Is it “Hair on Fire” Time for Market Research?

Embarrassing polling misses. New tech (and other) products that totally fail to gain traction with their targets. A drive to speed and low cost from market research providers from clients who assume projectability is a given. Declining response rates for traditional market research modes. Unknown skews of all sorts in online panels. A growing focus on gaining insights from social media, and treating it as projectable findings to all consumers.

How worried should we be about market research as a dependable driver of decision making?

Brad Bortner, Executive Director of Market and Customer Insights, will lead a panel discussion on this topic at NEXT, May 8-9, in New York.

To learn more about the panel discussion visit Is It “Hair On Fire Time” For Market Research?


Recorded Webinar: Going Rogue To Optimize Insights From Super-Respondents

Occasionally we encounter qualitative super-respondents: they are extremely intelligent and articulate, they enjoy talking, and they provide elaborate responses. Most importantly, they are remarkably observant and analytical. To a great extent they already possess the picture of the market that we are trying to develop through our research. By thinking outside the box we can find ways to leverage these super-respondents beyond their conventional participant role – often at little or no additional cost.

This webinar, which was conducted for the Insights Association’s membership, will explain how to do this. To hear the recording click on the link below.

Going Rogue to Optimize Insights from Super-respondents

Webinar: Going Rogue To Optimize Insights From Super-respondents

Occasionally we encounter qualitative super-respondents: they are extremely intelligent and articulate, they enjoy talking, and they provide elaborate responses. Most importantly, they are remarkably observant and analytical. To a great extent they already possess the picture of the market that we are trying to develop through our research.

If we restrict ourselves to our interview protocol when we encounter super-respondents we end up leaving valuable insights on the table — thereby doing ourselves, our clients, and our stakeholders a disservice.

However, if we liberate our thinking and allow ourselves to go beyond our established interview protocol, we can extract the full value that these super-respondents offer — often at little or no additional cost.

Insightful Alliance’s Michael Mercier will explain how you can do this in an Insights Association webinar titled “Going Rogue to Optimize Insights from Super-respondents” on Wednesday, March 29, from 2:00-2:45 PM EDT. Register here: Going Rogue to Optimize Insights from Super-respondents

Recruiting A Difficult Target Group

When Insightful Alliance has a project requiring difficult-to-recruit participants, such as high-level executives, rather than use an outside recruitment firm we manage the recruitment in-house. 

Our first step in crafting our highly-effective approach to recruitment was to break the process down into the following steps: (1) get organization contact information; (2) get target names at each organization; (3) penetrate first level screener; (4) penetrate 2nd level screener; and (5) persuade the target to participate.

In future posts we will present our approach to each step in this process.  In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about our approach to recruiting, contact

Customer Service Be Damned: The Tyranny of Telephone Protocols

Many companies have developed protocols that their customer service representatives must follow on every customer phone call.  

These protocols structure and script every phone call; they lay out the exact steps that the rep is to take, and out the exact words they should say.  

From the perspective of company management, these protocols constitute a form of insurance; they are a fail-safe way of ensuring customers have a positive experience, and that all of their problems are fully addressed.

However, from the perspective of the customer and the rep, these protocols frequently have the opposite effect.  Many such protocols tyrannically confine both the customer and the customer service representative, as they strip both of their mutual humanity.  Consequently, they turn off the customer and leave them frustrated and dissatisified.

Insightful Alliance offers customer experience research services to help you assess whether your customer service protocols attract or repel your customers.  For more information contact Michael Mercier at


Optimize Intercept Surveys Using Our Deferred Intercept Method

If you plan on conducting intercept surveys, consider our “Deferred Intercept” method.

Many people decline to participate in intercept surveys because they are too busy at the moment they are approached.  Our “Deferred Intercept” method is a way to get many of these people to complete the survey at a later time.  Here’s how we do it.

When we intercept someone and they decline our invitation to complete the survey at that moment, we offer them a 3″ x 5″ card.  This card contains a URL and a QR-code, along with a set of instructions.  Whether they visit the URL on their computer, or scan the QR-code with their phone, they will be taken to an online version of the survey, which they can complete at their convenience.  We found that this can increase the total yield of completed surveys for an intercept study by 67%.  

To learn more contact Michael Mercier at

Mobile Intercept Surveys Using iPads

Insightful Alliance conducts mobile intercept surveys using iPads loaded with Survey Analytics’ SurveyPocket.

