Best Practices When Screening for Market Research Respondents

Dani Garan
Dec 11, 2019

a male employee filling up a market research survey on a desk with his phone and coffeeIf you’re conducting market research for a client’s bookstore and you wish to find out how fictional books are faring in the market and are looking for ways to do better in that market, you’d obviously want to gather feedback from a select segment of readers only to get the most relevant insights.

How do you determine that?

You can’t just go around recruiting a bunch of people solely because you saw them come out of the shop. Your ideal target sample should consist of readers who are particularly fond of fictional books and frequently purchase from bookstores like your client’s. Hence, the implementation of screening questions during the recruitment stage of your market research.

It would be completely counterproductive if you end up with unreliable insights and have to redo the recruitment all over again just because the initial ones were not properly screened.

Do remember that it’s also important to develop a set of screening questions that should strike a balance between filtering out unqualified prospects and ensuring that your sample size isn’t too small for insights generation based on the criteria.

Gathering the right respondents is extremely crucial and detrimental to the success of your research. The screening process, therefore, should be a core part of every research initiative.

Five Fundamental Best Practices When Screening Participants for Market Research:

  • Establish strategic screening criteria

While it is important to come up with an effective set of research tools for data gathering, it is equally vital that you spend a decent amount of time creating screening questions for recruiting respondents. These questions must effectively filter out unqualified participants. Otherwise, their insights hold no value and your market research will have unnecessary, inconclusive information.

  • Don’t overdo your restrictions

Be strict with your criteria for recruiting respondents with specific screening questions but make room for a little flexibility. If your benchmark is too restrictive, you may end up with little to no qualified respondents at all.  Don’t limit your pool of respondents too much because it’ll only be harder for you to capture the necessary amount of actionable insights later on.

a respondent answering a market research surveyKeep your screening questions short and concise

As much as you’d like to conduct a comprehensive screening process, most people, qualified or not, will not spend a significant amount of time this early on for the preliminary stage of your study. So, you have to make sure that your questions are short and concise both in terms of the number of questions and the brevity of each one. You can’t expect them to be pleased about answering a series of algebra questions or writing an essay of some sort.  Your chosen questions should be able to determine whether these people have certain characteristics that would make them eligible to take part in your study.

  • Understand the implication of giving incentives

You have to be mindful when discussing rewards or incentives to your potential respondents especially if it’s a cash incentive because some of them may only be in it for the money. These people will typically give answers that are in favor of your topic or give answers that they feel will qualify them for the market research project, and may not exactly be true. Such biased results will not benefit you and your study in any way and may even cost you more later on.

  • Classify your screening questions accordingly

You can begin with questions ensuring that the correct target demographic gets to fill out the questionnaire. These are the preliminary information composed of personal questions such as age, residency, gender, or annual household income.

Legality. Most of the time, surveys must also adhere to legal and privacy issues depending on where you wish to conduct your study. In Canada, for instance, you must get consent from the parent if your study would involve the participation of young people aged 13 and below.

Credentials. If, for example, you are working on a study about dentists’ preferred brand of toothpaste, it would only make sense to look for dentists. You have to craft a series of questions that will verify your potential respondent's profession. It could include the school from where the dentist graduated, when he started practicing and perhaps the address to his clinic, or his license number, things like that. Anything that will help verify the person’s credentials.

Knowledge-based. These are for answers that couldn’t be verified through credentials and is rather based on the knowledge a number of people have on specific subjects. Which means that instead of just confirming a person’s credibility, this person must answer a questionnaire correctly. This will work for the sports enthusiasts or fans of a celebrity.

Image credits: katemangostar, freepik, jannoon028

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