If you’ve done quantitative research for any length of time, there’s a good chance you’ve worked with panel companies to fill your research needs. At Key Lime Interactive, we work with many different tools and strategies depending on our client needs, and that often involves working with panel companies to help fill those quantitative studies. Over the years, we’ve learned a few best practices for this interaction that we’d like to share with the greater research community. Here are five tips for working with panel companies in quantitative research that will help make your interactions smooth, constructive, and hopefully lucrative for your company.
1. Be as specific as you can in your bid.
A big obstacle to project success in working with a panel vendor is inaccuracy in the bid. Leaving anything out, even if it’s seemingly small, could impact the qualification rate of your participants, and in turn impact the price. It’s important to be honest and specific in your initial email to make sure you and the panel vendor are on the same page from the beginning of your engagement.
It’s common for study needs to be in flux in the early stages of bidding a project, so keeping in close contact about the developments in needs is also important. If you’ve reduced the age or geographic range of users that can qualify for a study, you will want to see what the impact of those changes would be in pricing and feasibility.
2. Get multiple bids.
Bidding a study with multiple vendors is a great failsafe for a study, and can be helpful in determining appropriate pricing as well.
When working in unfamiliar industries, which can often happen when working with a large variety of clients, it can be difficult to estimate the qualification rate and potential price per complete. Sending your request to multiple companies will often give you a range of possible prices. Taking those prices and finding the average, or median, will be more likely to be accurate than just getting pricing from one vendor. Additionally, this can give you bargaining power in pricing with other vendors. Don’t be afraid to ask if they can meet your budget! Many companies have a minimum margin they want to make on an engagement, but it’s always worth asking if you can save some money for yourself and your client.
This works as a failsafe as well, in case your study fielding doesn’t go as well as you planned. If you need to switch panel vendors in the middle of fielding, you’ve already started the engagement with another vendor and can make that transition much smoother.
3. If a study is struggling, ask to bring on partners or raise incentive.
Another strategy for a study that is struggling in field is to ask the panel provider to bring in partners, or alternatively, raise the incentive being used. Panel companies often work together to meet their client needs, and have agreements with each other to help complete difficult studies. This is a good step to take if you are starting to worry you won’t get the required number of completes in time. On the other hand, sometimes you go into field with too small of an incentive for your target. If many users are quitting your study before finishing due to the length, or not enough people are even beginning the survey, talk to your panel provider about whether it makes sense to increase the incentive being paid out.
4. Provide feedback.
When fielding, make sure to provide feedback on the panel quality and progress of the study to your panel vendor. It is their job to provide you quality responses in a timely manner, and every company I’ve worked with has been happy to be informed of cheaters and speeders taking your survey from their panel. There is always some level of noise in the data, which you’ll need to clean up when you view your results. Save those panelist identifiers to share back with your panel vendor so you can avoid seeing those participants in future studies. When it comes to progress, make sure you clearly communicate if you’re on pace for your goal or not. Your project manager can increase or decrease the flow of participants as needed.
5. Foster a good relationship.
Finally, be sure to think of your relationship with these companies and communicate appropriately. Being friendly and open with your account manager will help you get your bids turned around more quickly, more accurately, and could potentially allow more flexibility in pricing. You will come to rely on those factors as you perform research, so keeping that in mind will make your quantitative fielding experiences smooth and effective.
What have you learned from working with panel vendors in quantitative research? Leave a comment below and let us know!
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