SurveyPocket is a versatile mobile survey application that allows us to conduct surveys with or without a WiFi connection.  When WiFi is unavailable, SurveyPocket saves completed surveys locally on the iPad.  When WiFi later becomes available, SurveyPocket uploads completed surveys to the Survey Analytics server for storage and analysis. 

This flexibility pays off when conducting surveys in a venue that lacks WiFi.  For example, we executed an intercept study for Reebok at a running expo that did not provide public WiFi.  Lacking a connection we simply saved completed surveys locally on the iPad during the hours of the expo, and later replicated them to the server when we encountered an available WiFi connection. 

To discuss how we can help you with mobile intercept surveys contact Michael Mercier at 



“Running Shoe Terminology” Study Applies Telephone Mystery Shopping Methodology

In its recent “Running Shoe Terminology” study, Insightful Alliance collected data using telephone mystery shopping — a variation on traditional mystery shopping.

In traditional mystery shopping the researcher poses as a customer and visits a retail establishment in order to experience shopping there first-hand.  He usually examines a particular aspect of the shopping experience.  For example, he might pay particular attention to the physical layout of the store, or the experience of finding and purchasing a particular product, or the quality of customer support.

Telephone mystery shopping is similar to traditional mystery shopping.  However, rather than visiting the store in-person, the researcher interacts with the establishment by phone.  This method is useful for studying the quality of the telephone experience, the accuracy of information provided, or evident product or brand biases.  In this particular study we called running shoe retailers around the country and posed as customers in order to examine the terminology that they used to describe the segmentation of the running shoe market.

For more information about how our Telephone Mystery Shopping Methodology can be used to generate customer insights for your product, contact Michael Mercier at

Proactively Managing Participant Expectations During a Bulletin Board Focus Group

In a previous blog post we addressed how, during a bulletin board focus group, you can easily get participants to provide their individual responses to your questions, yet be challenged by getting them to engage in a group dialog.  We then laid out 4 strategies to employ in order to optimize such group discussion.  One of these strategies was to manage participant expectations.

To effectively manage expectations during a bulletin board focus group you must do two things: (1) establish the expectations early on, and (2) continuously reinforce expectations throughout the focus group.

Establishing ExpectationsYou should introduce as early as possible the expectation that respondents participate in the discussion.  Ideally, you should introduce it during the recruitment phase of the project by addressing it in either the recruitment email or the recruitment phone script.

To be effective you should present the expectations in a way that unambiguously imprints them in the minds of participants.  Thus, you shouldn’t simply mention them in passing.  Rather, you should emphatically highlight them.  The best way to do this is to dedicate a full paragraph to laying them out.  Here’s an example of how you might do this: 

“During this discussion board focus group we will post questions twice a day, and we will expect two things of you.  First, we want you to provide your own response to each question.  Second, we want you to engage in a lively discussion with other participants in which you comment on each other’s answers, pose questions to each other, and, when appropriate, challenge each other.  It is through such  discussion that we will yield the greatest insights — and, therefore, the greatest value, from the board.”

Continuously Reinforce Expectations.  Once you have established expectations, you should reinforce them throughout the remainder of the project.  There are several opportunities for doing this.

You can reinforce them in every correspondence prior to the beginning of the project.  For example, you can reinforce them when you email participation instructions or start-date reminders.  You also can reinforce expectations by embedding a reminder every time you post a new set of questions.  And you can reinforce them on an individual basis by monitoring respondents and privately requesting that those who aren’t participating join the discussion.

Managing expectations in this way will go a long way toward improving the quality of the discussion on your boards.

Generating Discussion in Bulletin Board Focus Groups

While it’s easy to get your participants to provide their initial response to each of your questions during a bulletin board focus group, it can be a challenge to get them to discuss the questions with each other.  Here’s why:

First, some participants simply don’t understand that they are expected to engage in a discussion with other respondents.  Rather, they think that their main task is to provide their initial response to each question, and that discussing responses with other respondents really isn’t very important.

Second, some participants think that providing their initial response is easy, whereas participating in a discussion is difficult.

Third, some participants may be very time-constrained when responding, and therefore skimp on the time they spend in discussion with other participants. 

And, finally, some simply may resist becoming engaged.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict whether any of these challenges will emerge during any given board.  Therefore, you must proactively manage the board to prevent them from emerging.  Your strategy for doing this should be designed to achieve the following objectives:

(1)    to carefully manage participants’ expectations of what will be required of them;

(2)    to provide an incentive for engaging in quality discussion;

(3)    to vigilantly ensure that respondents aren’t overburdened with too many questions;

(4)    and to optimize the level of participant engagement.