had your share of emails about COVID-19, its impacts, and what organizations
are doing to cope (and to help you cope, too). As many are right now, we’re
taking this seriously and doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Insights is not typically a consumer-facing company, our work does bring us
into contact with our community, from conducting in-person research, to
community activities with our clients, and of course our clients themselves.
It’s a rapidly evolving situation, but here is where we stand as of today.
Research participation. Recruiting for in-person research (e.g., focus groups largely) has largely been postponed with few exceptions. Beyond just the challenges, we feel this is the right thing to do at this time as we want participants, clients, and staff to be safe and comfortable in their participation. We have not yet seen impacts via other research modes. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and current recommendations with our partners to assess additional needed changes.
Research impacts. Beyond just participation, we’re recommending assessing the impact, if any, on the project itself, such as the impact the current situation will likely have on some research topics.
Project timelines. Whether it’s due to a reason above, or clients themselves being swamped, we are helping mitigate potential delays as best we can. We’ve always been flexible for our clients’ needs and that’s true now more than ever.
What Corona is
Proactively managing projects. Corona is advising clients about the impact COVID-19 is having, or will likely have, on our work together, as well as how we recommend addressing it.
Altering research modes. Corona’s has a breadth of research tools and we are working with our clients to determine if and when it is appropriate to either change how we’re collecting data (e.g., moving more research online) or delaying research if we think the current impacts can’t be mitigated enough.
Recognizing the increased possibility of response bias. With an unprecedented level of societal changes happening to tackle COVID-19, we want to do what we can to avoid collecting data in a non-normal state right now. For instance, we recommended delaying one project that has to do with transportation, including public transit. Due to transit being used less right now, we will wait until behaviors return to normal before continuing with the study. We’re happy to talk through this with any clients who might have questions.
Working from home. Remote offices are nothing new for Corona except now it’s mandated. Staff will only be in the office as needed for critical functions, and we will determine the need for in-person meetings on a per client basis (most, perhaps all, have already moved to virtual or been rescheduled).
For years, qualitative market research has been dominated by focus groups and one-on-one interviews. Each methodology offers benefits. However, as timelines shrink and research objectives expand, it may be time to rethink our “go-to” qualitative methods. This blog will discuss the shortcomings of traditional methods and how refreshed methodological approaches can overcome these pitfalls.
We all know the stereotype—a focus group room with a two-way
mirror providing a thin veil between participants and researchers. It has long
been argued that this barrier maximizes participants’ comfort and allows for
authentic, unbiased, discussions. The two-hour focus group is typically
designed as a question-answer format with activities peppered throughout to
break up the monotony. Historically, activities ask participants to complete a
task individually and then share their thoughts and responses with the group.
This approach is especially effective when delving into emotions or personal
reactions. However, researchers are increasingly designing focus group activities
that are group-based and co-created.
At Corona, we have eagerly implemented co-creation
activities for marketing campaign and message testing projects. In 2019, we
were working with a local association developing messaging for a new nonprofit giving-based
program called Refund What Matters. Participants were asked to get in groups of 2-3 and create a print
advertisement for the program. More specifically, they were asked to come up
with a visual for the print ad, a tagline, and a hashtag. The client observed
as the participants worked together to create their advertisements. The advertisements
revealed the inner thoughts and motivations for nonprofit giving and the
discussion between participants while creating the advertisements provided
insight into how Colorado residents may try and pitch this giving program to
their family members, peers, and coworkers.
A while ago, I started seeing this chart floating around the internet that categorizes things based on good vs. evil and
lawful vs. chaotic. Apparently, I was not hardcore nerd enough to recognize
that the chart was from the game Dungeons
and Dragons. And the hilarious thing is that this chart seems to be able to
group all sorts of things and people in an intuitive way. You can even take a
quiz to find out which group you fall into.
I think one of the reasons that this chart is so popular is
because human brains love patterns and ways of organizing pieces of
information. From psychology research we know that if you have some type of mental
framework for organizing information, like a schema or a story, it is suddenly
way easier to remember that information, process that information, figure out
whether a new piece of information belongs, etc.
Conversations about research design often devolve into
arguments about the relative merits of quantitative and qualitative approaches.
One easy way to resolve these debates is to employ tools from both methods when
answering the question at hand. Mixed methods research, or work that uses both
qualitative and quantitative analysis, has become increasingly common in social
and behavioral sciences over the last decade. As evident in the graph below, a
rapidly growing share of abstracts mention mixed methods and Google’s NGram data (a count of a
word’s instances across millions of scanned books) shows an 800% increase in
the term “mixed methods” over a similar, 14 year period. Recent articles have
highlighted a similar rise in popularity in market
health research, and ad
Add to that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which creates challenges for research via cell phones in particular, and rules around pharma in some cases (mainly around if you’re allowed to incentivize doctors to participate in research), and our operating environment seems to get more complex by the day.
