When is it appropriate to look outside your house files for potential respondents? I go outside for sample when my internal database does not have adequate coverage in a key response group or when an “outside in” view of the market is required. There are a few options marketing researchers can pursue if they believe their internal house files do not offer the right mix of potential participants.
List providers will rent you access to their house lists. This direct marketing carryover allows companies to look outside their house files for new customer acquisition. Response rates from list rentals are low, making them less suitable for research purposes. The economics of list rentals are more favorable to marketers who are selling a product or service and who can show direct contribution margin.
To fill this void, numerous companies have arisen whose purpose is to develop and manage research panels. These panels are opt-in and typically include general population (GenPop) as well more specialized populations (e.g. car owners, professionals, patients with a certain disease, etc.) Panelists are segmented via a profile questionnaire which allows researchers the ability to fill quotas based on relevant criteria (e.g. age, gender, income, language preference, product usage, job title, etc.)
The researcher who works with a panel provider purchases a fixed number of completes. Purchasing completes allows the researcher to set aside a fixed budget for their project. Incentives to the respondent are typically included in the sample price. There are a few factors affecting the costing of sample acquisition and will be the focus of another post.
The market for sample acquisition has matured alongside with development of platforms for online consumer research. It is buyer beware in the sample market. As a researcher you should ask key questions such as:
How are panelists recruited?
Do they offer geo-targeting to reach panelists in specific DMAs?
How do they handle low incidence populations?
Can they replicate the sample mix over multiple waves? (Critical for tracking studies including brand awareness and customer satisfaction measurement)
Do they offer a single point of contact?
The last point is crucial to project success. A dedicated project manager assists client researchers with efficient management of large and difficult projects. I have yet to meet a researcher that didn’t appreciate good project support.
To wrap it up, consider a sample provider if your house database does not include sufficient potential participants, you do not have a house file (perhaps you are in start-up mode), or you want a perspective that is outside of your typical consumers.