The importance of over-recruiting your focus group respondents

An over-recruit pretty much does what it says on the tin – it’s simply when you recruit more participants for a research project than you actually need. Why bother? Well, a number of our clients often ask us the same question, with many seeing over-recruiting as a waste of time, resources and costs. But in actual fact, we recommend that all of our clients over-recruit for their focus group respondents and in some instances in-depth interviews too. 

Why do I need an over-recruit?

When carrying out a market research project, especially using methodologies that rely on a definite number of participants such as focus groups, it naturally makes sense to over-recruit so you are fully prepared for any dropouts. After all, your participants are only human, and there are a number of reasons why they could drop out at the last minute with no notice or simply not attend at all.

Even if you have a full house on the day, you can always send home some of your over-recruits to keep the group at a nice manageable size, but bear in mind that you will still need to offer them an incentive for their time.

One of the biggest issues with not including over-recruiting your focus group respondents is unexpected drop-outs which can negatively impact the quality of your research insight. Even with a bullet-proof confirmation process, sometimes it’s just bad luck that you get multiple drop outs. This can sometimes leave a researcher in a sticky situation. Often the chances of re-recruiting on the night or during the few hours before are limited. This is not helped by the fact that the harder your target group is to find in the first place, the bigger an issue this could become.

This can end in lengthy delays organising replacement depth or telephone interviews, which can lead to difficulties in completing reports and analysis to deliver results to clients or your internal team. Over recruits may cost in the short term, but they really do help avoid these disaster scenarios.

Focus Groups

What amounts are recommended?

To ensure you have the right amount of attendees offering the right insight in your focus groups, we recommend the following over-recruit amounts:

  • For Duos recruit three people for two to attend
  • For Trios recruit four people for three to attend
  • For a mini group, recruit six people for four to attend
  • For larger groups, recruit 10 people for eight to attend and so on

To make sure that you get the quality of insight you need, we’d recommend a maximum of 10 participants in each focus group. This is because larger groups can often be difficult for the moderator to capture every participant’s responses which could affect the research quality.

Are there any other things I can do to ensure people show up on the day?

As well as over-recruiting, there are a number of other strategies you can implement to help boost your attendance rates. First things first, analyse your previous qualitative fieldwork: was there a particular study that had a high number of no-shows? Are there certain types of recruits who are more likely to drop out? There’s no teacher like experience, and reviewing your studies can give you a push in the right direction for future projects.

You should also ensure that all of your participants are well informed from the beginning. By giving them necessary information including how long it will take to what the study is about, the more likely they will be to show up – after all, the more they know about the study and what it’s hoping to achieve, the more interested they will be. You should also be sure to provide clear information on location and transport so they can plan their travel in advance – and even provide a map and directions to make things easier still.  

You should also be sure to let participants know how important they are and make an effort to be engaging at all times. The way that you communicate with your recruits and interact with them will have a real impact on how excited they are about the project and how much they want to help, so make sure they know how valued they are. A popular way to do this is to offer an appropriate incentive to show them just how much you value their time – offering an incentive that they will receive on the day of the focus group market research is a great way of guaranteeing maximum attendance.

Another final strategy you can use to ensure you are prepared for any dropouts is to ensure reminders and confirmations are sent out to participants. Sending out confirmation emails to respondents as soon as they are approved for the study ensures they receive all of the necessary information straight away including; date, time and location. Therefore they are less likely to drop-out as they have plenty of time to prepare for the research.

As well as confirmations, it is a good idea to ensure reminders are also sent to respondents in the form of phone calls and text reminders the day before the research is due to take place to ensure maximum attendance.

For more information about over-recruits and market research download our top tips for how to recruit awesome participants for your online qualitative research.

Qualitative market research