QRCA

Simple Stimulating Statements: AQR/QRCA Conference in Tweets

Sometimes, the best reading is simple reading that makes you think.

Last week, I attended the AQR/QRCA World Qualitative Conference in Budapest, Hungary (a fabulous city by the way).  The Twitter feed (#aqr/qrca)was very active.  Here is a collection of tweets.  Maybe one or more will stimulate a thought that will change your day.

Relish Research ‏@relishresearch  May 2

Interesting to use the word respondent. We only say participant now to see them more as an involved part of the process. #aqrqrca

Jim Bryson ‏@JimBrysonTN  May 2

Peter Totman “you owe it to your client to focus on the respondents” not the back room #aqrqrca #mrx Read More…

Passing of an Industry Icon: Bill Weylock

Today I learned that a friend and research industry icon, Bill Weylock, has passed away.  Lenny Murphy did a very good obituary on the GreenBook blog that gives a detailed outline of Bill’s legacy.  Here are a few of my recollections meant as a tribute to a leader and a friend.

Bill was brilliant and an industry pioneer.  He was a founding member of the Qualitative Research Consultant’s Association (QRCA) and served as its President.  When I first came to know him, he was trying to get QRCA members to participate in a QRCA interactive forum using CompuServe.  He was leading the adoption of the online forum and having a difficult time finding followers.  That was then.  Now, QRCA has a widely used and read forum.  LinkedIn and other websites utilize thousands of forums for discussions of various topics.  Plus, a major qualitative research methodology, including 20|20‘s own QualBoard, has been built on the threaded forum technology.  Bill saw the power of the Internet before the Internet was cool.  He led the way for all of us.

When I was President of QRCA, Bill took me under his wing.  He helped me to understand the history and the dynamics of the organization.  He helped me to see the importance of planning for the future and creating a QRCA that would lead the industry.  Bill had strong opinions and was not afraid of a little disagreement.  He encouraged me to live with the power of my convictions, even when some members disagreed.  He liberally shared his experience and wisdom, but always expected me to go my own way.  He was fiercely independent and expected others to be so too.  He was a mentor then and became a friend.

Bill Weylock had a tremendous influence on our industry and a tremendous influence on many people.  Miss you already, Bill.

QRCA Panel Speaks Out on Social Media Recruiting

“Social Media.”  Everyone is talking about it.  Everyone wants to use it.  Everyone is trying to figure out how.

At the QRCA Conference in Montreal, I recently participated on a panel discussion titled, “Social Media Recruiting: Way of the Future.”  The goal was to discuss how social media is currently being used to recruit face-to-face and online qualitative.  The panel was organized by the QRCA Field Committee and led by Michelle Finzel of Maryland Marketing Source.

Some of my take-aways related to social media sites were:

  • Most “social media” recruiting started with Craigslist.  Craigslist still has a bad reputation though its discussion area is really no different than other social media sites.
  • Linkedin seems to have promise for B-B recruiting, but so far few have found methods that work.
  • Facebook is the primary social media site used for qual recruiting.  Facebook is being used in two ways.
  1. Many firms have their own Facebook pages that they use to troll for participants who have previously “Liked” them.
  2. Firms are getting adept, through trial and error, at paid advertising for particular respondents on Facebook

Social media recruiting seems to work best with consumer recruits.  Facebook and others are able to target ads at specific consumer demographics or other measures they can access.  Such targeting can make certain difficult-to-recruit consumer groups much easier.  However, if such criteria is not available, difficult recruits can be extremely expensive since the recruiter must pay/click for each respondent who clicks through to the screener.  For low incidence studies, this can be cost prohibitive and, therefore, not helpful.

The panel discussed the ethics of client disclosure.  Do we need to disclose to clients that the recruits came from social media sites?  Generally, the panel agreed that, in most cases, such disclosure was not necessary.  The burden is on the recruiter to ensure that the participant qualifies in every way regardless of the respondent source.  If the recruiter is doing his/her job correctly, the source is largely irrelevant.

Bottom Line:  Social media recruiting can help with certain recruiting problems.  However, the panel agreed that traditional recruiting rescreening and verification steps still must be taken.  Social media recruiting is a way to broaden the recruiting reach but it does not relieve the recruiter of the responsibility to thoroughly screen and verify their respondents.

Social media recruiting is likely here to stay.  However, it is not stand-alone.  It still requires some form of traditional recruiting process to ensure that ethe right respondents fit the right project.

