Ideas and thoughts about market research fieldwork in the UK.
...people that do fieldwork. It does not matter what the subject is. It could be with high net
worth individuals regarding their future car buying intentions. Or low-income families about how
they manage their household budget. What matters, what makes it fieldwork, is that the person
who delivers it engaged the respondent, overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt, and
did an interview worth doing. Something good. Something human. Something that will make the
world a better place.
You would probably be shocked at the amount of planning and preparation that goes on behind the
scenes to make the perfect market research event. Beyond making a list (and checking it twice)
it means recruiting respondents, liaising with the venue, lighting, installations, filming,
deliveries, catering - depending on the research this list can seem never ending. And you need
to have an eye on every single detail so that all the elements are perfect. But above all else
you need to create an environment where a respondent can make a powerful exchange with a client.
No matter how large the project is, it needs to be intimate enough to generate conversations
Otherwise why plan at all? And be sure to write down your plans and make them known. Pick out a
team of people that can help you deliver the plan. Shake off people that think your plan is
stupid. They will not support your plan so you may as well ignore them. You know that if you
make a big plan the chances are something will happen. Are you doubting that you can do any of
what you do? Good. Then make the big plan.
If, in the work you do, there are people out there that cost less than you and are offering a
product or service that is a reasonable comparison for your work then you are probably not going
to get the work you want because you are, on balance, not worth it. And then you end up having
to chase the cheaper prices which we all know is ultimately a race to the bottom. So how about
instead of being cheaper you become incomparable, crucial, and invaluable? Obviously that's the
troubled track to take because it means you have to become really, really good at what you do,
you must totally specialise, be a risk taker, create brilliant art, deliver the science, make
sure that everything you do leaves a positive impact on everyone you touch. It is either that or
be cheap. I think I prefer the troubled track.
What do we do with the people we love the most? We share. We share our lives, we share our
thoughts, we share our time, we even share our food and drink! So here is a treat that I am
sharing with you. If you haven't read it yet and are looking for a good book to get stuck into I
strongly suggest you get a copy of Humankind - A Hopeful
History by the Dutch historian by Rutger Bregman. It is a warm hearted and much needed
optimistic read, building on the "radical" view that most of us are decent and friendly
creatures. I don't buy into all of Bregman's arguments but I do buy into his belief that human
kindness lights the path to a brighter future. I highly recommend it!
I have been thinking about how a garden is like a life. You have a garden and it is yours to
tend and garden and weed and live with. You can plant bad thoughts or a sow good sense of
humour. And it is up to you to weed areas and to douse parts of your plot with Miracle Grow.
Feel free to fertilise and nurture the thoughts and feelings that you want to grow in your
garden. It is probably worth putting up a decent fence, to protect your garden, but I would not
advise putting up a wall. Get a gate and decide who can come into your garden. Watching out for
invasive species – make sure you keep the grass cut, the weeds at bay, and pick up any dog poop
if you have a dog, so that you get the garden you want. Refuse to accept that a good garden is
an accident of birth or an unchangeable constant.
Some prize winners keep playing the lottery, even after they have won the jackpot. So that means
they are not playing for the win, because they have already won millions. So why are they
playing? We all know that in terms of practical mathematics, our chances of winning the lottery
is so vanishingly small it is as if, from an investment point of view, there are no winners at
all. So that means that we should play the game for the thrill of playing it, for the benefits
of playing it to a conclusion, not because we think we have any shot of winning the grand prize,
right? Now let us apply that thinking to our everyday lives. Let us focus on what it means to
enjoy the thrill of doing the market research fieldwork we get to do every day and taking each
project through to its perfect conclusion.
There are a number of Indiefield staff who have been here more or less since we founded the
company over 20 years ago. As time goes by you do not just come to trust valued colleagues like
these, they also earn your respect. Once you come to know someone's sensibilities and ambitions,
you naturally start to see the world through their eyes and to support their motives and
tactics. Once you have seen how they handle market research fieldwork when under pressure and
how they take care of business in quieter moments, you get a true sense of what they believe
in. In a world of quick quantitative projects and short qualitative engagements, this sort of
relationship is utterly priceless. It is so easy to start relationships that have the potential
to turn into ones exactly like these. But it remains as hard as it has ever been to make them
A study has shown that placebos work even when the patient is told that the drug they are taking
has no 'real' medicine in it. Yes, you read that correctly. We know that the placebo effect is
real. If we believe we are going to get better, perform better, recruit the focus group, deliver
the fieldwork etc., we do. So then why do known placebos work? Because of the process. The steps
we go through to remember to take them, then to actually take them, then to stick to the dosing.
Over time, we do not think about the placebo itself, we tell ourselves (a lot) that we are
taking significant action. It is the same with market research fieldwork. Sometimes it looks
like the odds are stacked against us. But we stick to the process and grind through the steps,
over and over again. And you know what? We get better.
Market research fieldwork for what? How do we know what the client is ultimately aiming for? It
starts with understanding the use case. And before we can do that, we need to have all the
information from our client to work out what would delight them. At that point, the only
question is, "does this market research fieldwork support the use case we agreed on?" Too often,
we are in such a hurry to show off our recruiting and interviewing skills that we forget to
address the notion of what we do it for, and what the use case is.
You do not need more time to deliver that market research project. You just need to decide who
you will work with and what the fieldwork process will look like. That means being accountable
for the project which means making good decisions (with a sense of urgency) about who is going
to conduct your fieldwork and recruitment. Always look for the company that will step up and
take responsibility so that the things you need get delivered.
Being described as "a self-sufficient" appears to be a worthy goal, but is it really possible if
you want to actually get anything done? In market research fieldwork all our productivity,
leverage and insight comes from being part of something, not apart from it. We rely on
respondents to take part in our research, on our panelists to engage, on our recruiters and
interviewers to interrupt. The goal now is to work out who and what our dependencies will be so
that our clients can depend on us.
There has always been a bright light around the craftsperson. Someone who takes real care and
produces work for the ages. Everyone else might be a hack, or a guru, but a craftsperson was
someone we could respect. Perhaps we are entering a new age of craftsmanship. A craftsperson
might be particularly talented in the way he or she delivers market research projects. Just
because it is not in a craft fair doesn't mean it didn't demand craft.
What do most businesses do with their best clients? If you define "best client" as the client
who pays you the most, then you take their money. But what if you define "best client" as the
person who brings you new clients through frequent referrals? That client, I think, is worth far
more than what any one transaction can bring. In fact, if you think of that client as your best
advertisement instead, it changes everything.
One of the things that we always think about is how our role as market research project managers
is to "protect the work". To make sure that our clients get the best respondents. To make sure
that our clients meet their deadlines. To make sure that our clients can deliver great market
research. Our job is to keep the project moving and the choices open so that our client can do
his or her work. We protect the project so that our clients can deliver it.