While many factors influence how active and involved a Customer panel is, so often it starts with recruitment. Whilst "Brand fans" are great to hear from and easier to recruit, you also want to onboard customers who are a little more critical. Successful recruitment consists of two elements.: firstly, you need to know where to find your target group, both physically and digitally. Secondly, you have to convince them to become a panel member, so it is important to reach them with the right message.
The main reason for becoming a member of a customer panel revolves around "wanting to contribute and to help your organization". Include what you will use the panel for and make the "what’s in it for them" concrete. For example, for customers of a housing association it was key for members to know they could join in the discussion on topics that are personally relevant to them, such as making the home more sustainable or burglary protection. We also find that people are motivated by the exclusivity ("not just accessible to everyone") and this emphasis yields great benefits. Be mindful though that the right message is dependent on the target group that you want to address.
After formulating the right message then naturally customers need to see it. By communicating the message through multiple channels you reach a larger, more diverse group of customers (if you only recruit through a newsletter, you only reach customers who read the newsletter). Map the touch points (contact moments) with your customers and see which ones can be used for recruitment. An example is a supermarket that uses these various options to recruit members for its customer panel:
- In-store advertising pillars were used displaying an invitation to become a member of the customer panel. To make it accessible, a QR code was scanned for immediate registration.
- For customers using the supermarket's wifi, an invitation appeared on their phone to register.
- At the cash register, flyers were added to shopping bags including an invitation for the customer panel.
- An invitation was also placed on the back of the receipt.
- Finally, invitations were displayed in the supermarket magazines.
It is important to realize that recruiting panel members is not a one-off promotion, but something that must be continuous. Every customer panel has a natural drop out rate. By continuously recruiting you can largely absorb this, and the size will remain in order. Keeping an eye on the composition of your panel is also important. There is a good chance you will find that younger target groups are more difficult to recruit and to keep involved. To compensate for this, you need to recruit more specifically, for example with the help of social media campaigns.
Below we have detailed the typical recruitment methods and our thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of each one:
- Direct e-mail - The most used form of recruitment. Reliable and effective which generally yields a conversion of 5 to 10%.
- Corporate website - A call-to-action on your own website has the benefit of boosting your image (it shows that you are open to the opinion of customers). What it yields is totally dependent on where the invitation is on the website, how prominent it is, number of visitors, etc.
- Corporate social media channels - A call to action on one's own social media channels can be effective, depending on the number of fans of these platforms but the latter says it all: they are mainly fans. Therefore, it is advisable to use this channel sparingly.
- Newsletter - A communication channel with many pitfalls. Easy to do wrong, difficult to do right. However, if this succeeds, it can be effective. For example, did you know that the conversion will increase by 42% if you place only one call-to-action in your newsletter instead of four?
- Customer service - A customer service representative asks a calling customer to become a member of the panel. Can be effective, but of course not if a customer is completely "out of your mind". Provides a different type of customer than the online channels.
There is no single answer to recruitment, but the simple answer is to work with a partner agency who can work with you to define your recruitment strategy.