When it comes to maximizing the value of market research and using it to make smarter, faster and more profitable business decisions, a critical -- though often overlooked -- aspect is screening the right participants, and weeding out those who are unqualified.
If potential participants are not properly screened, then the insights they provide will not be reliable. Ironically, they can even become counterproducti ve, and at that point, a business would be better off scrapping the market research “results” altogether. After all, a map that cannot be trusted is not an asset. It is a liability.
Naturally, each specific market research project must be configured and calibrated based on its unique factors, variables and requirements. What works in one context or field may not work in another. So with this in mind, there are 5 fundamental best practices that all businesses should adopt when conducting market research screening.
Market Research Screening Best Practice #1: Establish Strategic Screening Criteria
Many businesses that conduct do-it-yourself market research focus on the questions want to ask participants, but neglect to pay attention to the questions they will ask prospective participants (i.e. screening questions). It is absolutely vital to establish strategic screening criteria BEFORE participants are chosen. Otherwise, even if the response rate is high, the information will be gleaned from the wrong people.
Market Research Screening Best Practice #2: Do Not Go Overboard with Restrictions
At the same time, some businesses – and usually those that were burned by not being aware of the best practice noted above – go to the other end of the spectrum, and make their screening criteria TOO restrictive. While this makes sense in theory, in practice it can (and usually does) result in needlessly limiting the pool of qualified participants. In fact, in our experience more market research projects fail to capture actionable intelligence and insights because the screening criteria was too narrow, rather than too broad.
Market Research Screening Best Practice #3: Understand the Implications of Incentives
There is nothing inherently wrong, unprofessional or unethical about offering potential market research participants an appropriate cash incentive for their participation. However, if this tactic is part of the plan, then it is vital to establish controls and safeguards that weed out those who are simply in it for the money. This is because such people typically give answers that they feel will qualify them for the market research project, and not necessarily those that are true.
For example, if they believe (or through some digging have discovered) that the market research project is targeted towards individuals who spend at least 10 hours a week reading online newspapers, they will affirm this in their screening response even if they spend far less than this amount of time.
Market Research Screening Best Practice #4: Short and Sweet is the Only Way to Go
While it would be ideal to have a comprehensive and in-depth screening document, the fact is that most participants – including those who are qualified – will not spend a significant amount of time at the preliminary stage of the process. Short and sweet is typically the only way to go, both in terms of the number of questions, and the brevity/simplicity of each question (i.e. none of those 5-part nightmare-inducing algebra exam questions!).
Market Research Screening Best Practice #5: Split Essential from Non-Essential Demographic Questions
The best way to have potential participants complete a screening survey is to have them dive in as quickly and easily as possible. To that end, it is wise to put essential (must-have) demographic questions at the beginning of the survey, and then put non-essential demographic questions at the end of the survey for those who have completed it.
To learn more about do’s and don’ts of market research screening, contact the Communications For Research team today. Our expansive recruiting and screening department has experience in screening participants for groups and in-depth interviews in North America and internationally - including Europe, South America and Asia. We also have experience working with complicated quote plans and we can even arrange facilities in the locations where you want to conduct your groups or interviews.
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