Building Panel Tenure

April 2, 2020

Ask the Experts: How Do You Keep Panel or Community Members Longer?

If you are making the investment in developing a customer community or panel, there is one key factor for on-going success… you will want to keep your members for as long as possible. Why? Because…

  • Your recruiting costs will be lower (not having to replace as many panel members as often).
  • Longer-tenured panel members are highly engaged panel members, and highly-engaged panel members deliver better data quality.
  • You will have more flexibility in the types of projects you can field with your members. Highly engaged, high-quality respondents can go beyond online surveys to be recruited for other types of research (e.g., qualitative).

Symmetric knows a bit about keeping panel or community members engaged and productive. Our average panel member has been with us for 4½ years. Compare that to the industry average of 3-6 months! We know what it takes to keep panel members engaged.

Here are our four invaluable tips for increasing the tenure of your community or panel members:

Tip #1: Be Upfront About Your Purpose

Your panel or community members need to understand how their data is going to be used, so tell them when they sign up. What is the purpose of your panel or community? For a customer community, is it to create better products, develop a better customer experience, or to increase brand loyalty? For a panel, is it to have someone listen to your opinions on products and services? For Symmetric, our upfront purpose is for panel members to participate in marketing research surveys to share their opinions on products and services. Set the tone upfront with your panel or community members because your purpose sets member expectations and will determine the behavior you get back from your members.

Tip #2: Implement a Goldilocks Communications Strategy

What’s a Goldilocks Communication Strategy? Not too much, not too little, but just right.

For most panels, offering income opportunities (taking surveys for incentives) one to two times per month is just right. If you have income opportunities less often than one to two times per month, members lose interest and don’t feel connected to the purpose of your community or panel. Even communicating more than one to two times per week can be too much and might cause members to become fatigued and drop out.

If you don’t have at least one to two-income opportunities per month, supplement with other communications to keep them active. Send a newsletter or share the results of a recent and timely survey. Maybe implement a fun contest from time-to-time. Remember to keep it personal; it is to your advantage to develop a relationship and strong rapport with your panel members. Send them an email on their birthday or the anniversary of their joining the panel to let them know you appreciate their continued thoughtful participation.

Tip #3: Compensate Fairly

Compensation is the way you show members you value their feedback and engagement. So, make sure your compensation structure does just that. Resist the urge to underpay participants – even if it means you have to pass on certain projects. In the long run, it is better to keep the panel or community member feeling like they are being treated fairly and their time is valuable than to succumb to short-term pricing pressure.

Additionally, keep in mind: cash is king. Even among all the other types of incentive schemes out there (points, airline miles, coupons, discounts, gift cards, etc.), cash is still the best and most appreciated incentive you can deliver. And of course, make it simple and easy for community and panel members to understand how they earn incentives and how they receive incentive pay-outs:

  • Communicate clearly.
  • Design your incentive structure so that members earn pay-outs in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Make the process to claim a pay-out simple and easy for members.
  • Deliver incentive pay-outs rapidly. No one likes to wait to get paid!

Tip # 4: Variety is the Spice of Life

Find opportunities for panel and community members to participate in research methodologies other than an online survey. You know your members’ history of participation, engagement, and data quality. Recruit your best panel or community members to local in-person research opportunities (such as focus groups, taste tests, iHUTs, car clinics) and online research opportunities (such as video focus groups, video shopping experiences, bulletin board discussions, video diaries).

Research methodologies beyond online surveys are more fun and make panel and community members feel more valued and appreciated, increasing their loyalty and responsiveness. And that provides you with higher quality respondents and more flexibility in responding to your client requests.


Don’t take the churn-and-burn approach to panel or community building that is so common in our industry. You may be able to replace those members who leave, but your data quality could suffer. Think about creating a long-term relationship with your panel/community members for the best ROI for you and your clients.

Contact us today to learn how Symmetric can help you build a customer community with engaged, responsive members.

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