Market Research Participation: Sometimes the problem is, you know too much…

Your professional role makes you the expert

One question people ask us from time to time at Saros Research is why we have to exclude people in certain occupations, from taking part in our paid market research and user testing events such as focus groups and accompanied shopping trips.

It’s a fair question because it does happen across most projects, that we have list of occupational categories we have to exclude, and this is for good reason.

The main one is that our clients need to speak to real and representative members of the public, rather than other people in the business — after all if they want the opinions of marketers, advertising professionals or researchers, they can probably get that for free and closer to home! But the point of doing research and hiring us to recruit it is of course to get their work out in front of genuine people who come to it with no agenda or background and will just respond to it as the intended target market.

Of course if you are in advertising or marketing you already know this! And if you hired a research agency to test your ideas, you would be horrified to find people in the focus group dropping industry lingo around and critiquing your work from a professional, rather than consumer standpoint…

It’s the same on the user experience front as well of course. If our tech clients want techy feedback they can just ask their mates in the office, but if an application they are developing for public use can only be used effectively by professional developers –well, that’s no real use at all. Which is why we usually have to exclude people who work in closely related fields, such as web design, programming, etc.

These restrictions tend to be fairly set in stone, but others change according to the research subject. The reasons are the same — whatever subject is being researched, some people are going to know a lot more about than others, and majority viewpoint is going to be the non-specialist one. So, if we are conducting research about how toothbrushes are displayed in a supermarket, we won’t take dentists in to feed back about the display fixtures, because they will probably be more interested in the ingredients or whether they should carry that brand in their practice or whatever.

Exactly how the exclusion is worded varies from one project to another, but it generally also refers to ‘family and friends’ of people who work in — whatever industry. And this is where it can get confusing, I mean, you probably have a lot of friends who work in all sorts of different kinds of company. So we get quite a few calls saying, I have this invitation about a biscuits focus group, and I would like to apply but my cousin’s husband does IT support for Tescos… does that mean I am excluded?

The answer here is, probably not. Again the whole thing boils down to specialist knowledge of the subject in hand — does this relationship give you, as the potential research participant, and unusual knowledge of or special relationship with the world of biscuits? Would it make you relate to biscuit packaging, marketing, ingredients or even taste in a different way to an average biscuit-eater plucked randomly from the street?

If the answer is no, please feel free to apply for the research — and then you’ll wind up being the definite biscuit expert amongst your circle of friends. And what could be better than that? (And getting paid for it!)

No sorry we don’t have actual biscuit focus groups running at the time of writing, but to ensure your invitations to projects in your area be sure to sign up at