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Focus group recruiting – good focus group recruiting – is one of the more challenging aspects of qualitative research. Employing a talented moderator comes in as a close second. But finding the right participants for a focus group —  people who are both articulate as well as who fit the target demographic — is not a simple task. Many firms claim to offer good recruiting, but too often, we see their research fall flat because they simply don’t have a solid recruiting process in place.

Since focus groups are done with smaller sample sizes (as opposed to quantitative research, which requires large sample sizes for statistical relevance), finding homogenous samples who exactly fit persona categories is absolutely key for successful focus groups. Here is a quick guide on focus group recruiting do’s and don’ts before you embark on your next project.

Focus group recruiting Do #1: Know your audience

The first step to successful focus group recruiting is knowing who you should be speaking with. Have you done your persona segmentation work already? Namely, do you know who your key target buyers or influencers are, and have you separated them into groups based on their differentiating characteristics? Having a clear read on your persona types is the first step to tackle before embarking on qualitative research. In this step, you need to make clear distinctions about who you want to sell to and why. Don’t worry yet about understanding them in-depth – that’s what you’ll be able to do using focus groups.

Focus group recruiting Don’t #1: Don’t try to do recruiting internally

A huge error we see many companies commit is thinking they can do their own recruiting – either using their own marketing teams or by pulling from their own spheres. In some cases, interviewing customers is key, but anytime you’re trying to get perspectives from people who fall within your target audience, but who aren’t yet customers – don’t try to find them on your own. Recruiting the right participants is not simply a matter of doing a few social media posts or sending out emails to people in your database. There is a whole system around screening, combing through the right networks, and then a secondary screening and scheduling to find the exact right candidates. Leave this one up to the pros.

Focus group recruiting Do #2: Outsource the whole project

To expand on the Don’t #1 above, every aspect of running a focus group – from the facility you use, to the moderator, to the discussion guide, to the recruiting, incentives, and the report – is a far more complex process than internal marketing teams are equipped to handle. Furthermore, the issue of internal myopia and bias is a big enough of an issue to skew the research in a way that can negate its validity. Having an outside firm come in, who can expertly recruit, arrange the facility, and moderate, is absolutely key in qualitative research. It’s critical to have an outside voice and perspective who will ask questions and look at your business from a perspective that you’re unable to. This is especially critical with the participants who are recruited and the way they’re interviewed.

Focus group recruiting Don’t #2: Don’t use a firm that only uses their own database

The vast majority of qualitative market research firms rely on their own databases to recruit participants. This is problematic for a few reasons:

  1. People who sign up to be in a focus group are already electing to be in a research study, and they may have an inherent bias or agenda because of this.
  2. Databases are limited and won’t attract really hard to find job titles, roles, or buyer-types. They will mainly attract general population people who have an interest in participating in research. See point number 1 above for why this is risky.

So what are you to do if most market research firms recruit from databases? Look for a market research firm that does custom recruiting and will tailor their recruits exactly to your study. This means they’ll comb through LinkedIn, place social media ads, and rely on professional network communities to pull in people who wouldn’t voluntarily sign up for a research database.

For the best possible focus group recruiting, look no further

Whether you’re an ad agency with an internal strategy team, or a marketing team who needs to outsource all of your qualitative market research, InterQ’s dedicated team can handle all of your recruiting needs. We custom-recruit each project, and our track record is so solid that we are the go-to recruiting source for some of the most prestigious companies in the world, including Boston Consulting Group. We’d love to discuss your focus group recruiting needs.

Contact us for your next focus group recruiting project. Request a proposal today >