Qualitative market research studies require a lot of things to go right, if they are to be successful. And how do you measure success? When the ‘discovery’ of what influences consumers’ behaviors helps you:
- gain an understanding of the underlying motivations and reasons behind purchasing decisions
- glean insights into problems or stumbling blocks for consumers, which often generates ideas and/or hypotheses that can be probed further with quantitative research
- uncover prevalent trends in thought and opinion, as discovered in focus groups, in-depth interviews, or other qualitative research methods.
Where market research sometimes goes off the rails, or balloons budgets, is recruiting study participants. Seasoned market research industry veterans understand that building working relationships with nationwide recruitment agencies is the easiest way to ensure success. This is because market research recruiting firms not only recruit qualified participants, they also stay engaged with them throughout the study, freeing up valuable time and energy for the qualitative research consultant. This isn’t to say that the research consultant doesn’t have an important role to play when it comes to recruitment engagement! The most successful outcomes will be when recruitment staff and research staff come together to mutually support each other so that study participants remain engaged and committed throughout the process. Here are four strategies for recruitment engagement:
- Prepare your Study Participants—We’ve seen time and again studies that fall apart because people are recruited, but not prepared as to what to expect and what their responsibilities are. Participant engagement is a two-way street. If participants aren’t fully aware of what they’re being recruited for, or what the expectations are of participating in a study, then don’t be surprised if you experience a lot of no-shows, or confusion during a focus group or in-depth interview. Ensure participants are briefed on the subject matter of the study they’re being recruited for, and are provided explicit details of when and where the study is. This is also the time to clearly explain what the compensation for participation will be, and when the participant can expect it. Knowledge is power and when participants feel well-informed and have a clear understanding of what their responsibilities of participation are, the better the study outcome!
- Stay Connected—A recruiter’s job isn’t done when they’ve identified and signed up a study participant. A good recruiter will stay connected with potential and committed recruits throughout a study. It’s very common for last-minute substitutes to take place, or it becomes clear that a previously identified participant doesn’t meet the screening requirements after all. By staying connected and engaged with a pool of participants, the recruiter has a much easier time managing changes or substitutes. As for the quality of the research, when participants feel that they have rapport with someone, they’re more likely to be more open and engaged during the study. A word of caution. Don’t inundate participants with too many emails, texts, or reminders. It’s important to find the right balance between preparedness, connectedness, and engagement.
- Know your Audience—Recruiting for a health-care study aimed at medical practitioners is very different than recruiting for taste-testers for a new candy. Knowing your audience and treating them accordingly is important. CEOs don’t want to feel patronized, Baby Boomers may not be fluent in newer technologies, and Gen-Z kids are not likely to answer a phone call. Before you can even engage your recruits, you need to be mindful of generational, cultural, and professional differences.
- Amplify your Networks—At the conclusion of a study, recruiters can build their database by asking study participants if they’re willing to participate in future studies. Gather feedback at the conclusion of a study by sending out a quick survey of how the experience was for the participant; if they found the study engaging or interesting; what improvements could be made for future studies; etc. Any information that study participants share can help recruitment agencies and market research firms improve on future studies.
Staying engaged with study participants should not be overlooked or underestimated. Engaging with participants often leads to better study outcomes. Working with a market research recruiting firm that is experienced is one way to ensure success.