Have you ever watched a market research focus group or interview and realized that the participants weren’t quite suited for the occasion? Recruiting great participants has little to do with how friendly or talkative a person is so let’s go through the requirements that truly matter.
1. Know the research objective
Before you even start seeking a qualitative research provider, you need to carefully and specifically define the research purpose. This is what you will use to determine each of the following requirements. For example, start by figuring out whether you need to understand how people shop for clothing, why they purchase certain cold and flu medications, or how they use personal hygiene products.
2. Recruit for the methodology
With the research objective in mind, you can then determine whether the objective is better suited for a private interview with a specially trained researcher or a focus group with an expert moderator. Think about whether it’s important for participants to hear contrasting ideas from their peers and be inspired to generate additional innovative ideas. Conversely, think about whether the conversation should be private and personal so that people can reveal in-depth ideas and reasoning about their own personal situation without being affected by the opinions of others. Many research topics are neutral but some are sensitive, private, stigmatized, or illegal. The topic will often determine which methodology is selected and, consequently, how participants must be recruited.
3. Be clear on your target audience
Once the research purpose and methodology are known, the target participants can be identified. You may need to define target groups based on:
- Basic demographic characteristics such as age and gender as well as more nuanced characteristics such as household size, children’s ages, income, education, ethnicity, and religion,
- Category habits, behaviours, emotions, and opinions, and
- Psychographic characteristics such as hobbies, interests, shopping habits and styles, travel behaviours, or personality characteristics.
4. Develop a precise screener.
Focus on concrete behaviours: Where possible, take care to classify target groups, segments or groups of people based on quantifiable data. Prepare numerical questions to identify frequency of shopping, size of containers, number of items, or number of occasions. Ask people to name as many brands, products, companies, flavours, ingredients as they can. Judgement questions, such as “very often,” “large,” “lots,” or “all the time” can be interpreted in different ways leading to jumbled, overlapping groups or focus group participants who can’t connect with each other’s behaviours.
Screen for physical requirements: Consider the types of materials that will be incorporated into the focus group or interview including items such as magazine, television, or radio ads or creative. Then, determine whether there could be any accessibility issues that interfere with the objective of the research or impact the participant’s ability to participate fully. For instance, someone who is blind or can’t read cannot react to a written highway billboard that would never be accessible to them. However, someone who would normally use a digital reading device can participate in a study of magazine advertisements.
As such, consider whether you need to screen for the use of glasses, ability to read, write, use a computer, or other potential physical issues. And don’t screen someone out simply because they have a disability. The criteria should focus on whether someone cannot interact with the materials at all rather than the fact that they interact with the materials in way that is different from most people.
Screen for communication: For focus groups, SuperGroups, and interviews, in-person communication skills are critical. For this reason, include a communication screener with several components in the initial recruitment process. Assess each potential participant for:
- Communication skills: Communication screeners focus not on screening out people who are more difficult to understand or who have a heavy accent, but rather on each person’s ability to articulate their nuanced opinions about companies, brands, concepts, and taglines. And, participants need to be able to quickly and clearly share these opinions with overbearing strangers they’ve never met before, people who may be extremely confident about sharing their strongly contrasting opinions.
- Creativity: Creativity screeners focus on identifying people who can be quickly creative and think on the spot about new ideas and innovations that have never appeared on the market before.
- Category enthusiasm: Enthusiasm screeners focus not on the fact that someone purchases or uses a product multiple times every day. Rather, these screeners identify people who are particularly passionate in their opinion. They might absolutely abhor or delightfully adore something, but the energy and passion erupts from their voice as they speak.
Screen for videotaping: Even with the proliferation of video in our lives today, or perhaps because of it, not everyone is amenable to being photographed or videotaped for research purposes even when the topic is innocuous. Ensure that as part of the screener, potential participants are willing to be photographed and videoed for research purposes. With this out of the way, participants won’t be reluctant to speak and they won’t hide their face behind other participants.
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With nearly 40 years of experience, Canadian Viewpoint is field and data collection company that specializes in English and French offline and online services. We offer sample, programming, hosting, mall intercepts, pre-recruits, central location recruitment, mystery shopping, site interviews, IHUTs, sensory testing, discussion boards, CATI, facial coding, and other innovative technologies. Learn more about our services on our website. Canadian Viewpoint was an MRIA Gold Seal corporate member for more than ten years.