How marketing and research teams can collaborate to build customer research panels

Ned Dwyer
August 11, 2022
How marketing and research teams can collaborate to build customer research panels

Customer research panels are incredibly valuable for developing insights from your customers, building more useful products, and improving customer retention.

They can be leveraged by almost every team within your organization as well, not just Research: 

  • Product management
  • Design
  • Business strategy
  • Marketing

The relationship between marketing and research teams is particularly powerful and symbiotic. Each team brings their skill set to help the others connect with and learn from customers for the betterment of the entire organization. 

Marketing teams have enormous power and capacity to help promote customer research panels, which helps the research team run studies to understand customers. Marketing typically controls customer touchpoints essential for continuous research recruitment - whether that’s the customer newsletter list, social media channels, or in-app messaging.

Research teams can directly impact marketing programs, helping to run surveys, customer interviews, or messaging experiments to develop insights into customers, their needs & behaviors.

However, keeping your customer research panel distinct from your marketing programs is essential. 

The primary reason is that customers opt into research panels for different reasons than marketing programs: Customer motivations and intents are fundamentally different between marketing and research programs.

Customers may want to stay informed about your product, new releases, company updates, and special deals or promotions for marketing lists. If you’re especially good, they want to learn from your content.

Customers who opt-in to participate in research and are contacted about future research activities for various reasons- from die-hard fans wanting to feel more connected to the company to frustrated detractors who want to see the company fix the issues that cause them daily pain.

This consensual opt-in to participate in customer research panels achieves two things: 

  1. Educates the customer on the existence of the research panel, empowering them to share their voice in product-related matters.
  2. Increases conversion rates for research outreach due to the unique nature of the request.

It’s also a net benefit for the marketing team, helping to increase responses for marketing-related research that now goes through the research program.

While a customer on a marketing list is likely to be open to learning about customer research opportunities, a customer in a customer research panel is unlikely to want to receive marketing messages. That’s not what they signed up for, and it has the potential to reduce conversion rates on both marketing AND research programs.

Challenges to be addressed between marketing and research

There is a range of issues that marketing and research teams need alignment on to make each program effective. The two most critical in terms of customer experience has to do with over contacting and managing subscription preferences.

Preventing over-contacting

Contact frequency is incredibly important for marketing teams. They don’t want to be seen as spam or overloading users with content. Apart from delivering a bad user experience, this also increases the risk that a customer will unsubscribe from all marketing activities or even mark emails as spam.

Without the connection between the two programs, a customer will likely receive a marketing message in the same week that they get an invitation to participate in a survey or customer interview. 

This risk is relatively small since both programs are distinct and opt-in by nature, but can be mitigated by developing  contact frequency settings for each team to prevent over contacting (Hot tip: Great Question has this already)

More sophisticated teams can synch contact data between systems using a centralized data warehouse which is automatically checked before sending any customer communications (Great Question does this via Salesforce and Snowflake today).

Managing unsubscribes between lists

Managing folks who unsubscribe between lists is also a challenge that needs to be discussed between marketing and research teams and is particularly relevant in the world of GDPR, where infractions can lead to significant fines.

GDPR deletion requests must flow through to all systems, not just marketing or research. This can be done manually but is incredibly time intensive and carries a high risk of error.

The better way to do this is by synching contacts using a data warehouse and implementing a ‘delete’ API to ensure that these records are completely deleted from all systems consumed from the data warehouse.

Finally, you can implement a Contact Preferences Center connected to marketing and research programs (our Contact API solves this).

Marketing and research teams can be highly collaborative and help each other deliver on their joint goal of reaching and better understanding the customer. By aligning how these programs are run, the output can improve customer satisfaction, speed product development cycles, and lead to a more customer-centric organization.

Ned is the co-founder and CEO of Great Question. He has been a technology entrepreneur for over a decade and after three successful exits, he’s founded his biggest passion project to date, focused on customer research. With Great Question he helps product, design and research teams better understand their customers and build something people want.

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