Bj’s 30 Years in 30 Days—June 14 The Universe: Reachable

  Bj Kirschner      14 June 2022     

The month of June marks my 30th Anniversary in market research. Since 30 days hath June and I love a good countdown, I have decided to do a Market Research Thought of the Day each day in June. Enjoy! Bj

Bj’s 30 Years in 30 Days—June 14 The Universe: Reachable

Welcome back to this week’s multi-post discussion of feasibility in recruiting.  If it seems a little basic at the onset, that’s by design.  Sometimes we need to revisit the parts we think we know just to re-establish the baseline.

Here is the statement for the week:

The universe is not the population of a country, the number of HCPs in a given specialty, the number of patients with a condition, all drinkers of wine, etc.  The universe is people who are reachable, qualified, available and interested.

What does it mean for someone to be reachable?  It means that word of a potential study finds its way from you to a person and that person acts on it.  That’s all.  Only two actions: the potential respondent is contacted and the potential respondent replies.

Market research recruiters have a bevy of communication methods with potential respondents who are known to them.  Calls, emails, whatever, we all trust recruiters to have full access to their panelists.  It’s how one reaches a person who is not known to them that is of interest.

In a patient study, for instance, recruiters might be able to get to them through someone else.  In doing this, everyone must follow laws that address privacy of respondent healthcare information.  Doctors cannot just give recruiters their patients’ contact information.  That’s both against the law in most countries and a violation of market research industry standards everywhere. What needs to happen is that the person you have contacted has to reply to you, then has to reach out to potential patients and get them to reply so they can give them further instructions to contact you.

So, that’s…

You to the source and back, the source to the patient and back, the patient to you.

Everything in bold italics is a task over which you have no control.  Remember, we are not looking at anything beyond a potential respondent replying to outreach.  Maybe you could show up at their homes and snag them as they go to work each morning?  You don’t know who they are or where they live, nice try.

Does it follow that the tougher the population, the more time is needed to navigate the byzantine corridors of accessibility to respondents?  Yes, but that’s an oversimplification.  Time of year, incentive amounts, personal issues, medical issues, weather and so many others can get in the way.

I am borderline obsessive when it comes to tying a difficult recruit to a minimum amount of time.  It’s not arbitrary, it’s based on experience.  When doing global projects, some timelines will seem odd. 

For instance, the client wants:

  • Four patients in Belgium, eight patients each in Spain, Brazil, Germany and Japan and 16 patients in the US.
  • The recruiter tells you it will take eight weeks in Belgium, two weeks in Spain and Brazil, four weeks in Germany, six weeks in Japan, two weeks in the US. 
  • Wait, Belgium has half the quota but needs double the amount of time?  Spain and Brazil only need half the time of Germany and a third of Japan?  The US can finish before the others?

Patient population, country size, local laws, market research penetration and culture are just the first five reasons that came to mind as I wrote this, but for the countries I mentioned, at least three of the five can absolutely be used to explain the differences, to different degrees, and without even knowing which condition is the topic!

Remember the two actions?  Potential respondent is contacted and potential respondent replies?  You didn’t see a two-page explanation coming, did you?  I did, but I have been both a recruiter and client, both planned research and carried it out.  I have an omniscient perspective (either that or a worryingly high opinion of myself).  Here’s what that teaches: if a project cannot provide the time requested, that affects feasibility; I urge clients to ask why a certain project is budgeted for a certain amount of time and I ask recruiters to be very detailed about why they are asking for it. 

What happens if not enough people reply or none reply at all?  There are plenty of lessons to be learned from no replies.  I always say, “we don’t know what we don’t know, but we know we know it.”  That’s word salad for using knowledge and experience to explain absence rather than presence: something about the information we put out is causing too few people to act. 

What if the respondent is having major surgery the week you reach out?  What if a doctor is on vacation?  Certainly those situations are out of our control, right?  Wrong.  Wrong?  How?  Ah, a great question, a great great question.  What you do is…

Is that the time, yikes! So, tomorrow, tune in for the next step: qualified.

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