Recruiting the right people is absolutely the critical success factor for qualitative research. But often there is not just one right answer to the question “who knows what we want to learn?”
Of course, they must meet your client’s project requirements if specs are included in the brief. And it is a good idea to talk to the obvious participants: a category user, aware and familiar with certain brands, recent experience with a product or brand, the list goes on and on.
Creative recruiting comes into play as the extra mile that you go to provide a richer and more insightful result. Don’t worry about finding a “representative sample.” After all; this is qualitative research, so you are free of that limitation and can be more creative. The key here is to speak to the people who have good insights into the information you need.
Here are some examples of Creative Recruiting:
- If you were trying to understand what young mothers are looking for in a car, you would naturally think first about finding young mothers who drive cars, maybe even those who recently bought a car. And then you would – naturally – get quite focused on that and get increasingly precise: “We need young mothers who drive with their children in the car and who have purchased a Volvo in the past three months.” At that point, stop and think: who else has the information I want? I would recommend adding in a handful of interviews with veteran car salesmen – they know a lot about this! They may even understand something about the dynamics that the moms themselves don’t know. They will give you some interesting perspectives and hypotheses to consider with your discussions with moms.
- If you are interested in what teenagers think about a product, service or another topic, throw in some interviews with parents of teens. In many cases, Mom or Dad is completing the purchase (or at least providing the financial means), so they probably have a valuable perspective about what their kids want and need – as well as on what limitations they would apply to the purchase. They will also understand some things, like peer pressures, for example, that the kids can’t or won’t tell you.
- Let’s say you make athletic equipment and you are interested in getting student athletes’ perspectives – speak to teachers, parents, and coaches as well. By all means talk to the athletes themselves, but you might be surprised at how much these other audiences know about young people’s attitudes, opinions, and preferences.
There are other audiences that you can consider including in addition to the direct consumer. Industry mavens, early adopters, even academics specialized in an area of research can be a terrific source of insights. One of the great benefits of qualitative research is that it is not bounded by many of the statistical requirements of quantitative research, which allows a great deal of freedom in project design. Get creative when you are recruiting for qualitative research – your clients will thank you!