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How to recruit respondents for your qualitative market research

Posted by Lisa Boughton on 28-Jan-2019 09:11:41
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The secret to successful qualitative market research is all in the people. Basically, without the right people you won’t get the insights you need - and finding the right respondents all starts with recruitment. Thanks to your thorough feasibility assessment, you’ll have a clear idea of the type of participants you want and need to recruit - and once you’ve finalised this criteria, you can start choosing which recruitment techniques are right for your research. Here’s how to make sure your respondent recruitment is right every time:

Share it on social

A great way to reach out to participants and ask them to take part in your study is via social media. Social media is a really powerful way to interact with, build trust and gather insights from your target audience - and it’s also a great way to recruit, especially when you are targeting younger age groups or niche audiences. Social media has exploded in recent years thanks to its ability to share information with a wide range of people at a rapid rate and promoted posts often accumulate hundreds of thousands of views in just a few hours, making it a great way to get your message to the people you want to see it. Not only that, but advanced targeting also allows you to be really specific in your criteria so you can reach out to people based on things such as age, gender, job,  and location and even page likes and purchasing behaviour.

respondent recruitment

Find people on forums

Online forums are another great place to start your respondent recruitment process. The internet is an unfathomably huge place which means there are online forums tailored to just about every kind of person and topic imaginable - making them a fantastic place to source high-quality respondents. For example, forums are a particularly good way of reaching mums. They tend to have a big presence online on sites such as NetMums and MumsNet, and because they are usually responsible for most of the family shopping, mums make excellent respondents for product-related research. Look for the most active forums with the largest number of participants to kick things off!

Don’t rule out the phone

Despite the exponential growth of the internet and social media, there's still a time and a place for more traditional recruitment techniques too. For example, although cold calling might not be the ideal method for initial recruitment these days, if you are accessing a panel of pre-recruited participants, follow-up calls are often critical for validating their information and interests. And don’t forget, chatting on the phone is always a great way to build a rapport with your participants too.

Do your desk research

Desk-based research can be time-consuming and take longer to get results, but in some cases, you may have special requirements that simply demand some web or archive searching in order to find a good source of excellent recruits. This could include looking for relevant online directories, searching professional websites, or identifying people who run certain types of blogs such as food blogs, fashion blogs or blogs for parents.

Good old word of mouth

While this might not be your primary method of respondent recruitment, word of mouth can really help to build interest and fill out your research with people encouraged to participate by their friends. You could even ask relevant professionals to get the word out – for instance, asking a physician to tell their patients about a healthcare study or a university lecturer to let his students know about a relevant online focus group. Offering ‘refer a friend’ type incentives for successful referrals is a really great way to help boost the success of word of mouth recruitment too.

respondent recruitment

Targeted advertising

In addition to advertising on social media, you could also advertise through relevant websites or even via Google to help capture the interest of potential qualitative research participants. Not only that but depending on the topic of the research and your target audience, advertising in print magazines dedicated to that subject or more general newspaper advertising can work well too. Don’t forget to include information about any incentives you are offering, and make sure you communicate why taking part in the research would be good fun too!

The lowdown on list recruitment

If you are dealing with very specific criteria, recruiting from client customer lists is another way to make sure you access the right people for your qualitative market research. Just be careful to confirm the quality of the data and how much detail the list has, as this could have a direct impact on your recruitment time. For example, a list with full names, email addresses, and mobile numbers is pretty different to just having a list of initials and email addresses to work with.

If you decide to use client customer lists for your recruitment, make sure you are realistic about hit rates. Just because you have a list of names in front of you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will want to take part in your research - or even that they will qualify to do so. In fact, when recruiting potential participants, we generally estimate a response of one in 30 - so make sure you have enough contacts on your list to recruit the number of participants needed. If you don’t, you’ll need to look at other recruitment methods too. By being clear on what options are available to you from the beginning, you’ll have greater recruitment success further down the line.

Once you start reaching out to people on your list, it’s important to limit contact attempts to a maximum of three. We’d recommend starting with an email and following up with a text, then a phone call. However, if you try more than three times, you risk bombarding them - so it’s safe to say that if they haven’t responded after your third contact attempt, they’re probably not interested. Lastly, remember that some people might have forgotten what company lists they are on, so it’s important to be as discreet as possible at all times.

Don’t forget to over-recruit

From mums whose kids are unwell on the day to professionals who’ve had a meeting run over, the path to successful qualitative market research isn’t always perfect. In fact, no matter how good the quality of your recruits, there are plenty of pitfalls that could result in no-shows on the day. That’s exactly why we always recommend that our clients over-recruit: that way, instead of panicking and searching for last-minute respondents, you’ll have fully validated participants ready to go who can step right in if anything goes wrong. And if you have a full house on the day? You can always send some of your over-recruits home to keep your research the right size - just make sure you pay them an incentive to thank them for their time anyway.

You’ve conducted your feasibility test, briefed your agency, and recruited your respondents - which means there’s just one final step to recruitment success. That's right, it’s time to validate your participants! Stay tuned for the final installment of our Recruitment Roadmap series coming soon, just watch out for an email…

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