Research panel vendors may shout from the rooftops the size of their panel with some very impressive numbers. But ask them how many of those panelists are active or how they’re screened, and the silence may be deafening. The reason is that, quite honestly, it can be much harder to nurture panelists and keep them engaged than to recruit them in the first place. This is particularly true with busy executives in B2B panels. So, does panel size matter? Yes, but not as much as quality. Here’s why.
Research Panelists Defined
Let’s start at the beginning: what is a research panelist? It’s not someone who’s simply on your email list or who’s been asked to participate in one particular survey. A research panelist is a person who has signed up specifically to participate in research projects. They have also been asked to provide demographic and psychographic information to make it easier for the panel vendor to identify the right people for their clients’ projects. In a B2B panel, for example, the panelist might provide title, industry, company size, location, level of experience and areas of expertise, however, profiles are typically much more extensive.
Realistically a panel vendor could source panelists through unethical methods such as unsolicited or spam techniques to boost their counts. Or, perhaps the vendor offers really great incentives to sign up and it’s the panelists who are unethical in that they are signing up to cash in; never intending to actively participate. Either way, you have to look behind the panel size to determine whether it will truly be valuable for your research needs.
Beyond whether the panelists are active, you also have to make sure they are who they say they are; another dirty trick unscrupulous panelists use. The reasons for this may vary, but the fact remains that if panelists aren’t who they claim to be they are of no value to the panel, and definitely not to your research.
Key Measures for Quality
Vendors of quality B2B research panels should have a multi-step, scientifically rigorous and repeatable process for recruiting, engaging and nurturing panelists as well as eliminating them if they fail quality standards. We utilize technology for seamless quality control with proprietary tools for recruitment, engagement, and real-time verification. We have also automated our re-profiling techniques.
But at a minimum, panel vendors should follow industry guidelines such as ESOMAR, as well as privacy guidelines in the countries where panelists are being recruited. Techniques to authenticate panelists should include social media verification and ongoing re-profiling in addition to identifying and screening out panelists who rush through surveys, provide poor-quality responses or attempt to take a survey multiple times.
To keep panelists engaged, your vendor should have outreach programs in place to suggest surveys for them, an online community where they can easily see available surveys and an incentive program in which they earn rewards for participation.
Give Size Some Weight
Because of the specialized nature of B2B research, it can be difficult to find enough respondents of a particular title, industry, size of the company, a certain number of years’ experience, etc. for a statistically significant sample. That’s why, when considering B2B panels vendors, it’s important that they have the ability to target a large range of sectors and categories as well as markets, even internationally if necessary. For example, our proprietary panel can reach B2B professionals in 20+countries. What’s more, it can be helpful if they recruit for both qualitative and quantitative research. We believe the ability to give our clients these deep qualitative insights offer tremendous value.
For B2B research insights, you can act on, don’t let the size fool you! It’s the quality of the panel and the depth of your panel vendor’s capabilities that truly matter.
To learn more about our capabilities and the proprietary technology we use to maintain our panel quality, contact IRB at 011 4078 9940 today!
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