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I often get asked questions about how a company will benefit from a community panel, compared to more traditional ways of doing research.

What I usually say is that a community panel is very different from other more traditional research approaches.

A community panelÛ_

1. is ongoing, iterative, and online
With the convenience of online, you can access your customers on an ongoing basis. This provides you with the opportunity to do longitudinal research and to run iterative projects over time as you learn more about your members. You don't have to get all of your questions answered in one fell swoop and if you do a project that leaves you with more questions than answers, you can just reach out to them again.

2. provides faster and cheaper access to your customers or audiences
Instead of going through the process of commissioning research projects and acquiring your sample each time you want to run a study, now your customers are at your fingertips. The cost of re-contact is considerably lower, allowing you to run more frequent and smaller studies and go back for more information whenever necessary. Obviously you need to keep burden rules in mind, but your customers will feel more part of the process vs being left out in the cold not knowing what the purpose of the various projects are.

3. enables you to do research you wouldn't typically have time or budget for
Due to the greater efficiency, speed and lower cost you can take on more projects and learn the 'nice-to-knows' as well as the 'need-to-knows'. All your data is there in one system with the tools to analyze it.

4. lets you continuously infuse the customer's voice within the company
Having a community panel of your customers really helps personify them and bring them closer to the heart of your organization: something hard to do in the days of large global companies where only those on the real front line really interact with customers.

5. provides deep profiling for sampling and analysis
With ad hoc surveys you are limited by space and can barely scratch the surface of who the respondents are. With a community panel, every interaction is an opportunity to gain more insight into the individuals participating and you can cross reference previous results against current for even deeper knowledge.

6. lets you have a richer relationship and three way dialogue
Communities facilitate peer-to-peer interaction between customers as well as up-down, between yourselves and your members. This leads to a much richer conversation, and results in real relationships: much more like life than traditional research. Dialogue does not happen by magic though, so you need to get your feet wet and jump into the discussion too.

As a researcher you need to adapt to the new relationship and access you have to your customer when you're running a community panel. Tone, language, length of project, volume of work, process management, member engagement, stakeholder activation, and more are all considerations now that you have a continuous relationship with your customer.

Watch out for more from me on how to adapt to the new relationship with your customers in a community panel!

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Ellie Hutton

Ellie is passionate about our customers' experience, shining a spotlight on the success of our customers, and bringing the voice of the customer to our business. She’s been with Vision Critical since 2006, in research, marketing, sales enablement, customer success and CX teams. Ellie has over 20 years of experience in research and marketing, partnering with companies across many verticals to build brands, develop products, retain customers, evaluate communications, develop strategy, and facilitate change.
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