Panel management best practices for difficult to reach audiences

Market research requires increasingly precise sample matches with an expectation of quality and uniqueness for any given study. How do you manage sample to account for accessibility of different populations, while factoring the inherent lack of uniqueness with so many veteran panelists on board, all while meeting (and hopefully exceeding) the needs of clients?


Sourcing unique, difficult to reach audiences begins with a diverse approach to recruitment. By setting up exclusive relationships with specialty websites that aren’t reliant on pure traffic generation, while utilizing mediums such as TV commercials to reach strategic demographics, you help ensure optimal panel uniqueness.


Low response rates to survey invites, low completion rates in surveys, or lack of interest in incentives can create issues immediately. That’s why it’s so important to build a strong relationship with panel participants through:

  • Regular communication — sending new survey opportunities 1-2 times per week.
  • Ensuring quality checks and verification methods aren’t too burdensome, protecting data quality without inconveniencing users.
  • Working with survey programmers to build mobile and desktop optimized surveys that are easy to use.
  • Providing a clear, enticing incentive program that rewards participants for their time.
  • Keeping a close eye on conversion rates and targeting practices to avoid excessive panel burn.
  • Following up and providing immediate response if there is a question or problem to keep panel members engaged.

Respect and appreciation for panel participants is just as important as the data they provide. By treating them well and ensuring they are well rewarded within industry expectations, they will reward us in turn with timely feedback on future surveys.


Good incentives are a must, but how do you create a program that works to draw people in and keep them actively engaged? Some things to consider:

  • Universal Incentives — Incentives that are independent of qualification address the risk of altered responses or churn due to burn-out and conditioning from repeated non-qualification.
  • Daily Streaks —By rewarding loyal members who “check in” every day with accrued bonuses, you can engage without affecting the quality of sample and responses.

The goal of incentivizing is to groom affinity and trust in the survey process, and never to condition or influence survey responses.


Email is the easiest way to reach and invite respondents to a survey, or encourage them to return and keep up their daily streak.

But it can also backfire when overused. Overly frequent emails can push people away, lead to spam issues, and reduce the response rates of your most valuable panel members. That’s why accounting for member frequency, relevancy, and priority of all outbound emails is vital.

Whether through the proper balance of incentives, regular follow-ups, or email etiquette, it’s possible to build and maintain otherwise difficult to reach audiences, all while maintaining quality.


Lisa Wilding Brown

Innovate MR




The Australian Market and Social Research Society is linked globally to 45 associations through its partnership with the Global Research Business Network (GRBN) and the Asia Pacific Research Committee (APRC). Click here to read about the AMSRS global network. This article is originally sourced from GRBN website.



About AMSRS 386 Articles
The Australian Market & Social Research Society Limited (AMSRS) is a not-for-profit professional membership body of over 2,000 market and social research professionals who are dedicated to increasing the standard and understanding of market and social research in Australia. The Society assists members to develop their careers by heightening professional standards and ethics in the fields of market and social research.

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