Monthly Archives: December 2010

What’s in Store for Qualitative Researchers in 2011

Work generally slows this time of year, whether you’re a qualitative researcher or a writer. That’s good, though, because it clears time in the day for looking ahead. Ben Smithee of Spych Market Analytics has put the downtime to good use, posting a lengthy prediction for market research in 2011. It’s all worthy of a read, but we’ve summarized some of his points affecting our corner of the market — online qualitative research:

No more quant/qual divide: There used to be something called quantitative research and something else called qualitative research, but that terminology is on its way out, as it will become easier and easier to combine surveys with a bulletin board focus group and vice versa. “Many researchers talk about the ideal projects where clients approach them with a problem in need of a solution, rather than a request in need of a bid. Well, I fell like you will have your chance in 2011,” Smithee says.

Timing is everything: Notice your clients want answers faster and faster? Get used to it. According to Smithee, “People expect faster results from companies, companies want faster results from MR, and MR wants faster support from its suppliers. Nothing will change that. It’s do or die. Embrace the tools that serve as a life vest because the storm is coming.”

A move to mobile: Smithee predicts mobile qualitative research will become even bigger in 2011, as clients and researchers look for more value (which he defines as relevance and timeliness over accountability, minus price) from their research projects.

Anything you would add to this list of predictions? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Regulation of Market Research: Looking Ahead to 2011

Laws and government regulation have a huge impact on the market research industry. As a member of the MRA’s Government Affairs Committee, I hear about many issues that make news and many that don’t. As a wrap-up to 2010 and a preview to 2011, I talked to Howard Fienberg, MRA’s Director of Government Affairs to get his take on legislative issues in 2011.

Here is a brief summary of three key issues:

  • Physician Incentive Payments: For the past several years, several states have passed laws limiting or eliminating payments to physicians, even for legitimate research. The industry’s fight has been to keep such limits from applying to research. The recent federal healthcare law dealt with physician compensation from pharmaceutical companies. Mr. Fienberg states that this bill seems to have “soothed” the state legislatures so that issue has been mostly put to rest for the time being.
  • Data Privacy: Internet data privacy is a huge, emotional issue and many sides want to see something done to protect individual privacy. The implications for all research, particularly online research, can be massive if access to people and information is restricted. The Best Practices Act (H.R. 5777) claims to focus on marketing and commerce, but actually includes research. The act would give unprecedented new powers to the FTC to regulate data privacy, including being able to establish definitions. Such powers would give the FTC control over data and set up under-the-radar decisions over “mundane regulations” that could have a dramatic impact on MR.
  • Auto-dialing of mobile phones: Current law outlaws auto-dialing of mobile phones with a fine of $500 and up for each violation. Auto-dialing means predictive dialing or any other type of dialing by a machine. Unless changed, this prohibition will dramatically downgrade market research productivity and increase costs. For instance, I no longer have a land line at home. I put my mobile phone number on everything, but I don’t always identify it as such. A firm could unintentionally call my mobile phone and be in violation of the auto-dialing prohibition. For more information, check out the MRA Position Paper.

These are a few of the issues of which researchers need to be aware. The MRA’s Government Affairs office is working to allow our industry to effectively provide information that propels our economy and generates jobs. The office has been successful in 2010 and is looking forward to a good 2011. Thank you, Howard Feiberg and LaToya Rembert Lang, for your work on our behalf.

Beyond Focus Groups: New Methodologies Seeing Success

Need an alternative to a traditional focus group? Some researchers are dreaming up entirely new ways to collect consumer opinions, as Elaine Wong explains in a recent Forbes article.

Take, for example, the friendship group, which is frequently used at Indianapolis-based advertising agency Young & Laramore. A friendship group is “when the company will tap one consumer and ask that individual to recruit two or three others from his/her social circle,” Wong explains. “The assumption is that one is more likely to be comfortable in an experimental setting when with others in one’s social network.”

The New England Consulting Group uses something they call super groups, for which they actually seek out the extreme or “lunatic fringes” of a consumer set, as company CEO and founder Gary Stibel calls them. “Talking to those who are not your average consumer ensures that you get not-so-average—and in some cases, off the chart—results,” Wong explains.

The article also explores something called conflict groups, when “you recruit and mix people who love something [with] others who hate it or [bring together] passionate lovers of two different brands,” Arnold’s Lisa Borden told Forbes.

So what’s causing these companies to want to shake up old methodologies? Many point to social media. While some say it has killed the traditional group (a little dramatic, don’t you think?), others say its proliferation has opened the door to new data mining opportunities.

So what do you think of these new methodologies? Would you use them in your research?

The Art of Appreciating Your Online Qualitative Research Participants

When was the last time you thought about how much you appreciate your online qualitative research participants? It’s OK, it’s a common mistake, according to Judithe Andre of Carrboro, N.C.-based Verbal Clue Research, who wrote on the topic for the November issue of Quirk’s (login required). Just like employers have to show appreciation for their workers on a regular basis, she argues that it’s equally important for researchers to show appreciation toward their participants. Yes, you’re paying them (maybe), but it pays even more (read: better insight) when they know they’re appreciated.

