Table of contents

1. What is a research pool and why do you need one?
2. What to take into account when setting up a pool
3. Why outsourcing your pool saves you time, money and stress
4. Start setting up and managing your research pool

1. What is a research pool and why do you need one?

A research pool, also known as test user pool, is a group of people who have agreed to participate regularly in user studies. Normally, such groups are carefully selected to be representative of your target group(s) and to ensure an appropriate balance of age, gender, and other socio-demographic characteristics.

A private pool comprises specific users (often customers) with known characteristics. A public pool, on the other hand, consists primarily of potential, unbiased users.

A test user pool for research purposes is an absolute must for companies that regularly conduct user research. It is also a must for teams wishing to engage in exchanges with the same group of people over time, whether as part of a long-term research project or to explore a variety of different topics with a constant group of participants.

Do these examples apply to you, but you don’t have your own research pool yet? Why not change this? We’ll show you what it takes and how you can also get external support.

2. What to take into account when setting up a pool

Setup of a research panel

Experience has shown that setting up a pool successfully takes 3 to 4 months, with many important things to consider:

  1. Setting up the pool and acquiring test users
  2. Enriching the profiles with new screening data
  3. Contacting test users and communicating with them
  4. Participation in tests and incentives
  5. General management (data updates, withdrawals, and support)

But should you choose a research pool service provider, the time required to set up the pool could be reduced to 3 or 4 weeks, depending on the specific project.

Let’s start by taking a look in detail at the criteria above.

2.1 Setting up the pool and acquiring test users

When putting together your pool, you’ll have to pay attention to those characteristics that might affect how a person experiences your product and if he/she is suitable for answering questions. For example:

  • How long has this person been a customer?
  • What product is he/she using?
  • Is he/she a power user or a sporadic user?
  • Does the person have special knowledge about your product that sets him/her apart from the average user? Can this opinion distort the overall picture or hide problems that other users might encounter?
  • Are the test users already so influenced that they have an above-average opinion of your product or company?
  • Are there any differences between users who are registering to join the pool and users who decline your invitation?

After answering the questions about your test users and the pool quality, you have to meet a few (technical) requirements before you can actually start acquiring test users for your pool:

  • A website to which the future pool members are directed and linked to the registration form, which confirms consent to the Terms of use and the Privacy policy (ensuring compliance with data protection, GDPR)
  • Secure storage of test user data
  • An email notification with professionally designed layouts
  • An official contact email address

When starting to set up your pool system, you can use a combination of different services. Researchers often need to get creative when setting up a pool, especially when they’re just starting with the process. From Doodle and Calendly to the good old Excel or Google Sheets, there are many ways to set up your own recruiting solution from the ground up.

Your existing email or CRM platform probably also offers a range of communication and target group management tools. These will help you to identify and maintain unique lists of the kind of people you need for a pool. Solutions like Salesforce can be quite expensive, but if you’re already using them, they can be a good interim solution. 

Once you’ve decided on a solution, nothing stands in the way of inviting your customers to join your pool through a newsletter, social media or flyers. At TestingTime, we acquire test users almost exclusively via digital channels (organically or with the help of targeted advertising campaigns).

2.2 Enriching the profiles with new screening data

Your research pool should be an accurate reflection of your entire user base. This means that you should look for diversity when recruiting, and not just in terms of demographics.

Possibly, you’ll also have to consider other factors when expanding your pool. For example, you should make sure that the people participating are not too familiar already with your research. Or that no “professional” test users are sneaking into your pool. So-called “study junkies” can endanger your access to new insights.

The more you know about your test users, the easier it will be to find the right people for a specific study. For example, you can send them a general questionnaire (screener) after they register, which will make it easier for you to invite them to studies that fit their profile.

At TestingTime, we send an email invitation to potentially suitable test users for each new study, kindly asking them to answer a few questions which allow us to find out whether they meet the requirement profile of this specific study.

If none of the tools mentioned above are suitable for such a screening, there are alternatives such as SurveyMonkey available.

2.3 Contacting test users and communicating with them

You need an official contact email address to communicate with your test users. It makes sense to use a service address for this purpose. Typical service addresses are info@, service@, help@ or, in this case, pool@. These service addresses are often used as “general” addresses and indicated in the contact section of a website.

