Monthly Archives: May 2011

Online Advisory Boards provide Executive Insights

One of the questions that I get asked a lot is, “How to use bulletin board focus groups for B-B research?”  Frankly, bulletin board focus groups are terrific for busy executives because they are asynchronous (not real time) so the participants can participate whenever is convenient for them. C-level executives may participate early in the morning or late at night or even in the middle of the day. Regardless, they have a convenient opportunity to take part in a discussion with their peers.

One effective method that is gaining traction is the use of QualBoard as a platform for “Online Advisory Boards.” These are typically 10-15 executives who are recruited to participate in an ongoing online research discussion that generally lasts for a couple of weeks. The executives log in every couple of days to see what other executives have to say on a particular topic and to give their opinion. The moderator and the client sponsor ask questions that relate directly to their research need but also generate discussion and debate among the executives.  The executives enjoy the format because the topic must be of interest to them and they get an opportunity to interact with their peers.

These Online Advisory Boards are proving to be very successful. Executives like them because they get a rare opportunity to interact with peers on a topic of interest. The client sponsors like the opportunity to hold the attention of decision-makers and get honest feedback from them. Moderators must be on their toes and design an engaging discussion that meets the needs of both the executive participants and the client sponsors.

Twitter Can Enhance but not Replace Qualitative Research Efforts

As Twitter recently celebrated its 5th birthday, we’ve reviewed what we and others have said about Twitter and its impact on qualitative research. Said in 140 characters or fewer: the truth about Twitter sits between the idea that it will replace focus groups, and the idea that it doesn’t matter as a tool to researchers.

Last August, Jim blogged about comments in response to a BNET article doubting the value of social media to researchers.

As Twitter marches on, it bears watching how the story unfolds, but a recent The Times of India article, “Can Twitter be a potent research tool?,” continues the framing of the debate.

“Listening to Twitter is like only listening to the one loudmouth in the focus group,” said Justin Gibbons, founding partner of Work Research. “Twitter is a stage and Tweeters are often acting out roles on it. Qualitative research has come a long way. We use the latest neuroscience and behavioural economics to create new ways of asking questions and getting meaningful responses.”

Jim blogged in 2009 about the pros and cons of using Twitter as a component of qualitative research. It does skew to people posturing. And it won’t replace structured qualitative research. But ignore it at your peril. We believe Twitter (and other social media tools):

1. Add texture to structured research, by listening in on what consumers are already saying, and
2. Add a recruiting channel to existing efforts to attract feedback.

There are effective ways to add social tools to your online qualitative research. And as Twitter and online behaviour evolves, the story might change. But, for now, it can enhance your research efforts.

The Storyline at the QRCA Symposium

Thursday, QRCA hosted their biennial QRCA Symposium featuring researchers and their clients presenting actual research projects, complete with impact on the business.  It was a great “feel good” day for consultants who sometimes wonder if their work makes much of a difference at the decision-makers level.

The common thread running through the presentations was the need to develop the customer’s story.  From Patricia Martin’s story about the Renaissance Generation to AARPs presentation on reaching the Millennial Generation, presenters focused on the importance of the story.  To fully engage their customers, marketers must understand them holistically.  They must understand their “story,” not just their impression of the product.

Qualitative researchers and qualitative techniques are uniquely qualified to explore and reveal the customer’s story. We have more qualitative techniques than ever before.  Presenters uncovered stories using traditional focus group methodologies and online qualitative research methodologies.  The techniques are simply tools that we match to the need to provide the richest and most revealing stories.

Out of the story come the deep insights into the “why.”  In conference after conference, research buyers say they want insights.  They want more than just regurgitation of the facts or the research events.  They want insights that inform decisions.  These insights don’t come from a cursory glance; they come from a focused experience that reveals the customer’s story with all the twists, turns and inconsistencies that makes us human.

The 2011 QRCA Symposium told a lot of stories that informed a lot of decisions that improved a lot of products/services that improved a lot of lives.  It was a good day.

IIR Tech Conference Report: Communities Down, Engagement Up?

Isaac Rogers, our Director of New Product Development, is attending the two-day IIR Technology Conference in Chicago. So far, he’s checked in with four observations:

1. No real talk about communities. This either means one of three things: 1) Everyone who wants one has one; 2) Everyone is bored of talking about them; or 3) They aren’t the hot-button item they once were. After my discussions with the other attendees, I’m leaning towards #3. Funny, a couple of years ago that’s all anyone wanted to talk about. Now, there seem to be three new buzzwords: mobile, social media and engagement (for real!).

2. Mobile qualitative research is everywhere in this conference, but there is still some debate about where it fits in the research toolkit. Is it a niche tool? Is it a primary go-to? Is it a compelling add-on? It seems there is a lot of value getting derived from the mobile experience/customer sat work going on, but people are talking about it as just another data collection method.

3. Social Media is a big topic at this event. However, there still seems to be this kind of “So what?” question hanging in the air. I think the presenters did an excellent job talking about how they use social media for additional insight into trends, and how the concept of “looking for your specific brand” is really not a great approach, but most of the questions from the audience seemed to leave me wondering if we’ve really got this social media monitoring figured out yet.

4. Engagement. This has been the subtle undercurrent of this conference, from my vantage point. Lots of these techniques and tools discussed allow us to create a more engaging participant experience, and how that can benefit the overall research. There is almost this “respect” for participants that is refreshing and signals continued growth for qualitative research.

What Webcams Can Add to a Bulletin Board Focus Group

There’s online qualitative research and then there’s online qualitative research. The latter involves really embracing the various online research software platforms and all they can offer. Like webcam response, which is the newest addition to our bulletin board focus group platform, QualBoard.

It took no time for Heather Mitchell, a senior moderator at Bloomfield, Conn.-based The Pert Group, to give this new feature a try. We recently caught up with Heather to find out why she was so eager to use it and what her first impressions have been. Here’s a sample of what she had to say:

Testing the technology: Webcam response in a bulletin board focus group is “one of the hottest new technologies,” according to Heather, which means that The Pert Group wanted to be one of its first adopters. They tested several platforms, but she says QualBoard quickly became her firm’s go-to solution, thanks to its ability to “incorporate multimedia (including video) in flexible ways that I have not experienced in any other platforms.”

First impressions: “You see things they wouldn’t otherwise think to tell you about, so it takes the insight to another level,” Heather says. “Whereas respondents might talk in a focus group about where they store something at home, you can’t get a good sense of the space constraints without seeing it for yourself. Respondents can tell you where they keep a product and that it works or doesn’t work for them, but you can’t appreciate it until you see it.”

Read the full article at

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