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Working with a quality market research panel and experienced sampling team, like The Sample Network, is essential to gain an edge over the competition and grow business with current and potential customers.  ‘Refer-a-Friend’ programs are an often employed strategy to recruit new community members or to generate respondents for both quantitative and qualitative studies.

Tapping into a current panel member’s circle of friends and family to play off their endorsement of your program can grow responses exponentially.  It’s the same idea as that old Wella Balsam Shampoo commercial from the 1970s where the enthusiastic consumer tells two friends how much she loves the product and they each “tell two friends and so and so on.”   Or, for the under-40 demographic, friend and family referral programs can be analogized in more modern-day terms of re-tweeting on Twitter. With the simple click of a button, the message spreads through contact lists like wildfire.

Today’s smartest companies have learned how to harness the power of friend and family referrals. However, the benefits maximizing these networks don’t come without inherent risks. In terms of community and panel building, the bottom-line is that the quality of collected survey data is only as good as the quality and representation of the users taking the survey.

Learn more about Quality from The Sample NetworkA reoccurring problem found with ‘Refer-a-Friend’ programs is user fraud, specifically the new referral actually being the referee – that is, the same person. The motivation to engage in this fraudulent behavior is typically linked to the referral incentive. If the same person is signing up under a number of different aliases and emails, he or she can fraudulently drain a company’s market research budget and ruin the integrity of the collected data at the same time. These fraudulent behaviors are certainly no friend to your market research efforts!

But, don’t let a few bad apples keep you from encouraging word-of-mouth marketing with current members to establish credibility and grow your respondent base.  The key to success is to actively assess the health of the pools you draw from for survey respondents.  Consider running panel or survey software that adds safety measures such as real-time address verification, double opt-in recruitment procedures, IP address activity and blocks, and digital fingerprinting.  Don’t just stop with these precautions though; the software needs to log activity and provide real time reporting allowing you to monitor for red flags on a regular basis.  Other options include using Google, Facebook or similar options as the “log in” tool for the community.

The steps you take to protect your panel and in what order they are implemented depend greatly on the project at hand. For example, recruiting for an online focus group can have different challenges than simply adding new members to your panel. Instead of learning by trial and error, wasting time and resources in the process, entrust your data collection requirements to experts in the field. The Sample Network  will listen to your unique needs and work with you to make the most of your community and panel referrals. Call us at 888-572-3255 today!