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Design Inspiration

4 Ways to Send Better Survey Invitation Emails

4 Ways to Send Better Survey Invitation Emails

It takes time to design the perfect survey. If your survey invitation emails are ready to go, you’re probably wondering: will your subscribers respond or completely ignore them?

To engage your readers and boost response rates, follow these tips for sending well-designed survey invitation emails. You’ll be sure to get feedback in no time!

Make the subject line engaging

A huge chunk of subscribers—about 35%—decide whether or not to open your email based on the subject line alone. Salesforce reports that after the sender name, the subject line has the biggest impact on whether an email is opened or not. So the first step to getting readers to open your survey invitation emails is to put some thought, planning, and testing into your subject line.

Here are some examples of survey subject headlines in our inbox. Based on what you see, are there any survey invitation emails you would open?

Inbox - survey invitation emails

A good rule of thumb is to keep your subject line short. Most mobile devices only display the first six or seven words of a subject line, so using a short subject line is critical to getting your message across (but don’t forget to optimize preheader text!). Data from Retention Science, a marketing data company, shows that subject lines with ten words or less tend to have higher open rates.

Most of the subject lines from the invitation emails we received are transparent; it’s pretty clear from the subject line that a survey is enclosed. Those who are offering an incentive, like Klean Kanteen and Anthropologie, present that information in the subject line, too—a smart move for encouraging opens. Many of these messages also include “you” or “your” in the subject line, making it evident that the message is all about engagement.

One subject line that stands out is in the form of a question, from the city recommendation guide InsideHook NY, a city recommendation guide for men: “Are you happy with your job?”, followed by snappy preheader text (“Prove it.”) that’s perfectly on-brand.

Takeaway: When crafting your subject line, think about keeping it simple, differentiating yourself from other invitations, and intriguing your audience.

Get right to the point

When you stick to a single message in your email—one that’s reiterated in the subject line, images, content, and call-to-action—it’s more likely to sink in.

Effective survey invitation emails will answer these questions right away:

  • What: What is the email really about? What is the objective? Be clear about the survey’s purpose and why you’re doing it.
  • Why: Why should readers participate? Are you offering an incentive, like a coupon? How will it be valuable to you? Let readers know.
  • How: How should readers engage, and how long will it take? Make sure you explain the next steps and how much time will be spent taking the survey (is it less than 5 minutes?).
  • Where: Where should readers click? Use a compelling call-to-action button and don’t add any secondary calls to action. It should be obvious to readers where to click to participate.
  • When: When should readers respond by? When does the survey end? Create urgency by providing a deadline. Consider doing a two or three drip email campaign to remind subscribers.

In this invitation from 23andMe, the genomics and biotechnology company, their letter-style message gets straight to the point. Most of the questions are answered: What the message is about (genetics research), why the survey is important (help improve research efforts), how readers should engage (answer as many or as few questions as they’d like) and how long it will take (a few seconds), and where to click (an obvious “Submit Your Answer” CTA button). The email also gets the ball rolling by asking the first survey question in the email itself.

23andMe survey invitation emails

In another survey invitation email from InsideHook, the company reiterates the subject line in the message’s first line: Are you happy with your job?

Inside Hook survey invitation emails

Again, InsideHook tells readers what the email is about (a survey about work life), why participation is important (to contribute to a new story called “Men at Work”), how readers should engage (hit the hotlinked language or CTA) and how long it will take (no more than five minutes), and where to click (“Take the Survey” button).

Takeaway: Communicate clearly, letting readers know what you’re offering, why they should participate, and how they should respond. Don’t waste readers’ time.

Deliver a compelling call-to-action

Once a reader has opened your email and read the message, it’s the moment of truth: Will the reader become a survey participant? The call-to-action can make or break what happens next.

There’s a good chance your reader will skip right over your body copy and read your CTA first, so make it easy for readers to click or tap by using a bulletproof CTA button.

Buttons stand out and provide visual interest. Allow ample white space around your button so it’s easy to tap on mobile, and choose a bright contrasting color that’s easy to spot. 23andMe and InsideHook both designed easy-to-see-and-tap buttons. Also, make the CTA language clear and compelling. Three to four words should do it.

The Muse, a career and job site, made an excellent CTA button in one of its survey invitation emails. The CTA states exactly what the action is, how long it will take, and also provides a little urgency with the word “now”:

The Muse survey invitation emails

When creating CTAs, avoid overused and generic language (“Click here,” “Register,” “Learn more,” and “Sign up”). But use personal pronouns (“my” and “your”) to set a friendly tone and make the CTA engaging and approachable.

Takeaway: Good CTAs are unique and customized to reflect the brand’s tone. Read more about how to optimize your CTA button (and make it bulletproof) with our Top Tips for Best Call-to-Action Button Design post.

Do a one-question micro-survey

We say this a lot, but it bears repeating: it takes a lot to get the attention of busy, on-the-go subscribers whose inboxes are flooded and who are reading emails while distracted and multi-tasking. It’s a tough crowd out there! Inviting readers to take a survey is a big ask. One way to make your survey as easy, simple, and quick as possible is to ask just one question right in the body of the email. It’s a micro-survey, and it might just be the thing that gets readers to respond at higher rates.

Instapage, a tool for creating landing pages, did just that. Here’s an example of their survey invitation emails, with the subject line “A World Premiere: The One Second Survey”:

Instapage survey invitation emails

Readers can select one of five choices right in the email itself, and then the survey is over. No need to click a CTA button or go to a landing page. No need to spend up to five minutes of your time.

The Brooklyn Public Library takes the same approach in the email below (subject line: “Your answer needed: What’s your favorite genre?”), where subscribers choose an answer within the email:

Brooklyn Public Library survey invitation emails

Takeaway: If getting a higher quantity of respondents is valuable to you—more valuable than getting a few responses to more surveys—consider asking readers to answer the highest-value question by including it directly in your email.

Wrap Up: Building Great Survey Invitation Emails

Designing survey invitation emails is no easy feat, so optimize your return on investment by getting readers to participate. Remember to always follow these guidelines:

  1. Write a subject line that’s short, clear, and attention-grabbing.
  2. Keep your message simple. Let readers know what you’re doing and why, and how they can participate.
  3. Your call-to-action is key. Use a button that stands out and optimizes the language you use.
  4. Try an in-email micro-survey to make it even easier for readers to respond.



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Kelly Shetron