QRCA Annual Conference

Every year, all members of the Qualitative Research Consultant’s Association (QRCA) are invited to convene at the national conference. With so many research industry conferences to choose from, why is the annual QRCA event always top of my list?

Because it’s worth it.

The cost of my annual membership and the one-time conference fee is nominal compared to the value I derive from the experience, both personally and professionally.

Since becoming a member of QRCA in 2006, I’ve missed only one annual conference and have no plans to miss another. Each year, I joyfully eject myself from the office and immerse myself in a pool of peeps whose interest in how people think is equally piqued.

The QRCA conference is not your typical annual bash, with a slew of pushy sales presentations. Instead, topics and speakers are heavily vetted, ensuring each conference includes the most relevant, useful, and inspiring learning sessions. Dedicated vendors support the conference by displaying and demonstrating the newest tools and technology for qualitative research. And members open their arms to welcome friendly hugs and share life stories.

For all who are QRCA, see you in Phoenix this January!



Why are Some Marketing Research Studies Doomed to Fail?

Regardless how you intend to get your data, the first few steps to achieving success are often brushed over or pushed aside on the way to the finish line. Before identifying the best means of engagement, it’s critical to clearly define both the research objective and the target audience.

  • Where you’re going and why
  • Who you need to interview and why.

Like a beacon of light, a well considered objective propels a project purposely forward to the finish line. Without it, findings flail and resulting recommendations are at risk.

Knowing who to interview to achieve the objective must also be clearly defined. Recruiting appropriate participants starts with a client conversation to identify  demographic, lifestyle, and behavioral attributes of prospective participants. Well designed, unbiased screening questionnaires and extensive identity verification procedures ensure accurate and effective recruiting.

Despite the simplicity of this secret sauce, InsideHeads surveyed research buyers on LinkedIn and discovered “actionable insights” to be “most desired”, yet also “rarely achieved”.

InsideHeads clients always receive pointed recommendations. Born from a deep understanding of both data collection and strategic direction, InsideHeads delivers intelligent insights that will move your unique initiatives forward.

Which Online Qual Research Method Has the Lowest CPI?

Calculating cost-per-interview (CPI) of different qualitative research methods can be an eye-opening exercise. Excluding recruiting and incentives, which vary, we can estimate typical costs of different methods.

CPI estimates below assume:

  • 4 focus groups
  • focus facility & support
  • project management
  • moderator fees (guide design, interviews, & analysis)

In-Person Groups – Face to Face in Real Time

6-8 Participants for 2 hours

Average CPI $650

Multi-Media Bulletin Board Over Time

15-20 Participants for 3-5 days

Average CPI $353

Text Chat in Real Time

15-20 Participants for up to 2 hours

Average CPI $191

Webcam (Video Chat) in Real Time

3-5 Participants for up to 2 hours

Average CPI $988

Contact InsideHeads for a free estimate on your next online marketing research study. Call +1-877-In-Heads or email info@insideheads.com.

When Did Online Qual Begin?

The moment people could connect and communicate online, researchers were there. In the beginning the research was technical, paving the way for a vast network of open communication that was to follow.

As this virtual network of people grew, marketing researchers strapped on their boots and began exploring new ways of mining and collecting data. It wasn’t long before social researchers suited-up and started using email, group chats, and bulletin board systems to gather information. All of these initial efforts cleared the way for what is now known as online qualitative research.

While the first online focus group via group text was conducted by Marian Salzman in a pimped-out AOL chat room in 1992, it was actually research boards that came first. As early as 1984, when the “internet” was limited and accessible by only government researchers and universities, one student at Syracuse University was using a bulletin board system over NSFNET to interview students at UCLA.

Learn more about the history of online qualitative research in Qual-Online, the Essential Guide, available on Amazon.

Online or In-person Focus Groups?

When comparing the costs to conduct focus groups online to in-person (face-to-face), it’s important to consider which elements are, and are not, included in each.  First, let’s compare the basics of four popular types of focus groups:

In-Person Face to Face in Real Time

6-8 Participants for 2 hours

Multi-Media Online Bulletin Board Over Time

15-20 Participants for 3-5 days

Online Text Chat in Real Time

15-20 Participants for up to 2 hours

Webcam (Video Chat) in Real Time

3-5 Participants for up to 2 hours

Now let’s take a look at the cost categories each of those focus group methods will include:

Recruiting & Incentives

Recruiting for online or in-person requires effort, attention, and reliable sources. Cost per recruit are comparable across methods.

Facility & Live Support (in-person or virtual)

Whether your interview is conducted within a brick and mortar building or using an online research platform, people need a place to gather. Multimedia Bulletin Boards and Webcam Groups are still ripe for tech issues, so going with providers who offer significant support is both wise and costly.

