Posted by Gazelle Global

Navigating the Matrix: Balancing Budget and Quality in Qualitative Research

No matter the size of the business, budgets play a huge role in market research projects. Balancing tight budgets whilst ensuring quality in qualitative research is a matrix that every project manager must navigate, and yet, it can be a tricky balance to strike. When searching for a new vendor, the stakes are even higher, as choosing the wrong partner can mean wasted time and resources and sub-par data that’s neither insightful nor actionable.

How to Engage a New Research Vendor Quickly Without Compromising Quality

You’re only as good as your last project when it comes to market research. Previous issues with feasibility or inability to complete a project on time or within budget concerns over costs, a reduction in research budgets, or poor execution of the last project are the most common reasons for researchers to seek out new vendors. But engaging a new vendor comes with its own set of risks. Finding a research vendor that can begin the execution of your new project efficiently and provide maximum quality means understanding their capabilities and experience, for starters. Be sure to vet your vendor by checking their references, comparing their services, and knowing whether their turnaround times on deliverables meet your needs. But there are also some important factors to consider from your point of view, including: 

Clearly Outline Screening Criteria

When undertaking a new study, the specifications outlined in the screening document are incredibly important. It’s unfortunately quite common for project managers to communicate screening data, such as asking for recruits over the age of 18, for example, only to realize after it’s too late that those over 40s are the ideal target. Screening online gamers but later realizing that the target market should have been first-person shooter gamers only is another example. Providing ill-thought-out or inaccurate screening information means unexpected changes to the pricing and feasibility of your project. In the worst-case scenario, failing to provide the correct screening criteria to your vendor means receiving a completed study with unusable data and having to pay for the privilege. The best way to ensure you gather quotes quickly without compromising on quality is to ensure the accuracy of your screening document. 

Use a Consultant Approach

When engaging a vendor for your next research project, open and honest communication and a consultative approach are key. Whether you’re looking for specific panel mixes for your study, or utilizing a qualitative research technique or technology that you’re not familiar with, the research will benefit from the experience and input from your vendor. Understand their capabilities and how you can use them to their full capacity, have open discussions around how to target the best participants, and be ready to have your notions on quotas, criteria, and timelines challenged in order the achieve the best results. 

How Can You Ensure Quality Recruits for Global Qualitative Research Studies?

Conducting research in foreign markets is fraught with the potential for poor outcomes, even for the most experienced research teams. Thankfully, an expert vendor with in-country partners can help to avoid the pitfalls and successfully execute these kinds of projects. Here’s how: 

 Screening, Screening, Screening

Once again, the success (or failure) of a market research study hinges on a good screening document. A well-put-together document will ensure that the study targets the right kinds of people in the right numbers. The types of recruits that would be interested in completing surveys are not the same types of people your researchers would target for qualitative studies in the B2B space, for example. Carefully considering exactly the types of recruits to target and the necessary quotas is the first key to unlocking valuable consumer insights. 

 Be Flexible in Criteria or Quotas

Sometimes, in studies that require a very specific type of participant, the respondent pool may be quite limited. If conducting research around consumers that live with three or more chronic health conditions and use a particular medication, you may find that it is not feasible to recruit 100 of them for the study – at least not within your prescribed time frame, for example. In this scenario, the choices are to loosen the criteria (perhaps to two chronic conditions) or lower the quota for participants. Again, the quality of the screening document, as well as being completely upfront with your vendor, will help to avoid these pitfalls and ensure that the price and feasibility of the study are more accurately conveyed before getting underway.  

Use In-Country Partners

To evaluate other peoples and cultures through our own lens is a mistake that many brands and even researchers make. Topics such as ethnicity, women’s health and reproductive issues, religion, political leanings, gender roles and norms, sexual orientation, and even marital status, while considered fairly normal qualitative research questions in the USA, could be culturally inappropriate and insensitive to certain people. Your research vendor should have local partners in the region that are aware of cultural differences and sensitivities that could impact your study and can moderate interviews accordingly. Don’t be tempted to save money with a cheaper bid that means compromising on quality. 

Conduct Studies in the Local Language

There is a huge difference between being able to conduct business in English and sitting for a 30-minute interview, being asked questions about thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Not to mention, it can be considered extremely rude to expect locals to communicate in English rather than their own language. This is yet another reason that having in-country support is so crucial. Local partners can not only help to moderate screening questions and interviews for propriety but can conduct interviews in the local language for more accurate, culturally sensitive, and meaningful data. 

Avoid Some Cost-Cutting Measures

Although it may sound counterintuitive, many cost-cutting measures can end up costing more in the long term. One such measure is using quantitative panels to source recruits for qualitative studies. In the hopes of increasing efficiency (by reducing the time needed for recruitment) and saving on costs, it can be tempting to utilize participants that have already been screened and recruited. But, as we’ve already mentioned, the types of people suited to taking a 5-minute survey online are not exactly the ideal recruits for a B2B qualitative study targeting VPs with salaries of over $250,000, for example. Even in less extreme examples, the differences in qual and quant recruits are important to consider. And so, although cutting costs in this way may seem ingenious, they can severely compromise the quality of your data. 

Invest in Quality Control

Unfortunately, the market research industry is plagued with fraud, a great deal of which is committed by respondents. Weeding out the ‘professional survey takers’ and fraudsters from genuine consumers comes down to quality control, whether conducting qualitative or quantitative research. In qualitative research in particular, it is important to consider a high level of quality control, particularly when it comes to highly specific research. When recruiting for a study for an electric bicycle manufacturer, for example, you may be interested only in speaking to those who have bought and used that particular bike. Screening these participants to verify that they do, in fact, own that model of a bicycle means waiting for recruits to upload photos and then waiting for those recruits to be approved individually before proceeding. Although this is time-consuming and more costly, the process ensures that only the highest quality of respondents is recruited and, in turn, the highest quality of data is returned.

Avoid the "Just Say Yes" Attitude

In the market research industry, there is a habit among many vendors to ‘just say yes’ to clients, no matter the criteria, quotas, or budgets involved. But overpromising and underdelivering equates to wasted time and resources when budgets and timelines are already tight. Developing strong relationships and trust with vendors means you can be confident when they tell you that something can’t be done. Avoid the Yes Men and stick to experienced vendors with an excellent reputation who will always give you the honest truth – it will save both time and money and ensure quality results. 

Trust the Experts in Qualitative Research

Just as you should trust your in-country partners to moderate for a local audience, you should rely on your research vendor experts when it comes to qualitative studies. Qualitative methods of research are very different to those used in quantitative research. Qualitative research questions, incentives, and timeframes for recruiting qualitative participants vary greatly to those used in quant, for example. So, when your vendor makes recommendations around different incentive levels for different markets (where a $100 incentive is appropriate in the USA, perhaps a $40 incentive is sufficient in other regions), and the time it takes to recruit and interview participants, it is worth heeding this advice. Screening for high-quality recruits in qual studies may take longer, but the payoffs are invaluable in terms of the level of clear, meaningful, and actionable insights they return. Engage an experienced vendor with a proven track record in qualitative research to get the kind of advice and expertise your projects require. 

When it comes to balancing your budget with quality in qualitative research, there are no shortcuts. The key is to invest in an expert vendor who will work closely with you to get it right the first time, every time, ensuring quality insights that are both meaningful and actionable. 

Using a trusted research partner frees you up to do what you do best.

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Topics: Global Research Service