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5 ways to streamline your participant recruitment process

So, you have an idea of the questions you want to ask. You know the markets you want to target. You’ve got ideas about the research framework and the technology you’re going to use. Good stuff. However, crafting great human insight that’s based on solid research relies on lots of effective processes aligning together. We all want to uncover human truths and behaviours to help answer the ‘why’ questions, but how do we work together to ensure we recruit the right participants, within the right time frame, to make the project a success?

Efficiency is the key

This blog will deal specifically with the recruitment process, which is vital to a successful online research project. Here are 5 key points that have helped Further become more efficient in this area, recruit the right participants and do the best research over the years, with contributions from Jayana van der Maten, Director at iThoughts Research, and Dr John Whittle, Senior Research Strategist at Further.

1. Use a client briefing template. Skilled researchers (worth their salt!) want to ensure that your sample compliments the objectives of the research. So, before feasibility and costs are pulled together for recruitment, your research partner should take you through their client briefing template which asks important questions about; background, research objectives, business objectives and any hypothesis formed. As part of this process, they should talk about the sample and research design you had planned. This should be done in collaboration to make sure you maximise the potential of your study and reliability of the insights formed, using the context you’ve provided.

iThoughts: 'A briefing template shared with the fieldwork company will bring you closer to the field and help you make an informed decision on feasibility and costs. The agency should pride themselves in being more than a supplier to their clients. A relationship on a peer-to-peer level with support, advice and guidance right from the first sketches of a brief will enable the fieldwork agency and the researcher to work together in gaining a true feeling of feasibility. Furthermore, involvement at this stage will lead to an understanding of the background of the research in addition to a good grasp of its aims and objectives. This is key for targeted recruitment that will reap the highest calibre audience and generate the most reliable insights into consumer behaviours and perceptions.

2. Use the right recruitment channels. This should follow on naturally from the briefing template. There are often costs that can be cut out of recruitment, I’ll grant you, but be realistic here. If you’re planning a particularly niche sample, it’s really important to use channels which involve human interaction i.e. telephone, face-to-face or social media recruitment. These methods often guarantee better quality recruits, as there are various stages of validation with each. However, if you’re aiming for a more simplistic sample, with few quotas, then database or panel recruitment might be a really great budget friendly alternative. A good supplier will always add their own quality assurance process with these approaches.'

3. Develop a recruitment timeline. A timeline is a great way to focus your thinking on all the things that could affect the recruitment process. It should ensure that all aspects of participant recruitment are considered and clearly set out. From confirming that there is sufficient time to recruit respondents, through to considering any cultural nuances to take into account, such as public holidays; as well as whether different recruitment methods are required across markets. A detailed timeline that takes all the recruitment factors into consideration, should help address and mitigate any risks, and most importantly will allow you to work backwards and ensure that the project happens as quickly and efficiently as possible.

iThoughts: 'Researchers should also be mindful of the time required for fieldwork companies to deliver recruitment that is in line with ISO standards and MRS guidelines. An in-depth feasibility assessment, conducted at the time of costing, should always include a detailed timeline based on the recruitment methodologies to be employed and realistic set times for key stages. This ensures a measured approach to recruitment and minimises the risk of last-minute surprises! Too often, fieldwork becomes unstuck due to a lack of understanding of the recruitment specifications and local cultural implications which inevitably engenders non-viable timelines. It is essential to build in contingency time to allow for stringent validation processes prior to fieldwork and replace any respondents if necessary.'

4. Get communications right from the get-go. Your first communication with participants, albeit indirectly, is via your screener questions. It’s important to set the tone of the project from this point forwards, ensuring that all communications are considered, informative and friendly to begin building a rapport. When producing your screener, it’s best practise to only ask for necessary information so you’re not overwhelming participants with too many questions. This may give them a negative impression that they’ll take forward to the actual project. Another key thing to remember, is to make sure that you always ask one open-ended question. This allows respondents to show some of their personality, but mainly allows you to make sure that the respondent is creative, articulate and able to express themselves.

John Whittle, Senior Researcher at Further 'Your screener not only sets the tone for your research, but it also sets out expectations. Well briefed participants give great information because they understand, from the get go, the level of detail and effort that is required from them. When your insights are focused around specific activities, this is vital. When understanding purchase journeys for Heineken or GameStop, we made sure that participants were made aware from the screener (and could schedule) special store/on trade visits. Notifying them at this point meant they had time to prepare themselves for the level of information we needed. Forewarned is forearmed after all. Once they're into the fieldwork, participants can then enjoy the experience, share their knowledge with us and deliver the insight needed.'

5. Agree on scheduled recruitment updates. This could easily be titled ‘managing expectations!’ If you’re commissioning the research, a small but important thing to decide with your supplier, is how regularly you’d like recruitment updates and in what form. Whether you’d like daily email updates, or whether a weekly phone call to check in is sufficient. Check that your research supplier has a dedicated success team in place with project management experience. Updates can range from letting you know how many respondents are recruited, right through to a comprehensive recruitment grid listing out each respondent’s screener information. All suppliers need to know, is what you’d like upfront, so we can ask our partners for the same.

For more great tips on recruitment, click here or download our guide here

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