What’s in it for the Respondent?

Here’s a fact: we pay money for their information. Usually, cold hard cash. Sometimes cheques. Occasionally, gift certificates. Maybe soon, bitcoin.

But here’s another fact: the value of personal information has also been subject to the normal forces of inflation where financial incentive is often no longer enough for people to share the truth of their inner, personal lives in an engaged and meaningful way. And why should it be?

We need new carrots. More nutritious ones.

We’ve been grappling with this question lately, and specifically as it pertains to the work we do in healthcare. In oncology, for example, we have clients that have a desire to learn about the plight of metastatic cancers, where prognosis for life can be as short as a matter of months

Why on earth would anybody with months to live want to participate in market research? What makes it worthwhile to them to contribute their information in the precious limited time they may have left in this world?

What we are finding is that these patients are turning the tables on us. Before they agree to meet us, they want to know how the research is going to be deployed and activated. They want to know that ‘some good’ is going to come out of it – something that will benefit other patients in their situation and their families in the future. Often, we can assure them that our clients are seeking to better understand their journey in order to identify opportunities where they can invest resources to improve the overall outcomes and experience for patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals.

Of course, we know that this is only a part of an overall marketing strategy. Ultimately, the goal is to drive market share of a product. This is fine I think, as long as we are transparent, and as long as we reconcile it against a greater purpose. I am not a dogged proponent of altruism. If the forces of capitalism can bring some good where it is needed, then why not?

I’ll land this on two points.

First, at Fresh Squeezed Ideas we are committed to extending our insight work to strategy and into execution. If you ask us to dig deep into peoples’ lives, and in particular those who are ailing, you can count on this: we are going to articulate the full extent of peoples’ needs. We will do so in the hope (even with an expectation) that you (as an individual and an organization) will exhaust your ability to help the stakeholders to whom you want to appeal with your products and services. It is our promise to respondents, and it is our promise to you.

Second, I’d like to suggest to clients that you add a new section to your research briefs. Call it: What’s in it for respondents? And the answer can’t be money. Yes, we’ll probably always pay them, but take some time and think about how your application of the research might actually improve or inspire these specific peoples’ lives. Spell it out in your brief, and if you need some help with that, call us.

Marketing is a fantastic analytical, intellectual, and creative endeavor. We see all sorts of evidence that our actions are being evaluated against a moral measure of impact. Let’s pull that all the way forward, and structure our programs to step up to the challenge.

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