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Whether you're concerned with customer satisfaction or employee contentment, or need feedback on a specific initiative, it is critical to go straight to the source and collect feedback directly from constituents.

Online surveys are an increasingly common way to solicit feedback, but response rates are often quite low due to poor survey design, lengthy surveys, requests for personal information, or a lack of incentives for survey completion.

So how do you ensure that people respond to your survey?

Follow these seven simple rules of engagement to increase the responses to your online survey.

Rule #1: Make a good first impression

Convince your audience to read past the survey invitation. Survey administrators must grab the target's attention with the subject line, text, and graphics.

Jazz up the invitation and introductory page with color, graphics, and catchy text.

And don't forget to craft a compelling, but also honest and concise, subject line no more than 60 characters in length.

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Dean Wiltse is chairman and CEO of Vovici (www.vovici.com). He was president and CEO of Greenfield Online and took the company public in 2004.