In-house research panels can serve as a very useful tool in an organization’s research toolbox. Having ready access to a pool of pre-qualified people willing to participate in surveys or other research activities on an as-needed basis makes it possible to turn around insightful research in a matter of days.
Managing and growing a healthy and engaged panel relies on the following:
Recruiting qualified panel members
Ideally, panellists meet specific recruitment criteria and are genuinely interested in and qualified to share their opinions and provide constructive feedback on a range of topics pertinent to them and the organization.
Actively managing the panel
Inviting panelists to relevant, well-designed and varied research studies regularly will help to keep them interested and engaged. Sharing results and decision outcomes based on the research will help to increase future response rates and improve data quality as panelists will feel their feedback and opinions are being heard and considered by the organization.
Managing contact frequency
Striking a balance between inviting panelists to participate in research studies regularly (to keep them active and engaged) and not bombarding them with multiple invites in a short time period (to mitigate fatigue and disengagement), is critical to effective panel management.
Incentivising participation with guaranteed cash/rewards or sweepstakes prize draws upon survey or research activity completion can be an effective engagement tool. Furthermore, updating panelists on prize draw winners in frequent communications can serve as a strong motivator to look out for the next panel invite, participate and have a chance to win.
The risk of attrition is ever-present in research panel management. If a panel is not nurtured and used regularly, panelists will lose interest, disengage and unsubscribe.
While research panels are only one tool in an organization’s research toolbox, they are an important tool and should be considered carefully when planning research activities through other engagement tools. Poor scheduling, and a lack of consistent research design and communication, could ultimately lead to the dilution of a panel’s relevance to members and its cannibalization by other research and engagement tools.