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‘Behind the Glass’ Bias

Behind the GlassI feel like recently, many market researchers have lost sight of their primary goal. Why do I say this? Well, last week I received an RFP from a Client that insisted on conducting in-depth interviews (IDIs) in 3 live cities with a total of thirty physicians in support of a qualitative then quantitative study.

In response to the RFP, I recommended that telephone in-depth interviews (TDIs) would be the way to go for the multiple benefits afforded:

  • Geographic representation – “all healthcare is local” and TDIs enable you to access the diverse set of attitudes and opinions that exist
  • Beyond the Ivory Tower – selection of live markets lean towards major metro centers like NYC, Chicago and LA which have access to systems, treatments and trials that aren’t representative of the wider prescribing population
  • Access to No See Physicians – eliminating the need to drive to a facility and find parking increase the odds that you can gain insight from ‘no sees’ to determine ways to potentially reach them with a persuasive message
  • Iteration, Iteration – with stimuli residing on a web server, time previously dedicated to traveling from city to city is applied to making meaningful tweaks to the stimuli and discussion guide
  • Client participation rates – instead of being present but absent in the back room, Clients have the opportunity to dial-in or increasingly download the mp3 files and listen while en route to other meetings

When questioned, the market research client’s rationale for the live IDIs had nothing to do with methodology or sample bias, but had everything to do with ‘team building.’ I was informed that attending in-person market research was a good opportunity to get the marketing and market research teams interacting.


Listen, I’m not a proponent of different just for the sake of different, but compromising the quality of the qualitative research that was going to inform a six-figure quantitative study just to get folks that sit a few cubes away from one another to “bond” strikes me as almost criminal. Sadly, this is not the first time I have heard this rationale for the same methodological approach.

To my market research clients, I would like to say that you have a lot more to offer than just some witty banter in the back room during in-person interviews. Once we acknowledge that the primary goal is to obtain the best research insights, the decision on methodology becomes an easy one.

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