience and abilities. Twenty minutes talking about message testing in relation to a bank has got to be worth something, particularly if we get through the dreaded router. Therefore, we should pay accordingly.  An expression I hate “If you pay peanuts, then you get monkeys” has some sort of relevance here.  “If you exploit the people who fill out surveys, don’t treat them as people and expect them to jump through hoops, then you’ll get churn, drop outs and straight liners”.  The expression will never trip off the tongue nor enter a book of catch phrases, but it is nonetheless true.  If we cannot treat respondents as people why should they do our surveys?

We have a couple of simple rules that protect and keep people from leaving, churning or straight-lining.  In relation to cash – always incentivise fairly and always give an incentive for all surveys whether the person is screened out at Q1 or gets through to Q5.  This “treats people as people” and ensures that they are there and want to complete our surveys in the future.

If all companies in the research industry followed a similar mantra there would be less straight-lining / churn and drop outs.

Guy Potter is maru / usurv's head of research and clients.