How Do You Deal With the Question of ROI on Research?

I saw a great quote on Twitter last week. I’m paraphrasing here, but it went something like, “Why do corporations question the ROI of social media…shouldn’t they be worried about the ROI on endless meetings?” Anyone who has sat through endless meetings can appreciate the humor in that. But the quote also reminded me that ROI is a challenge for this industry, as well. It’s a question most clients want answered — especially those who have little or no experience with research. But as most researchers know, that’s easier said than done.

Bob Lederer, who led last month’s ROI on MR conference in Chicago, says ROI is seen as dubious by many, and it’s not something researchers often are prepared for. The danger, though, is that clients who want an answer about ROI and don’t get it could take that as a sign that they should slash their research budgets.

So how do you discuss ROI with clients without making them even more hesitant about the merits of research?

Cristin Malone of B2B International offers a few ideas in this blog post, but we’d also like to hear from our readers. How often does ROI come up? And when it does, how do you address it? Any tips to share with your fellow researchers?

Download Our New eBook on Mobile Qualitative Research

Looking for an easier, more insightful way to get real-time feedback while participants are experiencing a brand? The answer is in your pocket. No, not your keys…your mobile phone. That’s right, your mobile phone is one of the best ways to gather authentic, “in the moment” feedback.

While mobile surveys have been around for close to a decade, mobile qualitative research has only recently become a viable research tool—and it continues to grow in popularity.

Whether you’re considering your first mobile qualitative research project or consider yourself a pro, you’ll want to download the newest eBook from 20|20 Technology — The Essential Guide to Mobile Qualitative Research. The tips and tricks in this eBook were developed for research agencies, independent moderators, as well as client-side researchers.

Specific topics include:

• An introduction to mobile qualitative research
• Using mobile qualitative research at events
• Behavior tracking on the go
• Mobile qualitative research and shop-alongs
• Using mobile to connect with difficult-to-reach participants

This eBook is the second in a series designed to help you better utilize today’s online qualitative research tools. The first in the series, How to Save Time and Money on Your Qualitative Research Projects: Using online research software for 5 popular methodologies, is still available for download at

Online Qualitative Helps Healthcare Research Company Unlock Reasons Why Patients Don’t Take Their Medicine

We posted a new case study over at and we encourage you to check it out. It provides a glimpse at just one of the many outside-of-the-box ways you can use our online qualitative research tools. In this case, we’re talking about QualBoard, but the project wasn’t your typical bulletin board focus group.

Our client, GfK Healthcare, approached us because they wanted to get to the bottom of medication adherence — an issue that can be life or death for patients living with chronic illnesses. But because a chronic illness can be manageable one day and out-of-control the next, they knew a typical bulletin board focus group wouldn’t provide the depth of insight they were seeking: “The reactions could be very different over a period of time where factors beyond point-in-time emotions drive their behavior,” explains Carla Penel, GfK Healthcare’s director of research and consulting. “[We wanted to record] things in daily life that affect them physically and emotionally.”

Instead of an interactive board, GfK wanted participants to share the moments of their daily lives with a moderator. Participants were sent Flip video cameras to express themselves in that medium. Penel and her team checked in and monitored the daily feedback, including what was required of each participant, which was at least one video per day.

The project was a success, giving respondents the ability to express a depth of emotion they might not have been able to convey in writing and giving GfK helpful insights that were used to develop an adherence program.

“We came out with some very actionable results,” Penel says. “We’ve already proposed two additional studies with other clients.”

What’s Keeping Researchers Awake at Night? The Threat of DIY Research

In this month’s issue of Quirk’s are the findings from an annual salary survey. While it’s always interesting to take a look at what people are making, what struck us as most compelling about this piece were some of the open-ended, qualitative responses from respondents. The responses offer insight into what researchers are feeling challenged by and what they see as a threat to their, well, salaries.

One of the common themes among these open-ended responses was DIY research—in particular, how DIY research is threatening their jobs more than it probably should. In a sidebar to the salary survey, Quirk’s editor Joseph Rydholm does the dirty work for us, digging into some of these insights about DIY research and finding some real gems of responses. Among them:

“Just because data collection tools have become so readily available doesn’t mean using them assures good research. In my mind, it’s like saying that we are all qualified CPAs because we know how to use Excel!”

Or how about this one?

“We need to address the onslaught of ‘cheap and fast’ research that is often convenient but leads to completely incorrect assumptions. We must demonstrate the return on investment of thoughtful and considered research.”

