Even if your research project is designed to perfection, it won’t be effective if you don’t get the right respondents. Getting them is critical, but it’s also hard.

So we offer three proven ways to find them. Each of these methods will be useful in some circumstances and detrimental to others, so be sure to carefully consider your study’s objective as your source.

In-House Lists

The first place to start should be your in-house lists. These lists can include employees, customers, and potential customers. They can be a great source of respondents in many situations; however, email marketing databases degrade by 22.5 percent each year, so you’ll need to find ways to keep yours current.

If you find that your email marketing list is running a little slim, Hubspot has several ways you can boost your list.

The best way to capture leads is a landing or squeeze page. Sumo estimates you can gain a 20-40 percent conversion rate on a landing page because the visitor has fewer decisions to make. On the homepage, visitors can click around to a hundred different buttons, videos, or product demos, but a landing page isolates the call to action.

You can make the homepage of your site a landing page with an opt-in. Or, if you would take visitors directly to your natural homepage, you can use the same concept by providing them with a popup content offer. This can be a free eBook, podcast, webinar, or whatever will provide value to your audience. People will gladly exchange their email address for something free that’s of value to them.

Lists can be especially helpful if you are surveying employees or current customers, but they will be less helpful in determining market trends.

Purchasing Panel Respondents

A panel is “a group of people with relevant backgrounds who have agreed to participate in research on an ongoing basis.” There are a number of services that sell responses to surveys.

To recruit a panel, you’ll first need to determine the panel size. For this you’ll need to know:

  • Required sample size
  • Estimated response rate
  • Surveys per month

Then you can use this formula to determine your panel size:

Sample size per survey / % response rate = Panel size

You’ll need to round up because your response rate might not be accurate, and it’s always better to have too many respondents than not enough, especially if you plan to use the panel more than once per month. For instance, if your formula comes out to 3,500 respondents, aim for 4,000.

You should keep your surveys short and interactive to make participation as easy as possible. Make sure respondents can answer surveys on any device. You must also decide if you’re going to offer an incentive for completing the survey. While rewards can increase participation, Qualtrics has found that people will participate without a reward.

If you’re using Qualtrics, panels can be profiled so you are sure to only get the respondents you want. Click here for a free consultation on panel options that are available to you.

Qualtrics Research Services works exclusively for Qualtrics users and has access to over 4 million respondents from all walks of life.

Website Respondents

Much like getting email leads on your website is a good idea, you can also get survey respondents on your website.

Qualtrics lets you embed surveys into a page, create pop-up invitations, or simply place a link on your site. Collecting responses on a website is ideal if you are looking for website feedback or if your customers regularly visit your site.

It’s also effective to host an online contest on your website and ask for email addresses to enter the contest. You can use these emails as future respondents. People love free stuff and are often willing to give you an email for a contest entry.

For more information on writing great survey questions, check out the Qualtrics eBook: 7 Tips for Writing Surveys

This post was originally published in July 2010 and updated in May 2018.