Research is resonating + expanding
There are threats of "global warming" relative to market research, written up in venerable research periodicals, but my personal feeling is that qualitative research remains alive and kicking. There is no end in sight to discovery, understanding, discernment, and exploration, even if the form changes and the inquiries shift.
I left this post on the Qualitative Research Group on Linked In and on G. Heist's Gongo Research blog, published today in the online version of The Green Book, but it is worth repeating here. Market research may be changing, but God is not dead. I think that respondents want to participate in consumer research--more than ever--and clients continue to want to explore and listen to in-person research. Despite online or perhaps because of it, many want to hear and listen to real people discuss real issues in a real, interactive, exciting way. Great recruitment still comes down to precision of screener, additional time, and paying incentives on the high side.
My sense is that qualitative research is like gardening--for those with the expertise, delight in learning and discovering, the seeking of new ideas, colors, and insights, and patience to till the soil, weed, nurture, love the process, and revel in th blooms and fluorescence--there will never be an end to market research. Like gardens, there are changes and shifts in what qualitative research may look like and how the various methodologies are created or enjoyed, but qualitative research is a perennial process that will not go away. It will remain until, and after, the last person in the world stops being interested in finding out what others of importance to an inquiry are thinking, feeling, doing, and needing.
So, here's my original post to G Heist of Gongos Research, and I'd be interested in how readers who are researchers respond to these ideas:
"For complex focus group, IDI, and ethnography recruits–with online hybrids such as bulletin boards or diaries to begin as part of this qualitative process–and which are specific to difficult, complex, emotionallly evocative projects, we are finding that adding more incentives and giving the fields longer lead time are very helpful strategies. This means getting go-ahead from clients on difficult, multiple-stage projects earlier so that recruitment can start earlier, with needed changes at midpoint of recruitment to motivate consumers if there is a lag. We try to have many status reports from fields throughout the recruitment process, and make changes wherever necessary to create a successful recruit. However, we are achieving success continually...if we pay what is suggested on the high side from field recruiters at the bidding stage and if we make the screener and invitation enjoyable. With additional time to recruit, we are discovering that high quality respondents are excited to attend.
So what is this timing? A 5-7 day turnaround is impossible, however, while 2 full weeks--10 days of weekdays plus 2 full weekends--for a complex recruit does give optimum results. The last minute recruit we will, of course, try if the client really wants it, but we put in warnings and caveats, then we have to pay or bid out overtime and much higher incentives…and perhaps lower the past-participation to the past 3 months or less. We set this up from the beginning with the client so all is known and all contingency plans are in place. There is total transparency.
I am curious what other qualitative researchers find they can achieve in terms of great project results when powerful money and additional time are adequate to recruit.
As for recycling Easel sheets, that’s a wonderful ecological move. G Heist shows a picture of himself shredding Easel sheets. I applaud. I love Easel paper, pads, and writing ideas on them. On a more transcendental note: What I find is that scheduling two debriefs for each qualitative project is useful and allows us to get plenty of Easel sheets with great ideas on them. Specifically: one is at midpoint in the field between regions so that we discover what we are learning and can make revisions before the next or final field. The second is an all-hands, long debrief immediately after the last field back at client headquarters (or at the very least, a long phone call with everyone on it), to be sure we on the core team and invited guests have a chance to play and think....to coalesce findings, gain early hypotheses, and bridge the gap between what we just saw and heard and what the final report will convey. Often, this 4-hour pre-report debrief at headquarters is the most valuable experience of the entire project.
There are lots of Easel sheets which can be worked from by me and my team of researchers for the report, and then, of course, recycled properly.
Thinking seriously about this.... (one of) my favorite parts of a study is often the moment when the report is sent, reviewed by the client, accepted, ready or finished for presentation, and I can clean up all my papers, piles of notes, Easel sheets all over the office, post-it notes, transcripts, and recycle them. Ahhhhh!"