Recipe for the perfect qual panel

Step Three: Quality Qualitative panels 

This is probably one of the most important ingredients in our recipe: the panel. After exploring the planning phase and looking at the importance of good project management, we’re now at the key stage of finding and engaging with the perfect panel for best outcomes.

Finding the right panelists

Quality recruitment brings quality research, and this is why it’s important to have the support of an agency that knows how to build panels specifically for qualitative research, that understands consumer behavior, and knows how to engage respondents. Recruiting through companies who aren’t specialized might bring participants who are not prepared for the depth of answers, or length of surveys that qualitative studies require.

Panelists need to be willing, and honest, and need to be prepared for the tasks they will need to complete. It is critical to only use data from participants that meet these criteria, and your agency partner should always abide by best practices for removing suspicious responses. Completing qualitative research without these processes can waste time and money and is likely to leave companies without a clear direction about key business decisions.

A big community is also important to find the perfect target audience for your research project. The volume of available panelists provides an array of behaviors and opinions, and the feedback necessary for your research objectives. For example, our nationwide qualitative panel has more than 1.25 million members. Some projects might also require custom panels, especially when seeking a low incidence audience that is challenging to find. For example, in the healthcare space a custom panel can be critical when the product or service caters to a niche target, such as a patient with a rare condition or a highly specialized professional. 

How to reach them

In a digital world we can utilize a variety of outreach methods to both grow our nationwide panel and to target specific audiences for current projects. Different channels can have different benefits and bring different results; for example targeting via social media directly is often more efficient in prescreening, saving time and money while searching for qualified participants. Also, some niche groups are very difficult to find using traditional methods. With social media it’s easier to access those hard-to-reach respondents hiding in online support forums and communities featuring specific interests.  

Posting ads in newsletters, newspapers, radio, television, etc. can also be an effective outreach strategy for select audiences.

Keep them engaged

Keeping panelists engaged is as important as finding the right people. So, how do you do it? First, understand the research participants’ motivations to maintain engagement; while a monetary incentive is key, there are other motivating factors, such as feeling like a part of the community, seeing new products before anyone else, or simply wanting to be heard and share their opinions. We know that strong communication throughout the life of a project is also critical to set expectations, and it should be combined with a well-planned project that keeps panelists engaged to avoid losing them along the way.

So, you should watch out for the factors that could lead to research and screening disengagement: a poorly designed or overly lengthy survey, challenges with the selected research platform, or external variables like distracting surroundings.

Having a panel readily available that has been built specifically for a long-term engagement can lead to quick insights. This requires a meticulously well-planned project from the onset, with parameters for activities defined so that expectations are accurately communicated over the lifecycle of the project. A successful project means stronger trust, which leads to a higher retention rate and deeper level of engagement.

Completing this stage of finding the right panel and keeping them engaged is extremely important for the success of the project. That’s why it is key to find the right partners with the right experience, and a big enough community to be able to provide you with the right audience and quality outcomes.