Market researchers routinely mention that one of their biggest challenges is finding quality participants. There is no shortage of professionally embarrassing stories that researchers can share about inappropriate and unqualified research participants. It makes one wonder if there are fundamental flaws in the way market research recruitment is conducted. There is no simple yes or no answer to this question, but we can provide insight as to why this issue persists.
One reason we know that researchers are frustrated by some of the participants who show up (or don’t show up–a whole other issue) to participate in market research studies, is that many of these researchers have contacted us to manage recruitment for them, once they realize how challenging and time intensive recruiting can be. Without a dedicated team focused on recruiting, nationwide qualitative research firms know that outsourcing recruitment to a qualified, participant recruitment agency saves time, money, and headache!
Simply outsourcing recruitment to a nationwide recruitment agency isn’t a panacea for avoiding poor quality recruits. Before partnering with a market research recruiting firm, it’s important to understand how they go about finding participants. If the firm relies solely on an internal database, you might consider other firms. As market research studies become more niche and require very specific types of participants, you’ll want a recruiting firm that is experienced in various modes of outreach when soliciting participants.
Another reason to use a nationwide recruitment agency is they can better filter out “professional participants”. At first glance, this may not seem like a bad thing, but ask any qualitative research consultant, and they will tell you that you get very biased responses from “professional participants”. Such participants are savvy enough to know how to answer questions in ways they think the researcher wants to hear.
Beyond finding qualified, and/or hard to reach participants for studies, working with recruiting firms provides additional value by managing the recruits and handling incentive payments. Finding eligible participants is just one facet of market research recruitment.
Recruiting during the COVID-19 pandemic poses additional challenges. While it may seem that finding participants would be easier now, since more people are not working, or are working from home, it will require more scrutiny and strong screeners to filter out those who want to participate in market research studies to make some extra money. Making extra money by participating in market research isn’t a conflict, nor a bad thing, but people may feel a bit more desperate to make extra money however they can, and may try and get selected for studies that they aren’t qualified for. Experienced recruiters will have the tools to filter out these respondents and ultimately provide the researcher with a group of vetted participants.