Getting the 100% participation rate

E014841Recruitment used to be somewhat of a mystery to me. I knew that I have to make up my mind and decide what kind of respondents I need and then go to the recruitment department and ask for them. In a couple of days I would enter the moderation room and the respondents would be there. Magic! Or not entirely, as sometimes the fairy godmother failed to fulfill my requests and brought me professional respondents (i.e. chameleonic people which can assume different colors, shapes and consumption habits. Moreover they tend to have a very complex relationship with the recruitment departments, relationships which resemble those described in Gomorrah by Garrone)
But recently I started finding myself in a new situation: recruiting for myself. It is a very hard job I have to say. You need to walk the streets, the malls, shopping centers etc. The weather tends to become a very important factor of the project, as well as the shoes you are wearing and the battery levels of your mobile. So, you might wonder: why bother?

• First of all you get exactly the respondents you need. No more professional respondents or persons who passed the screeners (the income, profession, psychographics screens) but who have nothing to do with the people you are looking for. You can see how they are dressed, where they are, with whom, you can talk to them and find out much more about them than the recruitment questionnaire would ever tell you.

• Secondly, with this occasion you can take a look around and actually see where the people you are looking for hang around, what do they do, how they consume the products within your interest category etc.

• Thirdly, you have the opportunity to create a personal connection with the respondent. The recruitment process no longer takes an objective shape where some people are selected and asked to present themselves at a certain place and time for an interview/ focus group, but rather a conversation which is finalized with an invitation to talk some more.

By doing so, you will now have a conversation partner in the group and not a “subject”. The most visible, measurable benefit is the time you gain in the FG/ IDI by bypassing the warming up section. Although not so easily measurable, you will also see a more pregnant tendency to get involved, to help, both during the IDIs/ FGs and in the recruitment process. And in here lies the 100% rate.
Here are a couple of tips I find useful to get to this rate:

1. Walk the streets – recruit by yourself. I know that it is not feasible for most of you (many projects, tons of tasks etc.) to singlehandedly recruit for an entire project. But try it for a couple of hours. If you have an easy target you can try it on your way home, or when you do your shopping etc. At least you will find out how a “real” (as in “not professional”) respondent looks and talks, the places where your target can be found and the way they naturally engage in the activity you are interested in.

2. Stay in touch with the people you recruited. Give them your messenger ID, e-mail address or whatever means they can use to find you easily. Maybe they want to know a little more about the project they’re in, or they just want to be reminded the date of the IDI/ FG. Anyway, it will not take you to much time and it will give them the impression that they really matter to you.

3. Be flexible when you can. I’m talking especially about timings here. The main issues I have with my respondents are the day and hour of the IDI/ FG. Traffic jams, family quarrels, arguments with bosses and so many other things can intervene. Try to keep an open mind and not to discard the respondent on the spot. Maybe you can reschedule that IDI for later on, or maybe you can start the FG 15 minutes earlier. Or maybe you can do that IDI in a coffee shop near his/ her home and they do not really have to cross the whole town to get to your headquarters. All these details can help you in getting across the same idea of valuing them not only as info sources, but most importantly as human beings

4. Transform the whole process, from recruitment ‘till moderation, in a continuous relationship with no changes in tone. Try not to see recruitment as a different step of the research in opposition with moderation. And try to make respondents not to see it that way, also. So, do not apply a very close ended recruitment questionnaire and give them the impression they are taking an exam and… then expect them to be creative in group! Or vice versa, being very friendly and loose in recruitment and then striving to get some structure in groups. Try to really engage them, from the first second until you say thank you for your participation.

Any other suggestions on this? Sam Ladner has some interesting ones.


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