If you have friends, you have a head start running a market-research panel. Just treat your panel like you treat your friends. Be engaging. Respect their time. Keep your promises. Help them feel special.

Human relationships are complicated, and running a panel is like running thousands of different relationships, so it’s easy to make mistakes. Here are three different types of mistakes and how to avoid them.

Not Branding Your Panel

Have you ever been to a fancy hotel that rents pool cabanas? Everyone at the pool wishes they had a cabana where they can sit in the shade with a private buffet. Your panel should feel like the pool cabana everyone wants into. One way to do this is to brand it. A brand signals to panelists that they have entered a special realm that other customers can’t access. They’ve crossed the velvet rope and entered the cabana.

A panel gives your customers special access to decision-makers at your company. It gives them rewards other customers don’t get. It even gives them power to change your products with the influence of their feedback. This is special. This is VIP. Help them feel like it with a brand.

Long Surveys

It takes discipline to keep your surveys short. But short surveys reward you back with higher response rates and better data. How short is short? For a panel, most of your surveys should hold at approximately ten questions. And by ten, that doesn’t mean you get to cheat with 10 matrix questions of 15 individual questions per matrix. Ten means ten.

That’s pretty short, but the good news is that because you have a panel, you have a repeatable forum and can field many surveys over time.

Because I have strictly followed the rule of ten questions per survey, most of my surveys have 40%+ response rate. This is because whenever a panelist sees a survey invitation they know it will be fast. Get to a place where panelists see your survey invite and answer it immediately because they know it won’t take long. If panelists decide to answer later when they have more time your response rates will sink like an anchor. Check out additional survey tips to keep your survey panel engaged.

Ignoring Panelist Complaints

If you constantly ignore the feedback you get from your friends, you won’t have friends. Give your panelists a special email or chat where they can contact you with questions or technical problems. Be especially available when it comes to ensuring panelists properly receive their incentive. Make sure panelists know there is a real human being they can contact when they need help.

After all, it definitely sends the wrong message when you start a panel to collect feedback and then don’t respond to the feedback about the panel itself.

To learn more about best practices for managing your research panel check out the articles in our market research learning center.

The Panel Management Guide

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