How to write a Business Plan for opening an Online Panel Company?

online panelsMost of the online panel companies opening up in recent times are AIMLESS!! They have no idea where they are going and how to overcome the challenges in their path. Before embarking upon your entrepreneurial journey you must create an effective business plan. A plan helps you in understanding the ‘TO DO’ action items in a chronological manner. The article illustrates 4 steps of creating an awesome business plan when you are opening an online panel company.

STEP 1: ANSWER THE QUESTION “WHY”!!

QUESTION: Why would anybody buy your services??

This is the toughest question that you have to answer convincingly. Suppose you want to open an online panel company in India. Now clients already have very good options like Toluna or Research Now to use panels from – why would they buy online panels from your company.

Understand the psyche of the clients – they are a busy lot and online data collection is just a small part of their project. They don’t have the time to listen to your marketing gimmicks. If I was a client and want Indian panels I would go for an easy route and buy panels from established companies rather a newbie.

Most of the new panel companies opening up are not answering this question and simply jumping into the fray. After some time they realize they aren’t getting enough RFPs and in desperation start spamming people to get business somehow….anyhow!!

I write a blog which is quiet obvious but I was literally shocked to receive 23 mails on my inbox from Indian Online Panel Companies asking for business!!! I am a blogger and Online MR is not a market research company which can provide you business. The reason I do get such requests is that companies are so desperate to get business that they have foregone the basic logics.

I believe nobody wants to end up ruining their hard earned reputation in the market. Therefore do not spam clients to get business as this step is counter-productive.

You have to understand that you have not opened a panel company to impress your family, friends or peers. Opening a business is a serious business!! The ‘real’ decision makers are a smart lot and they can easily see through your pompous marketing pitch. You need to give the clients REAL – TANGIBLE – VALUE!!!

What if I want to open a panel company in an already crowded market like India???

Simply understand where exactly the gap is and then accordingly create a service suite around a ‘need’!!

In case of India probably you can try creating specialty panels – for e.g. Healthcare (although difficult but still achievable if you have a smart panel recruitment manager). You have to create “CALL FOR ACTION” which is something that would PULL clients towards your services.

Brain storm with your team and find the right answers!!

STEP 2: ANSWER THE QUESTION “WHERE”!!

QUESTION: Where should I start my online panel company?

A very pertinent question as to where I should start my operations or sales offices.

For operation center I believe India is the best bet!! Many big online panel companies have opened their operation center here and are doing great. Indian market has immense pool of knowledgeable and hard working professionals with relevant experience in online panel industry.

I believe it was a master stroke for the management of Greenfield Online when they opened their operation center in Gurgaon (India). From a mere 7-8 employees (which yours truly was also a part of) – they expanded rapidly to 300 strong staff providing backend support 24 x 7!!

No other country in Asia has such a large reserve of talented employees. So for establishing an operation center look no further – GO INDIA!!

For sales offices I think you have to be strategic in your approach.

You can divide the sales team into 3 major regions namely:

1- USA – 70%-80% market research business originates from USA – therefore it is obvious to have a sales office there. Now in USA you can probably start by having a sales office in the East Coast and then expand to the West Coast. You can hire a senior level sales executive with support staff of 2-3 employees. All the major research conferences take place in USA therefore it is practical from the mobility point of view – to have someone there in the USA office. Also Canada can be covered if you have a sales office in USA.

2- EUROPE – A major chunk of research business comes from Europe therefore you should have a sales office in this region. My vote would be for London (UK) or Berlin (Germany) – the former because most of the big market research companies of the world are actually UK based specially in the healthcare research domain and the latter because Germany is a huge market in the European region with a stable economy.

3- ASIA – Most of the key decision makers as per my own experience are residing in either Singapore or Hongkong. This would enable you to cover the entire APAC region. Ideally you should hire a local in these 2 regions – who would be more comfortable with the language and culture.

Planning in advance as to where your footprints would be is an integral part of creating an effective business plan!!

STEP 3: ANSWER THE QUESTION “WHAT”!!

QUESTION: What kind of services you would be offering?

It is practical to understand and then choose wisely components of your service suite.

First you have to decide that you want to be just a sample only provider or you would have full services pack. It is easier to start the former as the investment in manpower and infrastructure is comparatively less but do plan out as to how you would move on to FULL SERVICE SUITE.

Choose which countries you would offer your panel services. My suggestion would be Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and Philippines. Primarily for 2 reasons – firstly there isn’t much competition here secondly as these are small geographies so can be easily covered.

As most of the RFPs would be coming from USA – do ensure that if you are not in the same time zone – you should have an adequate coverage. Ideally provide coverage for the European time zone also.

Chart out plan for all the support services – Data Processing, Database Management etc. – that you intend to provide.

Create a 30-60-90 days plan as to which services you would start with and how you would move up the ladder!!

STEP 4: ANSWER THE QUESTION “HOW”

QUESTION: How do you intend to provide the services you have planned out?

For simplicity when you are starting out – your team structure should look like this:

Business Head (1): responsible for the overall management of the process.

Senior Operation Manager (2): responsible for the project delivery.

Senior Sales Manager (2): responsible for generating and converting leads.

Client Servicing Executives (2): responsible for processing the RFPs.

Project Executive (2): responsible for running the projects.

Panel Manager (1): responsible for building panels.

IT Manager (1): responsible for providing the internal tech support.

Total staff required: 1 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 = 11

Hopefully I have been able to give you a good start in terms of creating an effective business plan. In case you have a specific query you can buzz me on my skype ID: akanyal

Now you have a choice. You can comment, share, or implement. I prefer if you implement, but I’ll appreciate all three – Akshay Kanyal

Comments

  1. Great article Akshay. For all those out there reading this, keep Cint in mind as a ‘good option’ that clients are already looking at and using for online sample. You may also like to consider Cint as a supplier for your panel management platform…

    • onlinemr says:

      Thanks for the appreciation Tom! I definitely agree with you on the fact that CINT is a very good option for your panel needs!!

  2. Great article Akshay!