Focus group recruitment is one of the most impactful, yet challenging aspects of conducting qualitative research. As opposed to quantitative research which requires a large number of respondents for accurate statistical data, focus groups perform best with a much smaller sample size.
Typically, focus group discussions require 4 to 12 participants who fit pre-determined demographic categories such as age, gender, income, etc. With the required number of focus group participants so low, it is imperative these candidates are both communicative and reflective of a wider target demographic.
It is also imperative to make sure you find high-quality participants for these smaller groups. It’s easier to accept a handful of poorer respondents in a survey with 400 responses. Not so easy to accept a handful of poor participants in a focus group of 8.
Whether it is your first time recruiting for a focus group, or your hundredth, finding qualified participants is no simple task.
Here are 5 focus group recruitment tips to consider before you conduct your next qualitative research project.
1. Screen focus group candidates with an online survey
A great way to test whether a focus group candidate meets your demographic and behavior requirements is to create a survey for online outreach. Include 5 to 10 screening questions to ensure you have the right audience.
For example, a retail store is recruiting millennial women who are heavy users of online shopping sites to participate in a focus group.
As a way to screen potential focus group participants, the retail store creates an online survey asking questions such as:
- How likely are you to physically shop in a store? How likely are you to shop online?
- When is the last time you purchased clothing online?
- What is your favorite online shopping site?
Later in the survey, the retail store also includes questions relating to the focus group candidates age, gender, and contact information. In doing so, the retail store is able to verify participants meet the right demos and specifications they are looking for.
2. Do not reference qualifying/disqualifying criteria
As a focus group company, Drive Research always creates a pre-screener survey for focus group recruitment. A helpful tip we have learned along the way is to let all respondents complete the full survey. In other words, we do not recommend rerouting candidates to a disqualification page.
Survey participants can be smart and if they see they’ve disqualified, they may clean cache or try to take the survey again to qualify. This is especially relevant if you are giving away a monetary reward for participating.
Instead, place a message at the end of the survey for all focus group candidates like, “Our team will review survey responses and contact you if you qualify for the focus group.” By including this message at the end of the questionnaire, participants don't learn about the qualifying or disqualifying criteria through the survey itself.
This gives you the opportunity to follow-up by email, phone, or text to qualify and schedule focus group participants.
3. Share little information about the focus group
When promoting focus group recruitment, shy away from sharing too much detail about the qualitative research in the posts or the survey. We’ve seen some companies post too much information about the focus groups like the topic of the research, the date and time of the focus group, and the location of the focus group facility.
By including this level of detail, companies have a large number of people showing up to the focus group facility expecting to get paid, not realizing there is a qualification process.
Continuing with the retail store example, it is important for the organization to be clear only those contacted by the retail store will be able to participate in the focus group.
This is crucial so the retail store does not have 70+ participants showing up at their facility the night of the focus group expecting to participate and be compensated, when the retail store only recruited and budgeted for 10 focus group participants.
4. Utilize person to person communication
While 70+ participants is an unmanageable number for focus group participants, it is helpful to over-recruit for qualitative research. 100% show rates are rare, but possible. In fact, Drive Research pride ourselves in these.
How do we guarantee higher focus group show rates? Remind, remind, remind.
After recruiting focus group candidates from an online survey and a re-screen follow-up phone call, we ask qualified participants for a “yes” with a confirmation email as well as sending a calendar notice.
Additionally, on the week of the focus group, we’ll make another round of phone calls in order to obtain verbal confirmation participants will be attending. Lastly, Drive Research will send a reminder text the day of the focus group.
Through these different levels of outreach, each participant builds a mini-relationship with a recruiter/team member. Participants are more likely to feel as though they are letting you down if they decide not to show. This can get lost if the recruiting is only done electronically.
5. Add a budget for social media advertising
Different social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are great resources for recruiting quality focus group participants. In addition to organic social media posts, which reach only a small portion of your followers, include paid social media to your advertising efforts.
Here are a few helpful tips when making your paid social ads:
- Add a close radius to the location of your research. Depending on the prize offered, most focus group recruits will not want to travel far to participate in qualitative research. Filter your ads to be shown to people who live within a mile radius. This is a technique we use for our focus group facility in Syracuse, NY.
- Write short, compelling ad text. Keep the ad text short, mentioning only necessary and relevant information regarding the focus group. Remember, adding too much information can result in a random pool of people hoping to participate. Or if there is too much text to read, the mobile user will just scroll right by.
- Include a relatable picture. The picture you include in your ad is likely the first thing Facebook users will see or keep them from scrolling past your ad. Be sure to choose a picture that is most relatable to your target audience whether it be a custom or stock image.
When it comes to paid ads on social media for research methodologies offering a reward, some people have a this is too good to be true mentality. People may think an ad offering compensation for focus group participation is fake or a scam and not wish to sign up. The more professional and trustworthy your ad appears, the more link clicks you’ll receive.
With that being said, not all who sign-up through Facebook will want or can participate. To combat this, it is important to follow-up with a list of Facebook sign-ups with a goal of earning 12 confirmed participants, keeping in mind 8 to 10 will show.
Drive Research is a market research company located in Syracuse, NY. Our team has the knowledge and tools to design a robust market research study, should it be the right fit for your business.
Interested in learning more about our market research services? Reach out through any of the four ways below.