QRCA Members can go to the QRCA Website to get a copy of the presentation.  I was honored to serve on the panel with Ben Smithee of Spych Research and Jeff Henn of Baltimore Research.

MRMW and the Role of Associations in Emerging Mobile Methods

This week is the Mobile Research in the Mobile World conference in Cincinnati.  I don’t know when I have heard as much buzz about a conference.  I hope it lives up to its hype.  I will not be there but my colleague and friend Isaac Rogers, 20|20 CIO, is attending.

Foster Winter, MD of Sigma Research, is also on the QRCA Board of Directors.  In that role, he is participating in a panel discussion of the associations’ roles in the emerging mobile market research world.  Foster asked me to weigh in on a discussion on the QRCA Members Forum on this topic.  There are some very good posts by tremendous industry leaders.  While I’m not at liberty to share those, I did copy my comments to re-post here.   They are below.

 

I’m finding the “mobile” research generally falls into two categories.

1. Mobile Access. In other words, every platform very soon MUST have a way to access it from a smartphone or it will be deemed unusable. Mobile will be the “price of entry” for digital platforms. The biggest hurdle right now seems to be the fragmentation of the Android op system.

2. New capabilities. From a qual perspective, we are just scratching the surface of what we can do with mobile. First, we had to get over the hurdle of using a limited input device (140 characters SMS) for qualitative. Now we have a whole new paradigm to work with….a portable, ever-present device that captures video, pictures, voice and text. The ramp-up for online qual was long because we looked at bulletin boards as a poor substitute for focus groups. When we began to realize that bulletin boards brought whole new capabilities and opportunities to qualitative research, they began to be embraced by the qual community. Mobile is in the early stages. We don’t yet know what capabilities are coming because mobile changes the paradigm again by adding capabilities never before available to us. The ramp-up will be much faster than bulletin boards, but it will take some time to blossom.

What are the associations’ roles? I think
1. Define the guardrails. Betsy mentioned several of them. The associations are the industry’s governing bodies.
2. Embrace new capabilities, not because all are good but because it exposes them to the membership and assists in the penetration of new capabilities. In turn, this becomes a major member benefit.
3. Celebrate innovation. Associations can’t be an incubation center, but they can be a hotbox of thinking. Why not develop a capability to nuture qualitative innovation, a qualitative greenhouse so to speak.

Unilever QRC Accreditation to Meet “with limited success and acceptance”

Recently, we posted here about a new Unilever initiative to provide accredidation to ensure that their qualitative research consultants posess the skills Unilever requires.

As one of the leading qualitative associations, QRCA has long discussed the notion of Qualitative Researcher Accreditation.  J.R. Harris is an industry veteran, a founding QRCA member, former President and long-standing Chair of the QRCA Professionalism Committee.  He and his committee have studied and re-studied qualitative accreditation ideas and proposals over the years.  I sent him a copy of the article about the Unilever Accreditation Programme.

The following is an email that JR sent to me about this article and Unilever’s attempts to accreditate qualitative researchers.  I have reproduced it here in its entirety with JR’s permission.

Thanks for sending the article. I’m sure you will not be surprised that I do have a few comments.

The notion of “certifying,” “credentialing” or “accrediting” QRCs is not a new one. Like Halley’s Comet, this initiative seems to reappear consistently and reliably every few years. QRCA’s Professionalism Committee, which I chaired, has thoroughly investigated this issue on more than one occasion and the organization has always decided not to pursue it. Furthermore, efforts by other research organizations to certify members of our profession have met with very limited success and acceptance. I believe this same destiny awaits Unilever, for the following reasons:

1– Unilever’s program is based on a “growing concern” within the company regarding the “quality of the qual work being delivered” yet they don’t specify what concerns or shortcomings they are experiencing from their QRCs. How can they be sure that a certification program will eliminate these concerns?

2– Their program is too subjective in nature. To qualify for accreditation, QRCs are evaluated by “independent assessors” who would examine an applicant’s “mock brief” and observe the 1-hour focus group based on that brief.  Our investigation has shown that any effective credentialing program is typically based on specific professional criteria that the applicant must possess, as evidenced by passing a standardized test, completing specified curricula, etc.

3– The Unilever program is based on the applicant’s skill at moderating one in-person focus group. While the focus group is arguably the mainstay of qualitative research, there are many other important qualitative methodologies that are not included in the Unilever program.

