Is Self-Management Right for Your Panel? | FocusVision Blog Skip to main content

Is Self-Management Right for Your Panel?

With tight budgets and shrinking revenues in the face of a weak economy, more market research firms and brands are electing to bring management of their panels in-house. Self-management can offer greater control over the panel’s processes, features and usage, and provide a means to monetize other assets, such as website visitors. The problem is that successful panel management is tougher than it looks. Smaller research companies and brands often lack some of the skill sets that are crucial for maintaining a thriving panel. Larger organizations may very well have all of the necessary skill sets to manage their panels internally, but those skill sets reside in many different employees across several departments, and thus significant collaboration is required to achieve success.

For any research company or brand that is attempting in-house panel management, a full assessment of the required skill sets and communication channels should occur. Does your business have the resources and defined processes in place to ensure value is realized? Here is a high-level summary to consider.

Like all customer-facing business initiatives, research panels require a project manager to provide the general direction, define recruitment and engagement practices, oversee all components of the panel, and drive its success. A technical person with a keen sense of aesthetics/design skills is needed to develop the panelist website, integrate all required functionality, and thoroughly test for usability. Like all websites, a panel website requires continual attention to ensure dynamic content and remain memorable to panelists.  A compliance manager is necessary to ensure that personal and financial data is adequately secured, and that privacy policies and terms of use statements are available and up-to-date. Additional resources may be needed to manage the panelist authentication process, and perform ongoing list management/conversion tasks such as email-to-address matching and de-duplication. Customer support personnel are required to address any panelist support issues in a timely fashion. Recruitment expertise may be necessary if river or social media sample is to be introduced, if customer lists are to be augmented with external sources, or if multiple sources and modes are being managed. If the panel website allows for any discussion forums and/or content upload, a moderator should also be in place to regularly review activity and keep discussions flowing. And naturally, employees with market research know-how are essential to develop the surveys, manage invitation design and delivery (effective invitation design and delivery is an art unto itself, requiring knowledge of spam scoring, email deliverability, and subject line writing), provide incentive fulfillment, and interpret the data to deliver meaningful insights.

Often research companies and brands believe they can save money and maintain better control of the panel if it is managed in-house, and in many cases they are right.  But sometimes companies utilizing in-house management ignore ongoing development and personnel costs, and/or the cost of panel atrophy, which can occur from lack of adequate panel attention.  A panel should be thought of as a core business asset and should be monitored for performance on a regular basis.  While some companies find success, many others fail because they press on with in-house management when they lack the necessary skill sets and resources, and/or because critical cross-department collaboration does not occur.

Research panels provide immeasurable valuable when implemented and fostered correctly. Each organization must evaluate its capabilities with an honest assessment, and for those that lack any of the crucial panel management components, outsourcing can save not only time and money, but ensure panel health as well. An additional route to consider is a hybrid solution in which the research firm or brand maintains responsibility for certain aspects of panel management, while outsourcing others that require more specialized skills and knowledge. Many vendors, including Kinesis, allow for panel management services to be customized, and can even assist in the evaluation process of your internal resource capabilities.

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