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How to manage your own market research panel

6 min read
Having your own research panel is a great way to get insights from the right people quickly and without paying through the nose on research fees.

Why have your own research panel?

If you’re carrying out research, you’ve got two options when it comes to gathering responses – outsource to a research agency or recruit and manage your own panel.

When you manage the panel yourself, you can:

  • Do more research, faster – you have a group of respondents ready and willing to participate
  • Increase response rates – your panel members have opted in so they’re more invested in your research and your organisation
  • Build deeper insights – by going back to the same group again and again, you can build rich respondent profiles to help target the right people with the right study
  • Reduce the cost of research – you manage it yourself, so there’s no expensive agency fees to worry about

With an outsourced research agency on the other hand, you can bring in expertise to make sure all the fundamentals are in place from having the right sample size to setting up your questions to get the data you need.

How much could you save with in-house research?

If you’re thinking about managing a panel yourself, here’s a few things you’ll need to do:

Determine your panel size

The first thing to think about is how many people you need to recruit to your panel. To do that, you need to factor in your ideal sample size, your response rate and how many studies you intend to carry out.

Say you need 500 responses per survey, have a response rate of 30% and you’re planning to run 2 studies a month. Your panel size would then be:

500 (sample size per survey) / 30% (response rate) x 2 (studies per month) =3,333 participants

That’s a simple example – you may also need to factor in geographic quotas to ensure you have a good sample from different regions, and demographic profiles too to get a good split of age and gender. So make sure you have all the requirements to hand before you start recruiting and aim to go 10-20% above your minimum number to cover you in case people opt out of your panel or you don’t hit your target response rate.

Recruiting your panel

You can draw participants from a whole range of channels you’re already using, including:

  • Customer email database
  • Website recruitment
  • Social media
  • Point of sale

But you may want to look externally too, especially if you’re planning to gather responses from prospects or customers of competitors – this is particularly useful if you’re running product or competitor research.

In this case you may want to look at advertising, lead generation networks (inc. buying in contact lists) and affiliate networks to draw in a wider range of participants.

Engaging your panel (and keeping them engaged)

Once you’ve recruited enough participants, you’ll need to manage your communications with them from explaining what it means to be in your panel to reaching out to them during your research.

If you get it right, you can keep them engaged and help to keep your response rates up.

Here’s a few tips to get you started:

Manage expectations

Make it clear when inviting potential panelists how often they’ll be contacted, what topics you’ll be surveying them about, how they will be rewarded.

You can use your profiling questionnaire, welcome email, and login portal to reinforce these expectations.

You should do this with each interaction too, so every time you run a new project, let them know the content, length and purpose of your surveys so they know exactly what they’re getting into.

Contact frequency

Over-surveying is a common problem for research panels – there’s no hard and fast rule here, but if you set expectations (eg 2 surveys a month) at the recruitment stage, make sure you stick to it.

Keep it personal

Plenty of studies have shown how personalisation can help to drive engagement and response rates. Make your panel members feel you know and understand them – address them by name and try to avoid asking them questions you’ve asked them before.

Reward your panelists

Incentives are key not only to attracting panelists, but also keeping response rates up when you launch your research. Keep your incentives relevant – typically monetary incentives perform better than gifts and could be aggregated through a points system where panelists build up points based on the number of studies they participate in.

It’s not just about money or gifts though – panelists also want to know their time and effort was well spent. So to keep panelists engaged, keep them up to date with the results and how you used their responses. It will make them feel much more invested in being part of your panel.

Build and manage your panels with Qualtrics

Ready to start managing your own panel? With Qualtrics, you can recruit, manage and reward your panelists in Core XM. With the ability to control contact frequency and global opt-outs, you can also build rich profiles of your respondents so you can target the right people at the right time so you’re getting the insights you need.

eBook: A guide to building agile research functions in-house