So what does this say about DIY research? Two things: It’s definitely becoming a popular way to go. Client-side researchers often contact to 20/20 Research to develop and execute their own research projects using our suite of easy-to-use online qualitative research software platforms. But at the same time, there’s a real warning that clients eager to do their own research should heed: Be careful! Unless you know what you’re doing, your results (and your job) could be in jeopardy.

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.

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.

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

Thinking Outside the Bulletin Board Focus Group: Interesting Ways to Use Online Research Software

Last week we sat down with Jessica Ritzo, marketing consultant and head of online qualitative for Insights in Marketing, a Wilmette, Ill.-based research firm (and a client of ours). We’ve been impressed—and intrigued—by the inventive ways Ritzo’s company has embraced online research software. They’ve used bulletin board focus group software for online journaling projects, they’ve mastered the art of combining online—and traditional—methodologies in the same study, and more. Here’s a sample from the interview.

We understand you did an online journaling project, but didn’t use online journaling software. Tell us more about that.
We’ve used both online journaling and online bulletin board focus group software for research involving blogging/online journaling. While both tools can work well for shorter and longer-term projects, I’ve found that online bulletin board software is a better fit for projects that may require more moderator/respondent interaction over the course of the fieldwork, since it allows for more active probing.

What are some other examples of “beyond bulletin board focus group” projects you’ve done?
We’ve also done quite a lot of real-time online qualitative, including online focus groups and one-on-one in-depth interviews. Additionally, we’ve conducted a good amount of website usability and development research online, most recently using 20|20’s QualMeeting. Additionally, just as we do with our in-person qualitative work, it’s not unusual for us to create hybrid methodologies to best meet the research objectives. So, this may mean weaving together multiple online approaches or combining online with more traditional approaches within the same study. Really, it comes down to identifying the most effective methodology for each individual project.

For more insight from Ritzo, including some great tips for online qualitative newbies, check out the full article posted at

New eBook: How to Save Time and Money on Your Qualitative Research Projects

This week 20|20 Research released a new ebook, How to Save Time and Money on Your Qualitative Research Projects: Using Online Research Software for 5 Popular Methodologies. Hopefully reading the title is compelling enough for you to want to download it, but if not, here are three good reasons you should:

1. It will open your mind to online: As Jim Bryson explains in the intro, online qualitative once made a lot of empty promises to researchers—but that was more than a decade ago. Over the years we’ve created and fine-tuned a suite of online qualitative research tools that really can make traditional research projects faster, cheaper and better. The ebook was developed to help client-side researchers and research agencies better understand how the most common qualitative project types can be conducted online.

2. It will introduce you to new methodologies and online applications: OK, so maybe you’ve done a few online projects. But have you experimented with multiple methodologies? Many researchers know about the bulletin board focus group, but did you know you can do many other projects online? You will after reading the ebook, which includes sections on mobile qualitative research, online focus groups, online journaling and more.

3. It will teach you something new: The ebook is a great introduction to online qualitative research, but it’s also a useful (and quick) read for the most seasoned online qualitative veteran. We bet you’ll find at least one thing in there that you didn’t already know.

And here’s a fourth reason that needs little explanation—it’s free! Download the ebook. And if you get a chance, let us know what you think in the comments below.

Your Customers Can Make Your Reports Come Alive

Have you ever struggled to stay awake during a research presentation as bar chart after bar chart flashed across the screen? Have you ever struggled to make survey findings compelling so someone would actually notice and do something meaningful with the data?

I’m really excited about a new opportunity to make the reporting of quantitative data come alive.  Last week, 20/20 Technology unveiled a webcam response feature on its QualBoard bulletin board focus group platform. There are a lot of ways to use this feature. However, in my opinion, one of the most powerful is to drive home the most important points in a quantitative research presentation.

How compelling would it be to have real consumers explaining the bar charts to marketing executives?  A lot more compelling than a simple bar chart.

Here is how it can be done simply and inexpensively. Several months ago, 20/20 Technology introduced QualLink, which creates an opportunity for survey participants to opt in to a QualBoard after the survey. Once they opt in, respondents can answer qualitative questions, including webcam response questions. Collect those answers, develop a montage of the best responses, embed them in the research report. Voila! Consumers provide the reality behind the numbers.  It makes an impact.

The cost is very low and it requires no additional time in the research design. So, the value is high.

The key to good reporting is telling a compelling story.  Who better to communicate key points than the customers themselves?

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