Research Services (e.g., discussion guide design, moderate, report)

Expert researchers put in the hours to design studies that will yield reliable data and reveal keen insights. Research expertise is needed to conduct any focus group , but the amount of time required will vary. Bulletin boards and Webcam groups require the most time and attention, while chats are the most time and energy efficient. In-person groups means everyone has to travel, and you’ll also incur ancillary facility costs for food and administrative help.

When figuring costs, consider the volume and quality of conversation that results from each of the four group interview methods listed.

In both in-person and webcam focus groups, only one person can speak at a time, yet bulletin boards and online chats enable everyone to talk simultaneously. This multi-synchronous response maximizes the volume and depth of data you can receive in the same amount of time.

Also consider the fact that in-person and webcam conversations provide helpful facial cues, yet boards and chats prompt more candid responses from participants.

Bottom line? There’s no easy answer. The options available for conducting group interviews each have their pros and cons for different situations. Checkout average CPI for each method in this post.

Before you pick your platform and plow ahead, consider first taking stock of your research needs. You may find a perfect fit in a more budget-friendly method!

Contact InsideHeads for a free assessment, +1(877)-In-Heads.

Who Provides the Best Marketing Research Platforms?

When conducting marketing research online, it’s important to understand and implement the technology required for your target market. So who do you tap for the best research platforms: a company who knows technology, or a company who knows research?

Let’s look closer at what makes the best online marketing research platforms successful:

Mobile FriendlyMobile Research Studies

Today, online research studies need to be mobile responsive, while also accommodating older technology (some people still use desktop computers, it’s true.) While reported estimates vary, it’s safe to say that most of your online survey respondents will see it first on a smartphone.

Seamless Access

Platforms also need to be easy for all possible respondents to understand and use. With so much invested in recruiting, why send prospects to a survey that might not work? The best data collection, whether quantitative (surveys) or qualitative (online focus groups & IDIs), comes from research platforms that work seamlessly on any device, O/S, or browser.


If you have to blow your entire budget on technology, we’ll just call that misdirected funds. The most expensive technology comes from fat tech firms who hang their hat on staying relevant and being “agile”. The best technology comes from companies who understand the market and custom design robust platforms with stable, time-tested code that eliminates the need for expensive user support. Tools like these are the secret weapons of seasoned researchers.

For your next online marketing research study, consider a company that understands technology and research. InsideHeads conducts marketing research and designs & develops the best marketing research platforms to do it correctly. From programming to presentations, InsideHeads has been conducting successful online marketing research studies since 1998.

Give us a call, you’ll like what you hear.   +1(877)-IN-HEADS

Great Ideas Gone Wrong

When you hear a great idea, how do you know? The idea may sound great, but just because it has good intentions doesn’t mean it will work.  At the very least, a great idea should be feasible and harmless to others.

Good Intentions

Not long ago a group of dedicated volunteers in my town got together to raise money for the local rescue squad. Their idea was to print and sell drink cards that offered a free drink at each of 6 local restaurants. The drinks were valued at $36 and the cards were priced at $20, and all the local restaurants agreed to accept them. Our town is a heavy tourist destination, so cards were given as gifts to visitors to encourage them to check-out local establishments.

Lasting Damage

People bought lots of drink cards and loads of money went to the rescue squad. Success, right? Wrong. Visitors who received the gifted drink card and attempted to use it encountered restrictions and ignorance from uninformed seasonal bar staff. So while the money was made in the moment, the damage of dissing tourists is immeasurable. Vacationers not only recount bad experiences to friends and family members, today their comments on social media reach further and linger longer. Ouch.

The drink card debacle is just one small example in the shadow of a far more substantial bad idea that occurred in Flint, Michigan. Town officials saved money in the moment, but gave way to irreversible damage down the line. Hindsight… you know what they say. So what’s the takeaway?

No Repeat

I can’t help but wonder: We all learn from our own mistakes, so why can’t we also learn from the mistakes of others? Sure, big gaffes get the news, but most mistakes only enlighten the bumbler. In today’s connected world, where is the portal to deposit our lessons learned? Facebook and Instagram are filled with accomplishments, carefully selected ‘selfies’, and emotional, envy-inducing posts. Wikipedia offers us our collectively edited facts, and millions of websites push products and self-serving information. Where is the hub for all things that went horribly wrong? All the lessons of war. Of life. A virtual library of bittersweet warnings, filled with evidence of what not to do.  Or perhaps a way to tag those bits of learning amidst all that worldly web content.

With today’s technology and our tendency to share, a blunder blog sure sounds like great idea…

5 Business Trends to Watch

Business behavior can be very telling. InsideHeads identified these 5 business trends to watch that will affect market research.

