Like customer research, setting up a customer research panel isn’t a one-time event.
It needs to be continuously promoted to keep your panel fresh with potential research participants who are ready, willing, and able to participate in your team’s latest research project.
Your Continuous Recruitment Strategy is a key element of running Continuous Customer Discovery - it’s impossible to keep your customer discovery continuous if you’re not simultaneously running continuous recruitment.
There are two main types of continuous recruitment: passive and active.
Passive recruitment is where you’ve set up recruitment calls to action throughout your website, product, and other customer experience touchpoints to drive folks to join your panel. You set these up once, and they automatically onboard new participants to your panel.
For instance, you might have a dedicated email in your customer lifecycle email sequence that promotes your research panel.
While active recruitment is more manual and time-intensive, it’s sometimes necessary—for instance, when recruiting non-customers where you might need to do outbound recruitment; or hyper-specific audiences, like admin users of your product where you might need to leverage relationships with your sales team.
Both active and passive recruitment is required as a part of an effective continuous recruitment strategy. Depending on the audiences you’re recruiting, the maturity of your platform, and your recruitment capacity, you might emphasize one or the other.
Here’s a three-step guide to establishing active and passive recruitment pipelines.
The first step is to figure out what opportunities exist for you to engage with customers, either passively or actively, to recruit them to your research panel.
Initially, you should record as exhaustive and complete a list of potential touchpoints as possible in a spreadsheet. You can worry about how viable these are later on.
Challenge yourself to get a list of 100 opportunities to start with. That’s a lot, but the exercise will push you to be creative and might reveal some powerful, creative channels for your new research panel.
Examples of what might be included:
This could also include earned customer touch-points and channels you have earned the right to promote through. This might include being a part of specific Facebook, Reddit, or Slack communities where you’re an active participant, having a good relationship with the moderators, and understanding their moderation policies, so you don’t get accused of spam.
To understand the effort required to recruit, start by classifying each opportunity as active or passive. For example, getting your account executives to promote your research panel to prospects and existing customers is a great idea. Still, generally, this relies on being top of mind for those folks. If you’re not top of mind, they’ll forget, given all their other priorities, and the channel will dry up.
This doesn’t mean you should still pursue active channels, it just means you need to be aware to put an active strategy into place to keep these channels working for you.
Score based on likelihood to drive recruits x likelihood to get implemented. Some channels are going to be more fruitful than others.
A checkbox to sign up to your panel in your products onboarding flow will likely get you a good % of customers, but you might be battling with the growth team given the extra friction it causes.
The customer support team might be a more sympathetic audience, willing to put a link in their email footers for all support inquiries.
One of the most robust passive channels we’ve seen is integrating with your existing customer database - something like Snowflake or Salesforce. As new users are added they can be contacted automatically, at Great Question this is done via our system and will continue to run forever.
Put together a project plan, including a calendar for getting your touch points implemented.
This will likely include a kickoff meeting with the relevant teams (marketing, success, sales, product, design, data science) to get them on board and establish timelines for implementing these touch points.
You will also want to put together your own calendar & regularly scheduled recruitment events to make sure you’re following through with active recruitment via owned and earned channels - ie getting included in the marketing newsletter, posting to earned online communities, or running outbound campaigns for select audiences.
Since continuous recruitment is always happening, you will want to review your continuous recruitment strategy at least once a quarter.
How many people are you recruiting? What do you know about these folks? What percentage of these are being contacted? And are there any research recruitment efforts going unfulfilled?
You may be recruiting a lot of people, but if they’re not being contacted for research projects, the panel will likely become stale and unusable. Ideally, you’re striking a delicate balance here to keep the panel active.
Since these folks have become panel members, what else have you learned about them, or what other data can you use to build out their profiles? This can come through integrations with CRMs like Salesforce or Snowflake or additional attributes assigned based on study results.
If you are recruiting too many folks, you may roll back some of your campaigns, either active or passive, to keep the balance in place.
Likewise, suppose you’re not meeting the needs of People Who Do Research with the audiences they’re looking to run research with. In that case, you might consider changing the mix of your channels or seek to establish those which you previously deprioritized.
Continuous Customer Discovery - or really any kind of ongoing customer research program - relies on continuous recruitment. Establishing a solid foundation to recruit from, leveraging your owned and earned customer channels, will pay dividends to ensure that customer insights are included in every product release.
If you want to see how easy it is to recruit research participants with Great Question, request a demo.
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.