You can of course be a little more personal and use a name (or a pseudonym). But a service address doesn’t “belong” to a specific person, something that is absolutely justified. Of course, there is one person (and sometimes several) in the company responsible for retrieving and processing the emails that arrive at this service inbox. But it might happen that they leave the company, which is why you should use a service address to ensure that communication with your pool remains active, regardless of who is currently in charge of it.

You can also use your current email or CRM platform as a communication solution.

At TestingTime, all standard communication channels (e.g., invitation email for the study including instructions, confirmation, SMS reminders, etc.) are automatically controlled and sent by our platform.

Non-standard communication channels (e.g., if the link to the remote sessions has changed) are the responsibility of the Operations Specialist in charge of the recruitment order. Test users can reach our Operations Specialists either by phone or email.

2.4 Participation in tests and incentives

As soon as you have prepared a study and performed the screening, you can invite suitable candidates to your study. To do this, you need a tool to coordinate schedules. Ideally, your test users should be allowed to select several possible dates and times, to make sure that every test slot is filled.

To start, you can use solutions such as Doodle, Calendly, Excel or Google Sheets, the same way as you did when expanding the pool and enriching the profiles.

Many companies offer incentives such as reward systems or special offers to encourage test users to take part in a study, because everyone appreciates it when their time and effort is recognised. Sometimes it’s already enough to give your customers a look behind the scenes and allow them to have the opportunity to directly influence product planning.

Most people appreciate corporate gifts which serve both as a thank you and unobtrusive marketing. Often, you can encourage the commitment of your participants by offering them access to additional features or usage.

Other effective incentives are cash or gift certificates. However, choosing the right incentive is only the first aspect of the challenge. The second one is to think about the best moment to offer it. Should a reward already take place upon registration or only if the test user actually takes part in a study? Should the incentive be the same for every study or should it vary depending on the type of participation required?

Finally, you should be clear about who you want to address with the incentive and how the different types of incentive are perceived by the test users. Are you leaving out an important segment if you don’t offer financial incentives? Do you risk offending high-profile participants by offering a token payment when something else would be more appropriate? Do your test users work in an industry (e.g., government) where rewards or gifts are not allowed?

As you can see, there are a number of things to consider when choosing the right remuneration. At TestingTime, we pay test users in cash, and we are technically and legally equipped to do so.

2.5 General management (data updates, withdrawals and support)

Is everything okay so far? Now we are coming to the most important point. Outdated data are useless. Hence, you must provide your test users with the possibility of editing their profile. They must also be able to delete their profile at any time. You can use the same service address indicated in “2.3 Contacting test users and communicating with them“ for both. Your test users can use this address to notify you of changes and to submit a deletion request or other support needs

Ideally, your test users should be able to unsubscribe via a link in the footer of each email. At TestingTime we have solved it this way – but this requires all processes to be automated in the background by means of a tool, so that this unsubscription is also recorded correctly. Thus, it probably makes sense when you are just starting out, that they simply communicate their request via the reply function.

Once you have a larger pool, it will probably be more efficient to set up an internal request/ticketing system. For this purpose, you can resort to solutions such as Zendesk (it’s the one we use).

Pool management by TestingTime

With the Private Pool subscription, you can create and manage your own private pools of users (customers, employees, partners, etc.). We handle everything from there onwards—targeting, screening, scheduling, troubleshooting and more—without any limits.

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3. Why outsourcing your pool saves you time, money and stress

Outsourcing test user recruiting

An already existing pool saves you time when looking for high-quality participants guaranteed to fit your needs. But as you can see, even if you have your own pool, there is still a lot more you need. Managing a pool is not exactly a simple task and it includes many activities: administration, screening and recruitment, dealing with last-minute cancellations and no-shows, and incentives. In order to be able to focus on your core business and save resources, you can outsource the recruitment and management of test users to experts.

The most important advantages of outsourcing the setup and maintenance of your own private pool of test users are:

  1. Cost reduction and capacity expansion
  2. Avoidance of customer overuse
  3. GDPR compliance
  4. Expert know-how
  5. Professional customer support
  6. Easy incentive implementation

Let’s go into more details about what this means for you and how TestingTime can support you.