Judithe’s article covers appreciation tactics for in-person interviews, but the same rules apply for a bulletin board focus group or other online qualitative research project. Here’s a quick rundown of a few of her tips. They’re mostly common sense, but can serve as a great reminder for your next project:

  • When recruiting, offer potential participants thanks for their time and consideration, whether they qualify for the study or not.
  • Judithe suggests starting each project by recognizing the people you are interviewing. “To do this, give them a chance to tell you a little bit about themselves, their business or practice.” Not only does this show them they’re appreciated, it’s also an easy way to get the conversation started.
  • This is definitely a no-brainer, but Judithe underscores the importance of using appropriate titles when addressing participants (ask for clarification, if needed).

What would you add to this list? Please share your ideas in the comments below. And check out ways to increase bulletin board focus group engagement in the Resources section at

Going Green With Online Qualitative Research

The benefits of doing online qualitative research are many: It’s often cheaper than conducting your research in-person, not to mention it can shave weeks off your project. But online qualitative research is also greener, a fact that speaks to researchers and clients alike as they try to reduce their business’ carbon footprint.

Using an online calculator provided by Doubletree Hotels (nope, that’s not a typo, they have a great carbon calculator to help guests offset their carbon), we determined that four people traveling to four cities for a qualitative research project produced 16 metric tons of carbon. Check out the graphic below for some perspective on what that equals.

Is the environment a consideration when planning a qualitative research project — either for you or your clients? Please share your ideas for reducing the environmental impact of qualitative research.

NewMR Virtual Festival: Quirky, Fun and Trend-Setting

Ray Poynter is at it again. He has taken the concept of an online conference and made it global. On December 8, The NewMR Virtual Festival will officially kick off. True to Ray’s modus operandi the event is both leading edge and quirky. Before I launch into a bit of fun, I want to say how much I appreciate Ray and his team pulling this thing off. It’s quite a feat to launch a global virtual conference. Hats off to you Ray. Enough flattery, lets get on to the fun stuff.

  • The programme begins at 1 a.m. GMT for this British-led conference because Part 1 is targeted toward Asia/Pacific. Ray himself will kick off the conference by getting up bright and early to begin his presentation at 1:08 a.m. GMT (not 1:05 or 1:10 a.m.).
  • As if to emphasize the global nature of the “programme,” tickets are $50 (U.S. dollars). Unless, of course, you only want to attend one part (maybe the part you are actually awake to see) for $24 U.S. Be sure not to overpay and send in $25, as I’m sure there is a strict “no refund” policy.
  • Of course, there is the ever-present conference poster contest. Every conference should have one. Posters range from serious works related to real research to…well…uh…not so serious. Submit your poster and you could win the $1,000 grand prize.
  • If posters aren’t your bag, all you creative MR types (is that an oxymoron?) can submit a three-minute video on why someone would CHOOSE to work in the MR industry. The video contest also has a $1,000 grand prize.
  • The conference hosts the Research Liberation Front for our under 30 friends. Apparently the RLF was started in a bar in Brighton. The RLF’s conference challenge is to recruit 10 “difficult-to-reach people within 24 hours.”  I’m not sure what that means but, nonetheless, the winner will get “£100 for the best response” (note that it’s pounds now, not dollars).
  • Finally, there is “The Fringe” where it seems virtually anyone can organize virtually anything. The obvious don’t-miss fringe event of the festival has to be Ray’s own effervescent webinar recording of Cluster Analysis and Factor Analysis. Oooo…feel the chills?

This is just a sampling of the festival’s good-natured fun. It’s easy to be critical and it’s easy to poke fun at anyone who is pushing the envelope of an industry, but I know I’ll be watching the festival to see the ground it breaks and the trails it blazes. There is no doubt that the festival will change the way we look at conferences in the future.

Cheers Ray!

3 Easy Steps to Conducting Your First Online Qualitative Research Project

Whether you work for a research agency or are on the client side, you’re probably aware of the accelerating move of the qualitative research industry to online. And whether you agree or disagree with the shift… it’s happening. In many cases, it’s for all the right reasons. Done properly, online qualitative research projects can be done better, faster, cheaper and easier than many in-person and traditional projects.

If you haven’t made the decision to go online yet because you’re not sure how to get started, follow these three easy steps:

  1. Attend one (or more) of our webinars. 20|20 offers a series of webinars covering a variety of topics on online qualitative research. You can learn about the various methodologies available, explore different applications and see demonstrations of the latest online research software. These free, online sessions are an easy, non-threatening way to get up the learning curve quickly. Check out the webinar schedule and sign up today.
  2. Go through training and schedule a demo project. There’s nothing quite like doing something for yourself – whatever it is! And our online qualitative research software platforms are no different. When your ideas about online qual are coming together and you’ve narrowed down your software choice for your first project, let us set up a demo study for you. Invite your colleagues and friends to participate. Play with the software, learn some of the amazing features and get comfortable navigating around.
  3. Start low risk. Any new software, regardless of where it comes from and how easy it is to use, can still cause a few stumbles along the way. To ensure that you’re not risking your biggest, most important project of the year on your first online experience, find a low-risk project to get your feet wet. Are you an agency? Perhaps a small pro bono project for a charity. Client-side marketer? Maybe a little down-n-dirty project rather than a big, strategic one.

With a project under your belt (and your confidence brimming), make sure your clients – internal and external – know your new capabilities. Develop some collateral material (we can help), update your website, distribute a ‘white paper’ to your colleagues. ‘If you build it, he will come’ only works in movies. If you want to do more projects online, you need to let your clients know.

Moving from traditional qualitative studies to doing them online can seem daunting… until you do your first one. Then you’ll be the one saying, “Why did I wait so long to get started?”

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