Qualitative Market Research

How to be realistic with your qualifying criteria for qual market research

What is qualifying criteria?

Qualifying criteria – also known as screening questions – are used at the beginning of qualitative market research projects to identify potential respondents that can take part. The criteria comprises of a list of necessary qualities participants need to possess in order to take part in the study; for example, you might be looking to survey women who are aged between 18-34 and living in London. During the screening stage, if respondents don’t meet the specific criteria, they won’t be able to continue the project – which means you can be confident you are recruiting the right type of people so that your research will generate the results you need without any delays along the way.

Why use qualifying criteria?

There are a number of benefits to using qualifying criteria in your qualitative market research project. Firstly, by ensuring only relevant participants are being put forward, you can lower recruitment costs and save a lot of time and effort when it comes to the interview stage as you won’t have to waste your time interviewing participants who aren’t relevant. Qualifying criteria can help you to pinpoint exactly who is relevant to your research project, your existing customers, prospective target market or subset of these individuals. For example, you could be looking at men who watch football, men who watch football and support Manchester United or men who earn three million a year, watch football and support Manchester United whilst drinking Bud light in their townhouse: the devil’s in the detail! Additionally, qualifying criteria can also help to eliminate respondent bias where a respondent can’t or won’t answer a question correctly.

Why is it so important to be realistic with qualifying criteria?

To put it simply, it’s important to be realistic with your qualifying criteria because you don’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face. Yes, you want your respondents to fit your criteria, but you must be careful not to be too pedantic – after all, the more specific you are with your criteria, the smaller your pool of potential candidates will be, which could have a direct impact on both your timelines and your costs. You need to try and strike a right balance between the two and be specific enough that you aren’t wasting your time with unsuitable participants, yet flexible enough that you have enough right fit participants to choose from to ensure you reach your research objectives.  

Qualitative Market Research

How to be realistic with your qualifying criteria?

So, how can you be realistic with your criteria? If you’re struggling to strike a balance these three tips can come in handy…

1) Prioritise your needs

By identifying the most important things within your criteria you can prioritise them and choose where to be flexible so you can distinguish between the essential and the ideal, giving you a valid yet decent sized pool of potential participants. For example, you might not be able to be flexible with the gender of the people you are choosing to interview, but could you broaden the age range? There are always things you can tweak.

2) Assess your objectives

Assessing your objectives and picturing the final results enables you to decide what will make a difference to your qualitative market research and why. If you are being too specific about what you want to get out of your research, it’s likely that your costs will be higher as recruitment will take longer. Could you still get the results you need without being so specific? If so, it’s time to change your criteria.

3) Review your methodology

Will your chosen methodology impact your qualifying criteria? If you are conducting a focus group or face-to-face interviews, you could be limited in terms of location and only be able to recruit candidates in a certain geographical area. And when you add this to your chosen demographic, it can make response rates even lower. Ask yourself if there any other types of methodology you could use such as online methods that won’t limit your location.

If you are about to embark on a market research project and want some tips on how to create screening questions, download our guide to writing great qualifying criteria now. 

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