Bj’s 30 Years in 30 Days—June 26 South American Way

  Bj Kirschner      28 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 26 South American Way

So many of my favorite experiences have been part of global studies.  If you get the chance to work on a study that goes beyond your borders, do it.  They are so rewarding.  There is so much to learn and you will meet wonderful people.

What should have been one of the hardest international projects ever turned out to be one of the best.  We were doing research in a number of South American countries on a very very very difficult topic, a rare disease that affects primarily children and has a very high and fast mortality rate. 

At the time of the study, this was a fairly new topic.  It had been done mainly in the US and EU5 (this was pre-Brexit), as always the first hives of thought leaders and public attention.  Research in South America is complex.  Anyone expecting similar outcomes among countries like they might see in Europe is in for a treat.  However, you will rarely encounter partners like those in South America: extremely hardworking, extremely knowledgeable, extremely driven and extremely positive.  I have had many a white-knuckle project in South American countries, but I can honestly say not once have I ended a project not impressed by everyone with whom I worked.

Because if there was to be a disastrous study, it would have been this study.  This is a condition where it was nearly impossible to say how many patients existed in each country.  Recruiting HCPs who treated them was going to be tough, although doubly rewarding as at the time of this study, there were still countries where it was permissible in very carefully managed ways for HCPs to get the recruiters in touch with their patients (or in this case caregivers).

This was a topic with which the clients did not expect the moderators to have experience, so everyone was learning on the fly.  Everybody was very realistic, we expected only a very small handful of HCPs and caregivers per country.  By the end of the study, we had not only hit the quotas in every country, we went beyond them in most countries.

Was the topic easier than expected?  No.  Not in the least.  Were there great networks of support and advocates that kicked in big time?  No.  It turned out to be a mix of truly outstanding recruiting of a condition on which people were providing input for the first time.  Never underestimate the power of the latter.  The caregivers here were parents of children who lived very brief lives (we actually had a few whose children had passed away recently), but they wanted to speak about it.  They were passionate and heartbreaking, but this was a pattern in all of the countries used.  None of us were prepared for the emotional toll, especially the moderators, but not a single person involved in the study would have had it any other way. 

Is international research always like this?  Noooooooo.  It can be a very frustrating experience with the wrong partners or because the clients impose a one-size-fits-all approach to wildly varying markets, but either way, I promise the lessons learned you will never forget.

Certainly that is the case with the friends I made on this project!  This is a favorite story when any of us is asked about our hardest studies ever.  You all know who you are!

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