Liars and Cheaters and Bears…Oh My! How to Recruit Quality Participants for Qualitative Research Studies
Incentives paid to participants for qualitative research can be quite generous. Of course, that is what is intended in paying people for their time. Incentives help facilitate the recruiting process as its
attractiveness in amounts motivates participants to:
But incentives can be a double-edged sword. While they may be the impetus to participate in qualitative research, some people may try to do anything they can to qualify for studies so that they can reap the benefits of the incentive provided.
Of course, participants must be screened and qualified in order to be invited to a study. Sometimes, the potential participant will try to psych out the recruiter by trying to answer screening questions in a manner that gets them qualified, regardless of whether their answers are truthful. In essence, they will lie, cheat, and do whatever it takes to “get the study.”
Therefore, in order to ensure quality participants, the recruiter must be on his or her game at all times. You see, the recruiter is the last line of defense on behalf of the client (moderator) who has hired them to compile a list of qualified participants. Imagine if the recruiter simply went through the motions in the job of recruiting, paying no mind to the possibility that candidates may be lying. The participant recruited under false pretenses will probably not have a clue about the subject matter and, having faked their way into the study, really has nothing to offer the moderator or his/her client in terms of opinions from which insights are culled.
At Accelerant Research, our team of recruiters are well trained to be sensitive to these conditions of lying and faking, and require all potential participants to provide anecdotes and even artifacts (photos, etc.) to validate their usage of or experience with the study topic. We pay close attention to their “stories” and probe them to clarify or expand their answers. In the end, we provide quality recruits that are both qualified and articulate.
We invite you to request a cost estimate from us as a first step. Simply give us a call (704-206-8500) or send us an email (email@example.com). If we are granted the opportunity to work with you, we are confident that the quality of recruiting service you receive will be a marked improvement.
Good luck and safe travels.
At Accelerant Research, we have collectively spent decades in market research and managed thousands of projects across a variety of industries in corporate-side, agency-side, and supplier-side roles. As such, we have been on the sending and the receiving sides of Requests for Proposals (RFPs). Across this history, we have been involved in studies that have succeeded by all standards and studies that were less than perfect. One thing we have come to realize is that a project is only as strong as the foundation it rests on, and that foundation starts with the RFP, as it needs to scope out the business problem and situational details from which the research is designed. There are, of course, other benefits which we will also outline.
In the market research industry, so much can be accomplished by developing and using RFPs, and so much can be lost in not doing so, or not doing so well. The main purpose of an RFP for a market research study is to be able to get a fair (read: apples-to-apples) comparison of the quality, cost, and amount of study time required that each supplier proposes for your specific study needs. Theoretically, if the exact same RFP is sent to three different research firms, these three have all been given the same chance to win the study, and judging the winner becomes an easier decision to make.
There are several important benefits of using RFPs on a regular basis in managing an organization’s research needs and budget.
Our Top Ten List of RFP benefits are:
RFPs vary in terms of how prescriptive they are. Some are written in a way that dictates in advance all aspects of the research project and leaves less room for a recipient research firm to demonstrate its unique and distinguishing characteristics and capabilities. Yet, if a given study’s objectives, methodology, and study-related specifications are sound and have all been decided upon in advance, feel free to be prescriptive with your suppliers in the RFP. On the other hand, even when you are not sure about methodology, survey length, sampling, and other cost-related study specifications, either provide a “straw-man” set of specifications that you request the supplier to judge and offer specific, recommended revisions, or state up front that you seek the input from the supplier to prescribe what is best.
The most important aspect of an RFP that should be included in any RFP is the study objectives. Simply put, there is no better way to set your supplier on a course of action than by clearly stating the study objectives. Careful and comprehensive review of these objectives with internal, end-user clients will serve to enable a supplier to figure the rest out.
However, in our experiences, most RFPs are neither entirely prescriptive nor completely non-prescriptive; instead, the vast majority are somewhere in between these polar opposites. Because of this, the corporate-side researcher should be prepared to make trade-off decisions against key supplier dimensions of quality, cost, and time requirements.
Below, we have outlined a process for developing an RFP that is general enough to be portable across qualitative and quantitative research in any industry. But before we get into the specifics for each section of an RFP, there are a few noteworthy, general rules of thumb that may serve as guideposts or overarching principles of RFP development, and hopefully benefit the RFP writer as such.