InsideHeads is the most helpful1. Crowdsourcing

If it’s not clear yet, social media is here to stay. The human desire to socialize and engage with others online gives savvy businesses the chance to collect feedback that is immediate, trusted, and free. Lengthy questionnaires have given way to quick polls, as attention spans of respondents wither down to seconds. Gone with consumer attention is the long term strategic planning that traditionally accompanies good marketing research. With the immediate feedback mechanism of today’s social media, businesses can (and do) post questions and problems to receive rich, real-time results. Smart brands looking towards the future are designing their virtual space with an eye on conducting more marketing research via social media.

happy consumers spread #goodnews about your brand2. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

Choice is everywhere these days and showing no signs of going away. Each of us uses a device (or multiple devices) that best meets our needs. As the lines between personal and business hours blur, businesses are realizing the advantages, and challenges (e.g., security), of implementing BYOD in the workplace. Present obstacles aside, solutions are on the horizon. Because BYOD is not a trend, today it’s a right. Successful businesses will accommodate choice and offer customized solutions across all of their marketing. Lenovo’s recent decision to issue logo options for multimedia marketing is just one example of a business bending their approach to fit the mobile world. We expect to see a lot more accommodating.

high speed internet access for all3. Access Ubiquity

Access ubiquity refers to having global, high-speed broadband available to all. Just a few years ago this would have felt like a pipe dream (pun intended), but today it’s not only feasible, it’s happening. As smartphone usage continues to rise around the globe, access ubiquity is the best thing to happen to market researchers since the pencil. Researchers who are keen to know what online research tools are available and when to use them will be well poised for future success.

InsideHeads online satisfaction-scale4. Loyalty Metrics

Marketers today are finding the ROI of existing customers is far less than acquiring new ones. Loyalty rewards build organic (read: cheap) word-of-mouth, as customers eagerly share their joy with others online. The strategies of Walgreens and JCPenney seem right on target for future success, as we anticipate the demand for assessing the effectiveness and user experience (UX) of reward programs to rise.

big businesses are eliminating voicemail5. Goodbye Voicemail

Big companies like JP Morgan Chase and Coke have taken voicemail out of their communication mix. While businesses may be driving this boat, it is in direct response to a changing culture. We may not fully understand all our aversions to leaving a voice message, it’s clear text messaging and email are tangible, trackable, and preferred.  If your stock portfolio happens to be heavy in automated telemarketing, you may want to give those investments a second thought. Do not leave a message at the beep.

Mobile Internet Access on the Move

Today’s consumer is choosing to travel light and keep their access devices within arms reach at all times.  According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 2/3 of US adults use their mobile phones to access the internet and one in three (34%) go online mostly using their cell phones. This statistic is even higher among Millennial, Hispanic and African American population segments. Mobile internet access is on the move.

mobile internet access on the moveWhile businesses may be hanging on to their computer infrastructure, consumers have clearly settled into their communication comfort zone. At quitting time, even business folks who are wired to their walls at work are grabbing their mobile devices and heading out the door.

Unless (until?) a better option comes along, people are opting to travel light and keep their devices close at hand.  For a growing many, mobile-ready with full featured apps are eliminating the need for a desktop computer.  It’s no wonder tablets, phablets, and smartphones are in such high demand.

Online Chat Focus Groups, Limiting?

I’ve heard more than one respected researcher tell me that online chat focus groups do not allow for a significant depth of response and that respondents provide short, top of mind answers of limited value.

InsideHeads Participant view of an online focus group in real-timeWith more than a thousand notches on our online chat belt we can soundly report that participants provide as much detail and depth as is requested, provided you have a skilled interviewer and a well conceived discussion guide.

When the moderator asks a question to a group responding only via text, some respondents will answer right away, then follow that up with detail in a separate comment, while others will type the whole answer before hitting send. However they answer, it is surprisingly intuitive to follow the collective conversation as it scrolls on the screen, and even easier on the back-end to pull what you need from the transcripts.

When pulling key quotes for your report, simply combine any “choppy” answers from a single respondent so you have the full picture of what the participant actually conveyed.

InsideHeads online focus group research participantFor example, a discussion about a new plastic storage container prompted a multitude of separate responses from a single participant over the course of several minutes. When pulled together, the brevity builds and begins to tell the full story:

“The containers are great… the attached lids… we have an office full of  the old lids, no bottoms… the new containers stack well… labels don’t fall off… [I use the new containers for] storing everything here and at home that fits… [before I discovered these containers] I struggled with cardboard boxes we assembled ourselves… we can’t use the cardboard for long term storage… falls apart.”

-Kim, 35, male, IL