4– QRCA’s investigation of credentialing has shown that their is neither a need nor a demand for it. Research buyers around the world have insisted that they are quite capable of selecting knowledgeable and competent QRCs to conduct their research. They have also indicated their belief that using a certified QRC would not guarantee quality of work or success of the project.

5– The Unilever program, as described, seems out of touch with the realities of qualitative research and the technological and methodological changes in our industry. Nevertheless, using only certified QRCs will make it easier for the company to buy its qualitative research via the Purchasing Dept. rather than the Research Dept.

If research buyers like Unilever want to work with highly skilled and experienced qual researchers, they don’t need a certification program. All they need to do is be aware of the QRCA Professional Competencies of Qualitative Research Consultants. Not only would they appreciate the eleven specific competencies that define our profession, but they would easily be able to match the skill sets of the QRC to the type of project they wish to conduct. I believe this would give them more confidence in the QRCs they select, as well as better outcomes from those who are selected.

QRCA’s Professional Competencies document can be found here.

Unilever Driving Qual Change through Accreditation

Two events in the UK this week highlighted the gulf that separates most researchers from the clients they seek to serve.

Research-Live.com reported that Unilever is implementing a “new accreditation programme” for qualitative research suppliers.  The program will distinguish between “Research Leads” and “Moderators.”  To qualify, research providers will have to undergo about 3 hours of testing and observation and pass the test.  There are a lot of questions that the article does not answer about program specifics.

Obviously, the the accreditation program is being implemented because Unilever is not pleased with the quality of research they currently receive.  So what exactly are they displeased with?  Ulrike Hillmer, a consumer market insight manager for Unilever Deutschland, said the company seeks “to significantly raise the quality of qualitative research in the business in order to help deliver superior consumer insight”.

Likewise, Research-live.com quotes Unilever, “This researcher needs to be conscientious; a strategic thinker; to have empathy with the Unilever context; able to provide fresh ideas and thoughts and have the ability to link up brand/category issues with consumer understanding; and be challenging and pro-active.”

Contrast Unilever’s attempt at accreditation with the new report out this week from “The ICG,” a group of independent researchers who say they are “research professionals with an average 25 years’ experience.”  The report titled “Commissioning qualitative research and getting the best from it” provides a step-by-step overview of how to conduct the research process.  It is a 36 page presentation of detail about the process with tips, suggestions and rules to live by.

The ICG document likely meets a very well-defined and understood need.  Contributors worked very hard to assemble best practices and provide a guide for the qualitative researcher.  It would be very helpful for many researchers and their clients.

My point is that Unilever is not having trouble finding people who know the process; they are having difficulty finding people who can deliver superior consumer insight, think strategically, have empathy with the Unilever context and have fresh ideas and thoughts.  As good as the ICG document is for process, it does nothing to assist researchers to meet the needs of Unilever.

The contrast of these two initiatives is simply an example of the gulf that exists between research suppliers and research buyers.  I was President of the Qualitative Research Consultants’ Association for 3 years.  We found that our conferences were most successful when we taught techniques, not the discipline of insights.

Researchers like processes.  Otherwise, they might be artists or even strategy consultants.  Meeting Unilever’s requirements will be difficult for many researchers simply because it goes against their nature.

For years qualitative consultants were rewarded for executing processes.  When qualitative research was synonymous with focus groups, many researchers made a very good income because they could execute the focus group process.

Now, the world is changing.  Methodologies are expanding and fragmenting.  Business is getting faster and faster so companies like Unilever need researchers to help them think, not just process.  The research provider industry must evolve to meet these needs.  There is a place for process-oriented researchers.  But, the time is fast approaching when companies like Unilever will value, and pay, strategic researchers much higher.  Our industry should cultivate a new breed of researcher with different gifts and skills.  If we want research to be more valued in the C-Suite, we have to provide the insights and thinking that drive the business.

I, for one, hope that Unilever is delivering more than an accreditation program.  I hope they are devising a new qualitative research business model that values, and pays, strategic thinkers who can drive business over researchers who process research.  Without such a new business model, process research will strangle research as a valued profession.

Good luck Unilever!

Let’s Rise Beyond the Term “Moderator”

What is the fate of the independent “moderator?” I have been involved in some interesting discussions here at the QRCA Annual Conference in Las Vegas related to the health of the industry.

