Create Incentives for Attendance - over the course of a several month panel it is hard to expect everyone to make each session. However, an incentive for perfect attendance can help!
Build Rapport with the Panelists - as a moderator I always make a point to establish rapport with the people in my groups. It can be as simple as greeting them at the door with a smile. Give respondents a chance to build rapport with one another. This will enhance the conversation and participation.
Provide Clear Communication - Provide them with written instructions for using the product or completing homework. Give them a phone number to call if they have any questions.
Develop a Good Working Relationship your Facility - Your facility is the first point of contact with your panelists. Be sure the facility you use to host your research provides reminder calls before each panel to ensure on time attendance.
Often when I start a focus group or interview, I let the participants know that they are the experts and I am there to learn from them. How much could you learn if you assembled a team of experts to regularly "consult" with you on your ideas?
An Expert Panel, sometimes called repeat use or on-going panel, is an excellent technique to use in the prototyping phase of development. Expert panels are generally comprised of a target group of people who agree to meet on several occasions to discuss prototypes and other stimuli. Respondents may gather for as few as two sessions or as many as ten.
Hard to Find Audience - the target audience for your product or service may have a low incidence or perhaps you would like to create a panel of extreme users. Hence, it may be costly to find them. Once you have found a group of people that fit your specifications, you may want to use them for more than one focus group or interview. Especially, if you have more prototypes or ideas than you can realistically show in a two to three hour focus group.
Multiple Prototypes / Ideas to Screen - When you are early in the product development process you may have several ideas or prototypes you would to receive feedback on.
Creating a "Future" Environment - Perhaps you are in the unfortunate situation where your competition has just launched a new product and your competitive response won't be ready for 6 months to a year. You may to want to understand how people will respond to your competitor's product and your potential ideas. You can create a future environment by giving a group the competitive product to use for a period time. You can then learn their reactions to the competitive entry as well as understand their reactions to your prototypes.
Be in contact with your panelists before and in between meetings. These are ways you can keep in touch and learn what they are experiencing as they are using your product or service. Journals / Diaries - have panelists keep a diary of their experiences with your product or service. This can give you their first hand reaction with your product or service.
Email / Bulletin Boards - these tools can allow you to efficiently correspond with the panelists in between group meetings. Perhaps you have a question that cannot wait until the next group, send out an email to the group.
Phone Calls - Panelists can call about their experience using a test product, or you can call them to probe deeper. I once conducted a project where the panelists called an 800 number each time they used the product to describe their experience. Their calls were then transcribed for the team.
Photos - A picture is worth a thousand words. The downside to focus groups is that you cannot witness what is taking place in their home. Giving them a disposable camera is a great way to see in their home what is pertinent to your product.
When needing to test multiple products or ideas, expert panels can save money because recruiting panelists is a one-time expense.
Expert panels provide a regular forum for you to gain feedback from your target audience.
Nobles Research would be happy to consult with you to determine if an expert panel may be right for your research project. We can design a research plan to help you uncover the insights you need about your target audience.