Surveying Hard-to-Reach Consumers? No problem.

With everyone attached to their smartphones these days and accustomed to sharing so much information, it seems like it should be easier and cheaper than ever to reach your intended survey population.  That isn’t always the case.  Some populations, like immigrants, marginal groups, older consumers, consumer experts and those in more rural locations, are especially hard to reach.

Greenwald Research has some answers about surveying hard-to-reach consumer populations:

Start With What You Have

Leverage your own lists of consumers who are customers, employees, and potential customers.  Although you’ll need to refresh these lists regularly, this is one of the best places to start for sample.  Ask your research vendor with an in-house programming team for tips and tricks on how to keep these lists clean and ready to use.

You can also build on your current lists by creating landing page on your social media sites or your website.  Offer up a “call-to-action” geared towards your target audience such as an information sheet, a free e-book, or a coupon, which you can exchange for an email address.  Not only have you found someone interested in your survey topic, but you have increased the chances of having them participate in your survey by virtue of them having recently given you their email address.

Leverage Trusted Sources

Think creatively about other ways to learn about your target group.  Who do they trust?  Especially for populations that are more hesitant to provide personal information, like immigrants, finding one of their trusted resources can do two things for your research. 

First, qualitative interviews can inform your online questionnaire.  Conducting one-one-one interviews with trusted resources can help you know what to ask and how to ask it for maximum effectiveness.

Second, it can lead you to your target audience.  Trusted resources can introduce you to members of the population you want to speak to the most, as well as other trusted resources for that community.  This approach, known as snowball sampling, will ensure that you are getting quality respondents for your research project.

Get Help with Consumer Research Panels

Panel providers are one of the most common places to go for consumer sample, but you have to be careful.  In our online studies, Greenwald & Associates has found that there is an ever-increasing number of respondents “gaming the system” by logging on multiple times or misrepresenting who they are. 

If you are going to use an online panel provider, be sure that you are managing them and screening your respondents vigilantly.  For hard-to-reach populations, find a specialty panel provider and/or enlist the help of a market research firm to write the screener and manage the screening process.  This will help you avoid a situation of “Garbage in. Garbage out.”

Go Retro

Some respondent groups just like to open a piece of mail or answer questions via phone, especially older generations.  If you are trying to survey respondents who are 60+ years old, consider a mail or phone survey.

Knowing your audience and how to best reach them is an art and a science.  Start gathering your list and thinking through your research mode early.  Or, if you are in a rush, reach out to a market research firm who has more resources than you might internally.