The prevailing view among many whom I respect is that the old days of the “focus group moderator” are quickly waning. These qualitative professionals must become qualitative research consultants (QRCs) to survive. Researchers who made quite a nice income by managing the focus group research process will find their services in diminishing demand and the pay for those services being cut drastically.

There are several trends driving this reality:

  • Technology is making the qualitative process simple and accessible to research buyers. Therefore, the premium placed on “process researchers” is quickly diminishing.
  • Technology and internet access is making some research obsolete. Some routine research projects are being abandoned to the rising MR communities, social media mining or other methods of gathering qualitative data.
  • Research budgets have tightened, forcing corporate researchers to look at new, faster and cheaper methods for even historically tried-and-true research.

 

The qualitative researcher must be a consultant, not a processor of focus groups. They will be hired for the value they bring to the client, not their knowledge of the focus group process. Such value will be measured in terms of:

  • Knowledge of and application of the correct qualitative methodology (online, in-person, mobile, etc) to the marketing problem.
  • Understanding of the marketing problem and how research applies to that.
  • Understanding of the research buyer’s strategy, category and business problem.
  • Insights gained from the qualitative research that adds to the buyer’s knowledge base and helps make a more informed decision.
  • Informed, applicable, actionable recommendations arising from the research.

Qualitative researchers who can deliver on this value do themselves a disservice by using the term “moderator” to describe their services. It’s time to have the Qualitative Research Consultant (QRC) front and center.

4 Right Times to Conduct a Webcam Focus Group

The Summer 2011 edition of QRCA Views contains an article by our very own Tara Chambers (aka Tara Smith) titled, “When is the Best Time to Conduct Webcam Focus Groups?”

Tara identifies four “right times” in her article and provides case studies with each one. Here is a brief overview:

  1. To meet tight timelines. The pace of decision-making continues to increase; therefore, time pressure on researchers continues to increase as well. Using webcam interviewing eliminates travel while gaining geographic diversity. This benefit is becoming even more accessible with ever-faster recruiting capabilities available from 20|20 and other national recruiting organizations.
  2. To interview respondents in their natural setting. Using webcams allows the researcher into the respondent’s home or office. This access can be very beneficial for product discussions and other uses when the researcher wants to see the respondent demonstrate a product or show competitive products in the environment.
  3. To tightly control shared stimuli. The webcam stimuli software ensures that each respondent views each piece of stimuli in the same way.  This consistency can eliminate some uncertainty in respondents’ reactions to ads, packaging or concepts.
  4. To schedule low incidence populations. The web is a great way to reach low-incidence populations because geography is not an issue; respondents can be from anywhere.  The methodology is also helpful when dealing with difficult to recruit populations (CEOs, doctors, plumbers, etc.) because they do not have to come to a central location and their interview can be fit into a convenient slot in the interview schedule.

Like all other methodologies, webcam interviews are not right for every project. However, the method does provide many advantages in the right context.  As more people have computers with webcams and get more comfortable using them, webcam focus groups and in-depth interviews will continue their rapid growth rate in our industry.

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.

QRCA Conference: Should qualitative research care about social media?

Should qualitative research care about social media?

Kathy Doyle of Doyle Research posed this question to the qualitative research practitioners at the QRCA Conference in Philadelphia today.

Her answer: YES!!!!

When it comes to social media, Kathy said qualitative research should “own it…and right now we don’t.” Social media monitoring is a listening exercise by definition. Though some providers do offer charts and graphs to summarize the social media findings, there is little understanding behind those graphs. Therefore, researchers are better served by utilizing qualitative analysis techniques that understand the comments in context.

Qualitative research should lead the way in developing social media analysis. After all, effective social media analysis is a natural fit to the qualitative researcher’s skill set.

There are five primary outcomes from qualitative analysis of social media research results.

  • Discover issues related to the brand. Why are they talking about us?
  • ID target segments. Who is talking about us?
  • ID Consumer language. How are they talking about us?
  • Category analysis. What are people saying and and feeling about the brand and competitors?
  • Enhance secondary research. What are the motivators behind the trends we have identified?

Kathy Doyle believes the field is wide open for qualitative researchers. Marketers want it, and monitoring services provide the data, but qualitative researchers are not providing the analysis and interpretation. Kathy is adamant that it is time for our industry to step up and own the social media space.

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