First and foremost, try to put in as many study specifications as possible, even if they are revised before fielding the study. Make it a requirement that each proposal address these specifications, even if they are included only as a “straw man” example. Simply put, if you request what you want and the reasons for it, suppliers will respond in kind since proposal writers are literally “programmed” to respond to the details and specifics in the content of the RFP document. This practice will improve the calibration of the comparisons of each proposal to the others as you weigh the merits contained in each in terms of quality, cost, and timing.
Here’s another technique that has been used with great success: when you meet with internal business partners to address research requests before the RFP is developed, use the sections of a standard RFP as the agenda for the meeting. That is: background, objectives, approach, methodology, survey topics, analytic plan, time requirements, deliverables, and price or budget. In the end, your dialog time will be well spent and you will have minimized the risk of ultimately delivering insights that were not wanted or not worth the cost. In addition, after meeting with internal clients, you will have a skeleton draft of the RFP itself, thus facilitating the development of the RFP for distribution to key suppliers to whom you will invite to propose.
The background section is an important component of the RFP as it provides the business context in which the request is being made by the organization and enables the research supplier to understand the underlying reasons as to why the study is being sponsored. This section represents an opportunity to educate research firms on multiple levels. First, the background section, when couched in specific business terms that are used by and important to the organization, impart key business needs. These needs represent corporate cultural characteristics that enable research suppliers to get closer to the business itself, and when expressed, can become a foundational learning opportunity and foster strategic partnership relations between suppliers and their clients. Secondly, the specific language that is used in this section teaches suppliers the “lexicon of the organization” and further deepens the suppliers’ understanding of its culture.
The objectives section, another important aspect of the RFP for framing the study and receiving a set of proposals that can be directly compared, is worth the effort to think through as comprehensively as possible. However, these objectives should be used to list study objectives that are tied to business needs, not business objectives which are more appropriately found in the background section. In other words, a market research study will never produce a business result, but can inform business decisions on how to achieve business results. For example, in the objectives section of an RFP, it is not appropriate to list “produce a 20% increase in product sales by 1st quarter 2020.” It is appropriate to list “uncover consumers’ behavioral and attitudinal barriers to increased product sales in order for 1st quarter 2020 product sales goals to be reached.”
In the methodology section of an RFP, study design aspects that carry implications for costs and time requirements are shown. This is a very important section of the RFP where the merits of different proposals can be identified on sight. In this section, the RFP should specify as much of the design of the study that has been thought through, agreed upon, and understood within the relative confines of time and budget constraints.
To the fullest extent possible, the method should be specified as qualitative, quantitative, or both, as well as which particular type of focus groups, IDIs, online, phone (CATI), etc. Other specifications that may have been thought through beforehand and can be noted in the RFP include the length of interviews, the number of open-ended questions, and whether or not customer/respondent contact lists will be provided by the organization.
The sample configuration section of the RFP is a section that carries significant cost and time implications for any given research study. Again, if the goal of an RFP is to solicit comparable proposals from multiple suppliers, the more detailed information that can be provided in this section, the more easily proposals can be compared fairly. Even if what is provided is meant to be a “straw man” design, it is still worth including it to obtain proposal comparability. Moreover, if the research firm recommends a different design and sample configuration, usually they will provide costs for what is requested in the RFP and then re-price whatever they recommend.
A key aspect of this section to include is the number of interviews required in total and by subgroup. Explicitly state whether sample sizes or proportions are subject to hard or loose quotas or whether subgroup representation can result at random and be augmented, if necessary. Another important aspect from a cost standpoint is the incidence rate of certain groups of interest. If this can be stated up front in the RFP, it will surely pay dividends in being able to clearly compare costs in one proposal to the next, since incidence of subgroups has a sharp influence on overall study costs.
The analytic plan section of an RFP is to state whether something more than the standard univariate and cross-tabulated analyses are required. Since more advanced statistical techniques may be required, the RFP writer will be served by including this as explicitly as possible. Also, if multivariate techniques are needed, one should also request that the proposal identify who is (or are) the statistician(s) that will perform these analyses, his or her background, experience, and training, as these qualifications can be directly compared.
If the RFP is for a study that already has time limitations before it begins, include some text stating exactly what those requirements are. To that end, the RFP writer can provide an entire time schedule from start to finish, marking each particular study milestone (e.g., survey development, data collection, final report delivery) with an associated time allotment, or specific calendar dates. This will avoid miscommunication of study requirements and otherwise catch the chosen research supplier flat-footed at the start of the study. Also, with knowledge in advance of the study’s time limitations, the methodology and sample configuration should be chosen to accommodate the schedule. Not doing so is a tell-tale sign that that proposal should not be chosen.