3.1 Save costs and free up capacities

As in many organisations, in your case you probably don’t have an unlimited research budget. Many researchers therefore look for ways to reduce costs and to conduct more efficient and more cost-effective research processes and studies. But in doing so, they still need to have quick access to high-quality participants. Does this sound familiar to you?

The founders of TestingTime launched our recruitment service because they could not find a reliable and budget-friendly recruitment provider who would allow them to quickly test various product ideas. And above all because they knew from their own experience that recruitment is the biggest pain point in the entire research process. It’s time and nerve consuming.

The cost of a Private Pool licence is lower than a part-time employee or 50% of the time of a full-time employee. Thanks to our private pool, some of our customers were able to save an FTE of 1.0 (human resource and tool costs), using it instead for the expansion of user research. On average, you can reach out to the test users you want ten times faster and for half the money.

3.2 Avoid overusing your test users

We recently learned from a member of the ResearchOps Community that in his organisation employees are increasingly approaching customers directly for studies and surveys. Such overlaps between departments, talking to the same people over and over again, can lead to customer overuse. 

With the help of TestingTime’s Private Pool, the procurement of test users is operationalised or centralised at the level of the entire organisation. Companies of any type and size are supported, regardless of whether a customer list already exists or not. The diverse teams can have people recruited from the company’s own pool and the frequency of participation of individual persons can be limited. Thus, for example, it can be defined that a person should participate in a test at most every 6 months.

3.3 Ensure GDPR compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is in force in all EU member states since the 25th May 2018. The GDPR requires individuals to provide clear, explicit consent before their personal information can be processed. They have the right to have their personal data deleted, inaccurate data corrected, data removed from digital marketing tools, and personal data not to be forwarded to another service provider.

We ensure that all these requirements are complied with on your behalf – including GDPR-compliant opt-in forms. Your test users’ personal information is completely secure and belongs exclusively to you while we take care of the recruitment. We ensure full GDPR compliance through a subprocessor agreement. Your test users will only be contacted by us in connection with your own studies, not somebody else’s.

3.4 Benefit from years of expertise

TestingTime’s recruitment platform is a proven concept with long-standing experience (since 2015). No additional tools are required to recruit your test users. We guarantee a fast recruitment in just 2 to 4 business days for a wide range of study methods and research tools. We also take care of everything related to your pool, from targeting and screening to scheduling, troubleshooting and more.

We guarantee the use of a consistent brand language and corporate identity by customising all contact points with your test users. Your company name and logo will always appear in together with the TestingTime logo – on every website and email. This gives your test users the security that they are dealing with a trustworthy partner.

Our sophisticated quality assurance system allows us to keep our no-show and misfit rates below 2%. After having completed a test, our clients evaluate each individual test user. As a result, and thanks to the use of AI, our system can automatically sort out unreliable or dishonest people before they are assigned to a study. But if you still want to be on the safe side, you can book additional participants for your study at any time to guarantee an immediate replacement.

3.5 Receive professional customer support

Our recruitment professionals coordinate all schedules between you and the participants and ensure that all test users appear at the right place (remotely, at your location or at the test user’s home) at the agreed date and time. In addition, you always have a live insight into the current recruitment status. If you have any questions or something is not clear regarding the test users during your study, our support team is always available and will be happy to help you.

3.6 Make decisions concerning incentive management

Last but not least, you have to make decisions on how your test users will be compensated after their participation. We offer various options for this purpose. Use our platform to ensure simple and secure payments to your test users. Either we transfer the money to a bank or PayPal account of the test users within 10 business days after the study is completed, or you can manage the payment yourself, defining the form (e.g., gift card, voucher, discount, cash etc.), the value and the time and place of the remuneration in the order form. Your remuneration description will be shared with the test users to motivate them to participate. Payment is not a requirement of course – you can also decide not to pay the test users.

4. Start setting up and managing your research pool

Building and managing your research pool

We support companies of any type and size in setting up a research pool, regardless of whether a customer list already exists or not. If you already have an existing list of users, you can simply upload the data as a CSV file and import it into our system. If you don’t have a list, we’ll create a landing page for you so that those interested can register immediately and join your private pool.

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