Market research techniques

Our step-by-step guide to qualifying participants for qual MR

You’ve decided on your objectives, identified your target audience and even recruited some pretty great respondents - it’s time to get cracking with your research! But wait: there’s actually one more step that can make all the difference between a good market research project and a great one. We’re talking about qualifying your participants - which is one of the most important market research techniques and an absolutely vital step in your qual MR.

Market research techniques

Qualifying your participants means checking them thoroughly to make sure they meet all of your criteria. It’s basically about digging a little deeper so you can be completely sure that your perfect-on-paper participants are really the right people for your research. And trust us - it will save you a lot of time and money in the long run! Here’s our step-by-step guide to foolproof qualification:

Step one: pre-qualify your respondents

We’re taking things back a step here we know, but a quick online pre-qualifying questionnaire can often make all the difference when it comes to quality qualification. It’s a really easy way to narrow down your participants, and the best thing is that it takes just a few minutes to do!  We’d recommend a quick online questionnaire with demographic questions and core qualifying criteria so you can be completely sure you’re only taking truly eligible participants through to the next stage.

Kick things off with questions about age, location, gender and job title to begin with, before moving on to more focused questions that allow you to understand more specific behaviour. Sound like too much hassle? Trust us, sorting through your participants at this early stage means you can make sure you're only taking through the strongest, most eligible participants from the very beginning.

Step two: get on the phone

After pre-qualifying your participants online, it’s time to get on the phone to make absolutely sure you’ve got the right people for your research. Chatting on the phone is without a doubt the best way to really get to know your participants so you can make sure they’re the right fit for your study. Not only can you confirm the key areas of qualification, but you can also assess their confidence and how engaged they are too.

In addition, you can also begin to build up a bit of a rapport with your participants, which will encourage them to open up and share honest and accurate information, so you can make absolutely sure you’ve got high-quality participants and that they’ll generate in-depth results once the research begins too. Just make sure you follow a qualifying questionnaire so you can include all of the key areas you need to cover without missing anything out!

Market research techniques 

Step three: ask the right questions

When it comes to qualifying your participants, it’s really important to ask them the right type of questions. Make sure you don’t ask any leading questions and try asking questions without giving them easy options or obvious answers too. For example, a simple question such as “do you use a competitor product?” means they might guess the correct answer and lie to get selected. However, asking open questions such as “tell me what products you use” means you can be sure you're getting honest answers every time.

Open-ended questions can also give you an understanding of how engaged your participants are and whether or not they are genuine - and it's also a good way to get a feel for whether they are conducting research because they truly care or if they are just in it for the cash. Lastly, always make sure you ask exclusion questions too so you can be absolutely certain you are taking the right people through (more on that below!)

Step four: back it up

As well a chatting to your respondents over the phone, if they’re interview is face to face, it’s also a good idea to ask them for a form of photo ID to prove they are who they say they are. Alternatively, if they are taking part in product-based research and one of the requirements is that they own a certain product, you could ask them to send a picture of themselves with the product so you can be completely confident they fulfill the criteria. If they will be taking part in online qual such as market research online communities or mobile ethnography, you could even position it as a little pre-task they need to complete to make it seem fun and interesting.

Step five: put an exclusion list in place

So, you’ve followed all the steps above - but what do you do if someone doesn’t make the cut? Make sure you add them to an exclusion list so you can ensure you always take forward the right people for your qual MR studies both now and in the future. This will help prevent you from seeing those that regularly take part in market research or dealing with candidates that don’t fit the demographic you’re looking for.

In conclusion, qualification is a really important part of the market research recruitment process and is one of the most popular market research techniques to make sure you get the right people for your research. By putting more effort in at this initial stage you can make sure you are recruiting the right people, which will, in turn, ensure you get high-quality responses and generate more in-depth insights.

For more top market research techniques and unmissable advice, download our guide on how to get the best results from your qualitative fieldwork.

Qualitative market research