All of these
regulations, as well as smaller or state-specific rules, have had significant
ripple effects. Even if you don’t think you do business within these geographic
boundaries, you are likely impacted by their reach. Even in our home state of
Colorado, we have had new laws surrounding consumer data.
As we begin a blog series about Colorado,
we must first take note of the diversity of the state. We have mountains, plains, and valleys, of
course, but we also have large metro areas and small towns, agricultural economies
and service economies, and myriad other variations on the Colorado theme. The concept of “Colorado” is very different
depending on where you are in Colorado.
After 20 years of working in Colorado
demographics, I’m always intrigued to see how different organizations break out
the state into regions for their work.
There are some strong patterns the regional analyses I’ve seen over the
years, but there are always variations. What
is the overall pattern, though? If we
had to come up with a consensus set of ten regions, what would they be? I decided to try to find out.
I found regional breakouts of Colorado that have been produced by a dozen large organizations or programs around the state. Those organizations divided the state into anywhere from 4 to 13 regions , all on a county-level basis.
We examined the timeline by which different life events happen among older adults, including retirement, health issues, losing one’s spouse, and other issues. We ultimately developed a timeline of these events to better understand how – and when – older adults face life changes that are associated with aging.
Check out the abridged version of our presentation here (pdf).
Working with our partners at Heinrich Marketing, we recently prepared an analysis of the “adulting” process for young people in Wyoming. We were curious about the timing and acceptance of various traditional indicators of adulthood, such as having kids, pursuing a full-time career, and others. There are many models of being an adult based on these traditional indicators, so we examined 32 different models to see which was the most common in the state.
Check out the abridged version of our presentation here (pdf).
And stay tuned – soon we’ll post another presentation on Aging in Wyoming.
What type of contact information do you have for members? And how are they used to interacting with you? For many, this will be email, but it may also include phone, mail, or even in-person research at conferences. The goal is to select the mode(s) that will reach all, or at least the greatest number of members possible.
Quant vs. qual? Are you trying to measure opinions (quant) or do exploratory research or dig deeper into an issue (qual)?
Do you need multiple touch points? Announcements, invites, and reminders? Online with telephone or mail reminders?
What are your goals and expected outcomes? It’s often easy to jump into start writing survey questions or qualitative prompts. It’s often harder to think of bigger picture goals and how you will use the information you gain. Start with your goals to ensure the research will turn out successful.
Sample all or some? For large organizations, you may not need to survey every member to have valid, representative results. You may want to give everyone an opportunity to respond or you may decide to only survey a random selection to minimize the number of members contacted.
Can you append data for actual behavior? While you can always ask about their membership behavior (e.g., length of membership, conferences attended, etc.), if you have that information already, you can just append it to their results. This will yield more accurate results and require fewer questions asked to respondents.
How often should you conduct member research? Annual research makes the most sense for some organizations, while others may go years between efforts. There is no right answer, but in general, regular intervals make the most sense, and you will want to take into consideration the rate of change within the organization. If membership turns over regularly, or you’re in a fast-paced industry, more frequent research may be needed to keep the pulse of members.
Do we offer an incentive? Generally speaking, an incentive will increase response rate. Furthermore, through our own testing, Corona has seen that the make-up of respondents includes a broader mix of people when an incentive is offered. Incentives serve to both encourage response and recognize their time and effort in completing the survey.
What type of incentive? While there are many options, the incentive should have broad appeal as to not skew the results by being over appealing to one segment and not at all appealing to another. Prize drawings, small token gift cards, and/or additional member benefits are all common options.
What other questions or concerns have you had about conducting research with your members?
So far in this series on membership organizations, we’ve discussed communications, segmenting, and the importance of personal benefits. Here we combine the latter two and look at how perceptions of benefits change over time. The reasons someone may join fresh out of college or at the start of a new career is different than someone who continues to be a member as they near retirement.
This, in fact, is another benefit of segmenting your membership, both in practice and in evaluating results from any membership research. By looking at how results vary by age, time in the industry or their career, and/or time as a member, you can tailor services and messaging to each group.
For example, we’ve seen such differences as:
Broader industry efforts
Even if your organization is more homogeneous, such as a young professionals group, understanding where they are at will help you ensure the organization remains relevant to them.
What other factors have you seen vary by member tenure?