The final few sections of an RFP are relatively simple and do not necessitate elaborating upon in this article. So, in closing, RFPs may be written very prescriptively, imparting several things on multiple bases such as the how the subject matter fits with the business goals, research objectives, and corporate culture. Considered study designs, methods, sample configurations, and other project specifications, when provided in an RFP, will benefit the organization and the research manager by ensuring that proposals that are given in response will be highly comparable, and the real value of one proposal over another will be evident.
When an agency is hired to develop an ad campaign, the first objective they must achieve is to develop a creative brief that will serve as the foundation for the entire campaign, whether specific ads are executed in video, TV, radio, print, or other. But the question is “on what basis is the creative brief designed?”
Just like many large organizations do before leadership decides to allocate large amounts of budget to, say, designing new products and services, market research is conducted among members of a target population to guide and inform decisions about whether new products are ready for market rollout, or need to be revised, or need to be scrapped. This way, research is used as an insurance policy against large budget expenditures that will not pan out in driving revenue for the organization.
Ad campaigns also are large expenditures. As such, they should be market tested before their communications are made public. Surely, research studies like storyboard copy testing are carried out, but these “test stimuli” are already based on what the ad agency has delivered as a creative brief. Unless the brief is also market tested, the agency, and its client will begin to develop and monitor executions that may well be based on incorrect messaging strategies, thus rendering any executions sub-optimal.
Accelerant Research has designed a quantitative study that directly informs the development of a creative brief by integrating “tried and true” survey construction and multivariate analytic techniques as follows:
Informed Ballot and Multiple Regression
This technique is borrowed from political opinion polling surveys where the first question is “if the elections were held today, for whom would you vote?” Following this question is a set of intervening questions based on key political issues about which the candidate may be pro or con, e.g., “If you knew that Candidate X was tough on crime, would that make you more or less likely to vote for him/her?” Finally, the first question about for whom the respondent would vote is asked again. With these data in hand, important measurements may be performed.
First, a pre-post assessment may be made on comparing the % likelihood of voting for Candidate X. This analysis will show whether the array of intervening survey questions can effectively create more positive consideration toward the candidate, overall. Second, the intervening questions can be used as independent variables in a multiple regression analysis, with pre-post change in consideration as the dependent variable. By examining the relative beta weights of each intervening question, those with the strongest association with positive change in candidate consideration may be identified and cherry-picked to serve as the foundation for the candidates’ foundational political campaign.
Adapting Consideration Driver Research to a Creative Brief for Advertising
Applying the above outlined techniques to inform advertising campaigns is relatively simple and straightforward. Taking the “who will you vote for” question, it is modified to be something like “how likely are you to consider Brand X when you want to purchase Product/Service Y?” This single question, in this form, will serve as the pre- and post- measures of the amount of change in positive consideration. Regarding the intervening survey items, these are made up of a set of functional and emotional attributes about the brand and its products or services under study. Again, multiple regression analysis can be performed to isolate which functional and which emotional attributes drive the most positive change in consideration. Additionally, regression can also reveal the optimal mix of specific emotional and functional attributes that should be used to inform the foundational creative brief and associated ad campaign, i.e., what to say in an ad.
The figure below shows a standard visualization of a Consideration Driver study, based on mock data:
Consideration Driver research is uniquely designed to inform creative briefs. Organizations and advertising agencies both can embrace this methodology to ensure that brand messaging will have the benefit of being tested to inform the overarching strategies that become the foundation of subsequent ad executions. Feel free to contact Accelerant Research (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a more in-depth discussion of the ins and outs of this sort of work.
For decades, the Insights industry has relied on the same model for recruiting participants to
qualitative research studies…hire the local focus group facility to start making phone calls to their “database” of potential respondents. While technology has advanced and new/improved methods have emerged for conducting qualitative interviews, observing in realtime from any location, producing high quality audio/video, and analyzing/presenting results, the model for recruiting participants had remained unchanged…until now.
Accelerant Research offers an outstanding approach for recruiting quality participants in a timely and cost-effective fashion; and on a nationwide scale. We provide a one-stop shop for all study-related recruitment, logistics, and incentive mangement, which allows qualitative research consultants and end-clients to focus their efforts on study design and analysis.
Accelerant has developed a White Glove recruiting method, which embraces technology, speed, and scalability, but delivers well-vetted, verbose, high quality recruits. Accelerant’s recruiting services inclue:
Good luck and safe travels.