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How do you make online panels easy?

Yesterday, I wrote about online panels, giving my opinion that online panels are great but that you ought to use them to answer questions about why customers did something, not try to find out what they did. Online panels are becoming easier than ever to set up, so there’s no reason to hold back from doing one of your own.


I didn’t know much about online panels a few months ago, but I’ve had several folks help me learn more since then. Because online panels are so much cheaper than focus groups, you can ask the same kinds of questions to many more people, so you can get quantitative results at a fraction of the cost of large-scale focus groups. You could, of course, get quantitative results from surveys, but well-designed online panels let your customers interact with each other, as they can in focus groups, so you get the best of both worlds.
But it might seem daunting to set up online panels. Fear not.
I recently reviewed a demo from Vision Critical, who provides online panels through a tool called Panel+ Pro. This tool (and I am sure there are others out there) allows marketers to easily create a branded secure portal where you can invite participants to individual studies you want to conduct. You can create surveys and see the results right online. Or you can invite respondents to interact with each other in a forum.
Regardless of what you want to find out, resist the temptation to find out what people do on your site—use your Web metrics system for that—but if you thought that getting underneath your customers actions was beyond you, well, it’s not. If you need to find out what is causing the behaviors of your customers, you can do it without a whole lot of work.
In fact, you can “do it wrong quickly“—maybe creating an online panel will be your entry in the latest contest. Think about your entry today!

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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