There are many crucial aspects to a good qualitative research project, including the moderator’s guide, design of the participation packet, and even the report that is delivered afterwards. But all of those pieces of the qualitative puzzle are insignificant unless you can actually get a fair number of participants to show up for the focus groups and/or interviews. You can write the best moderator’s guide in the world for a focus group, but if only one or two people show up for a sitting of 10-12, the guide won’t matter. With that in mind, here are a five steps geared to encourage participants to show up for your qualitative research project and improve your participation rate.
- Bigger incentives - Vance wrote a blog post on this a while back and made some good points about the relationship between incentives and qualitative research. Ultimately, the amount you offer varies depending on the audience invited, the time frame to do the research, and the amount of time required for the involvement – among other things. It’s one of the most difficult things to determine in market research, but you don’t want to lose out on a large number of participants because they won’t drive to the facility for $75 but would have for $100. The incentive mentioned during the screening call has to pass the “ear test” and pique interest.
- Raffle off another incentive - this is in reference to raffling off an additional incentive for those participants who either show or show early. Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) often does this to encourage participants to show 15 minutes early. This allows the team to better understand the turnout ahead of time and deem if last-minute phone calls are necessary. Nothing eliminates the stress on a research team like having all 12 participants show up early and providing the moderator and/client viewers with options on who to keep and who to let go. Adding another throw-in sweepstakes encourages participants to commit.
- Confirmation letters with directions - as part of the recruitment process at RMS, confirmation letters are prepared, printed and mailed to all participants prior to the date(s) of the focus group(s). We also send a one-page overview of what a focus group or in-depth interview (IDI) entails for those coming to our site to do the research in-person. In addition to the letter confirming the date and time, we also mail a sheet of directions to our QualiSight focus group facility in Syracuse, NY with a nice aerial picture of where our offices are located.
- Confirmation emails and texts - these are critical parts to the recruitment process for qualitative market research, especially for those participants who are recruited a week or more ahead of time. By using multiple avenues as reminders – mail, email, reminder phone calls, and texts – you’ll ensure you’re covering a variety of touch-points. There is a thin line between just the right amount of reminders and overkill, but as a market researcher, I’d rather hear “your reminders annoyed me to death” than “no one reminded me.” If it’s a case of the latter, you probably won’t hear that feedback because that participant wouldn’t show to tell you.
- Provide contact number for questions - lastly, provide a contact number of someone who can help answer questions about the project or anything else that comes up on the participants end. Participants are often anxious about participating in qualitative research and nothing can put that anxiety to ease better than a person who is confident and can answer questions to subside any concerns. If you have an office of five people or 500, an already nervous participant doesn’t want to hear “Let me check on that and get back to you.”
Use these five steps to improve participation in your qualitative market research project. Sometimes, no matter how much preparation you do on your end and no matter how many reminders you send out to participants, you’ll occasionally still get a bad showing for your qualitative research. No-shows happen. So it’s always important to think about plan Bs and plan Cs in case that does happen – such as supplementing lower numbers of focus group participants with additional IDIs, holding another group, and/or complementing the research with a follow-up survey.
Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm in Syracuse, NY, with its own on site QualiSight qualitative research facility.