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How to pre p a re with little lead time

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Marketing News
March 15, 2004
QUALITATIVE в—Џ Work smarter, not harder
How to prepare with little lead time
have heard this a few times from
clients with tight schedules: “Are you
sure a week is enough time to design
a discussion guide that will really get
at what we need?” They are concerned
that their limited time might jeopardize
the quality of the research design.
While one week is not ideal,
researchers can
ensure that their
time designing
the guide is wellspent. Even with
just a month to work on the discussion
guide, the best research begins with a
great draft discussion guide.
Once you have a clear understanding
of the research objectives, here are a few
tips to writing an effective guide:
Special report
Creat e natural, dynamic flow
As one researcher put it, “My dream
focus group would be one in which I ask
the first question and as respondents finish answering it, they themselves say ...
�That brings up another question.’ Oneand-a-half hours later as the discussion is
winding down, I ask the respondents my
final question and wrap up the group.”
Such a discussion is a researcher’s dream
not because it means less work for the
moderator, but because it means more
participation by the participants. And the
more they talk, the more information the
client gets.
With a natural flow, participants can
easily track and add to the conversation.
By keeping it lively and dynamic,
researchers get the ammunition needed
to provide clients with thought-provoking
interpretations and recommendations.
For natural and dynamic flow:
в—† Start the guide with a general, easyto-answer question and slowly layer on a
more specific line of questioning.
в—† Create sections that cover all related
questions in a logical order.
в—† Script out segues to make it easy for
participants to switch gears.
Keep the content focused on
core objectiv es
Often, a major challenge in writing the
guide is deciding which of the clients’ 100
questions will get asked in the one-and-ahalf to two-hour group. If there are too
many questions, the client may not get
the in-depth results they are looking for.
Before designing the guide, researchers
should make sure they have discussed
with clients how much can realistically be
covered in the groups, in order to help
manage expectations. If too many unexpected additions come in after the first
client review of the guide, consider
adding timing in the margin on the
revised version so the client can see how
many questions need to be taken out to
remain on schedule.
While questions related to the client’s
area of interest are easy to
write, crafting a question
that answers the clients’
questions is trickier. To
make sure the questions
are on target, role-play
responses to questions,
either in your head or
playing to elicit feedback on how respondents would react to new situations.
Stimulat e your par ticipants
Thinking about the necessary stimuli
for the groups before starting to design a
discussion guide is important. Stimulus,
like product packages in a packaging
study, can be a critical part of a research
project or they can be used to enhance
participants’ understanding of the core
introduced: If you are interested in gauging reactions to a new LCD projector, do
you demonstrate the projector’s display
with the lights on or the lights off? If a
computer manufacturer wants to determine market acceptance of its latest model, do you let participants handle each of
the laptops to compare how heavy they
are or is including weight on the product
spec sheets adequate? Whichever method
you choose for presenting stimulus, make
sure it is appropriate given the
research objectives, without involving unachievable logistics and setup.
Consider scripting when and how
to introduce stimuli and other materials to the groups. This will ensure
consistency from group to group, as
well from moderator to moderator.
Wr it e the guide as if t alking
to a friend or colleague
The more the guide incorporates
everyday language, the easier and
more quickly the participants will be
able to track and participate in the
Applying client or research language to a question may be tempting, but this language may limit
the quality of the responses and
may even turn off some participants. For example, in a
consumer study, compare
your ability to respond to
research-ese vs. friend-speak:
with a colleague, to make sure the answers people
would give provide the client with results
they can act on.
Strat egize: Use special t
ec hniq ues to maximize the value of
the research
How a researcher asks a question can
have as much effect on the results as the
question itself. At a minimum, the questions must be structured in order to be
nonbiased. Assuming that’s been
addressed, researchers have a number of
techniques at their disposal designed to
elicit in-depth response. First, hypothesize responses to the initial questions so
you can craft probing questions that help
go more in-depth. If you find that direct
lines of questioning don’t elicit strong
responses, consider using projective techniques to elicit emotional responses, or
introduce a hypothetical situation or role-
matter, like models in product concept testing. If stimuli are needed,
such as product models, competitive lineup descriptions, or messages to test, be
aware that clients may need a few weeks
to properly prepare the materials needed.
Definitely discuss these needs early on in
the design process.
Once you have a good idea of what to
show participants, pay attention to when
and how to reveal stimulus to the group.
Once the participants are exposed to new
information about a concept or brand,
they can use this new information to provide educated feedback. Educated feedback is great when you want to simulate
an experience that involves education,
such as shopping for a new product, seeing an advertisement or using a new Web
site. However, if the goal is understanding current market dynamics or market
perceptions, hold off on introducing stimuli that could potentially influence participants’ current impressions.
Just as important is how the stimulus is
What are the main
benefits of Crest toothpaste?
Fr iend-speak: Why do you like to
brush with Crest?
In business studies, unless the respondents are researchers, the same rules apply:
What paper-handling
capabilities do you use?
For most of the
documents you create, once you pick up
the pages from the printer, is there anything else you do with these pages to
complete the document? If �yes’: What
else do you do?
I hope these tips help you design a
draft that requires minimal edits and
leads to excellent results. в– Debbie Plawner is director of technology
research for Bardsley & Neidhart Inc., a marketing research company based in Portland,
NATION в—Џ Tactical measures
Military branches turn to high-tech recruitment tools
oday’s military has switched from
the traditional “Uncle Sam wants
you’’ message to high-profile, hightech recruitment tools: NASCAR
sponsorships, online games and “powerpoint rangers.’’
The military is going after Internet-savvy,
prospective soldiers on their own terms—
even using an Army base and its units as the
backdrop for a computer game.
“It’s just a matter of we have to stay current with the way people are used to getting
information. We’re like any other advertiser,’’ says Douglas Smith, spokesman for
Army Recruiting Command based in Fort
Knox, Ky.
Services have depended on volunteer
enlistments since the draft ended in 1973.
That means recruiting, which can be affected by changes in the economy, unemployment among youth and the number of highschool graduates attending college.
Since 1999, the Army has exceeded its
recruitment goals. The Navy, Air Force and
Marine Corps also posted numbers above
their target enrollments.
Despite the growing number of American
deaths in Iraq, the volunteers keep coming.
Web sites, games, television commercials
and providing laptops to recruitment officers
rangers’’ among the rank and file—are the
innovative ways the Army hopes to boost its
It also sponsors the National Hot Rod
Association; NASCAR; “Taking it to the
Streets,’’ a basketball tournament appealing
to urban audiences; and the Army All-America Bowl, a football game featuring the country’s star high school senior football players.
“We’re dealing with the cyberspace generation. They’re not likely to go downtown
to a recruiting station,’’ says David Segal, a
professor of sociology at the University of
Maryland, College Park, and a leading military sociologist.
Military officials say there are no numbers
to show if heavier marketing works. But Lt.
Bill Davis says when the Navy—also a
NASCAR sponsor—launched its Web site in 2001, it recorded 6.5 million inquiries the first year. In 2003 there
were 6.8 million hits. ■—By Melanthia Mitchell for The Associated
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