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  • Writer's pictureBruce Crandall

Getting Creative to Find the Right People to Study

Reaching target consumers can be difficult, including for market researchers. Respondents may be easy to find, but sometimes they’re not. And sometimes researchers need to be tirelessly creative when trying to find and complete research with the right respondents.


Situation. What do you do if potential respondents are too scared to be interviewed? Our national financial services client wanted to conduct face-to-face interviews with customers. They had histories of financial setbacks, humiliating run-ins with creditors, and rejection by banks. Our client offered them a last resort, an oasis to the closed financial doors around them.

These customers had become wary of being exploited by anyone they thought might be associated with slick lenders, shadow creditors, and unyielding banks that had closed doors, hassled their families, and caused them grief—even those who might “pose” as market researchers.

So how do you even approach people with such distrust? How do you get them to meet with you in person?

Solution. Kid gloves. During recruiting, we repeatedly emphasized our connection to our client; we assigned experienced, female professionals who had the best chance of making potential respondents feel at ease; we promised no audio/video recording and a generous cash incentive at the completion of interviews; and we showed genuine appreciation throughout the interviews.

Did we make far more recruiting calls than usual? Absolutely. Did we have no shows? Yes. But our efforts also yielded wonderful, though sometimes heartbreaking, insight and tear-filled praise of our client from those who decided to trust us enough to meet.


Situation. We conduct research for clients in Central and South America. Fortunately, panels for doing market research are plentiful in large Latin American countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. However, online panels are non-existent, or limited, in smaller Latin American countries like Bahamas, Costa Rica, Nassau, Panama, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad, and others.

In smaller markets, we could turn to local providers. But we’ve learned that they are too slow for our clients, rather expensive, and provide inconsistent results. So, what to do?

Solution. Social Media. Facebook and Instagram have deeply penetrated these small markets. Through testing and learning we have developed comfort with recruiting using Social Media. Over time we’ve built approaches that approximate balanced responses by gender, age and income, all while efficiently delivering results and containing costs.

Our clients are delighted, and we’ve turned skeptics into fans. They have praised our ability to glean good data from audiences that were previously unreachable, providing them with consistent and reliable results in both large and small markets.


Situation. What do Wells Fargo, Marriott, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Whole Foods Market, and State Farm have in common? Each is among the top sponsors of sporting, non-profit, and other events (source: Zipsprout). Challenges associated with COVID-19 have had a devastating impact on the sponsorship industry as events, sports, and concerts have been postponed or cancelled. Our client wanted to explore the current state of the industry by surveying sponsoring organizations and insiders. Our goal was to complete at least n=400 surveys to provide statistical validation.

We asked ourselves, “How should we reach enough respondents in the know?” “Will incentives be needed?” Our first step was to purchase a list of sponsorship insiders at a reasonable cost.

With a tight budget, we kept the survey under 10 minutes and offered participants a copy of the report as an incentive. We launched the online survey, and after several days in the field and several reminders, very few responded! The purchased list simply did not work.

Solution. A personal touch. Our client is an industry insider and has a substantial network of peer email addresses and connections through LinkedIn. We worked with our client to connect with prospects through their networks (LinkedIn, emails, and on their website).

We soon had over 400 completed surveys. Was sampling perfect? No. For instance, when sifting through the data, we noticed inconsistencies in some of the respondents’ answers. After an easy purge, though, the survey data provided very insightful learnings, the client was ecstatic, and we were asked to present those same findings at an upcoming virtual conference.

Final Takeaway

This is a tiny review of the types of sampling creativity market researchers and their clients require on a regular basis. Standard panel companies often have what you need, but sometimes the best-laid sampling plans need adjustment, requiring researchers with a steady hand, experience, and creative problem-solving skills.

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