The secret to high response rates, 5 follow-up cartoons

The secret to high response rates: follow-up.

If the mass email doesn’t work, send an individualized email. If that email doesn’t work, call. If calling doesn’t work, mail.

Everyone responds differently, perseverance is the key. It also helps to stand out a little.

I’ve developed this set of cartoons to do just that, stand out and get attention.

You can save them to your computer and attach to your reminder emails. I’ve also made all five available as cards in my redbubble store.

What I’m working on

I’ll have a new blog out soon. I’m calling it, “top secret blog that will help the contribution-focused use social media.” That’s actually not true, I’m not calling it that, that’s just what I want it to accomplish. I already have a domain name and everything but I’m keeping it secret for now.

For the evaluators, you should also look for new updates to coming in the near future (hint: weekly email digest).

Now on to the cartoons!

Past the Due Date

Respondent: “When is the due date?”

Researcher: “This coming Friday.”

Respondent: “Ok, now when is the real due date?”

This cartoon is for those situations when the “due date” has come and gone but the survey is not yet closed.

Deadline has passed

Lighten the Mood

This one is for those times when you want to play survey follow-up good cop, bad cop. The bad cop part is the nagging tone that occurs naturally after the third or fourth follow-up call.
Did you hear the one

Sending Postcards

Mail used to to be the first option, now that has to go to email. Want to surprise? Send the invites and first follow-ups via email, then send a postcard. Mixing delivery modes shows you’re serious about getting a response and makes it seem less likely that you’ll give up easily.
Get the postal system involved

Vested Interest

Is your survey asking for input that would ultimately benefit the respondent?
Remain Uninformed

Close Relationship

A lot of surveys go out to close colleagues and collaborators. Of course close relationships don’t always mean quick responses. This one is a little over the top to send to someone you hardly know but for those close to you…
Step six silly cartoon



  1. Sheila B Robinson on July 9, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Loving these cartoons! I typically have to survey colleagues, and often my population is small (often 25-70; sometimes up to 450). I get to “2nd reminder” but am often hesitant to go beyond that, thinking that if folks feel bugged, they won’t be any more likely to complete the survey than they were when I invited, then reminded and reminded again. Using a cartoon to accompany the 1st reminder might be just the right “cocktail” of prodding and humor to boost my response rate.

    • Chris Lysy on July 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

      Thanks Sheila. If your reminders are like the ones I often see (blanket email to the entire list) switch to personalized > each individual. Especially for your smaller groups. Something simple like, “Hi Sheila, could you fill out this survey, we’re closing it soon and I’d love to have your response. Thanks, Chris”
      It’s always surprising how much of an impact a little personalizing will have on a response rate.

  2. karen on July 9, 2013 at 9:18 am

    I like the use of cartoons as well to help with lightening the mood around everyone’s fave….surveys! They get such a bad name….I love it, definitely gonna try this out in a few places.

    Thanks Chris!

    • Chris Lysy on July 9, 2013 at 9:19 am

      Awesome, let me know how it works 🙂

  3. ChristineY on July 9, 2013 at 10:01 am

    All I can think is “DILLMAN! DILLMAN!” and the feeling that for qualitative research (at least at my academic institution) Dillman’s method and order must be used! It’s Tested! It’s reliable! Still, response rates were not magically high by any means.

    • Chris Lysy on July 9, 2013 at 10:11 am

      I’m going to draft an approach and call it the Total Cartoon Method. Now to find someone who will let me test my new approach on their respondents…

      Did you know there is also a Dillman who is a martial arts instructor? Totally different way to approach follow-up. Coincidence?

  4. Joyce on July 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I used a cartoon postcard reminder for a survey second reminder with great results. This was back in the days when mailed surveys were common.

  5. Shana on July 17, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    These are great! Thanks for sharing. I will make use of them.

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  7. John Coldwell on February 2, 2015 at 4:12 am

    Hi Chris,
    What a fabulous talent you have – I’m so very envious.
    In terms of response rates, there are some tips on how to increase response rates here – – based on our own average of just over 70% (and that in turn is based on posing up to 60 questions and statements in many languages to a worldwide audience). I just thought I should share these tips.