What is the fate of the independent “moderator?” I have been involved in some interesting discussions here at the QRCA Annual Conference in Las Vegas related to the health of the industry.
The prevailing view among many whom I respect is that the old days of the “focus group moderator” are quickly waning. These qualitative professionals must become qualitative research consultants (QRCs) to survive. Researchers who made quite a nice income by managing the focus group research process will find their services in diminishing demand and the pay for those services being cut drastically.
There are several trends driving this reality:
- Technology is making the qualitative process simple and accessible to research buyers. Therefore, the premium placed on “process researchers” is quickly diminishing.
- Technology and internet access is making some research obsolete. Some routine research projects are being abandoned to the rising MR communities, social media mining or other methods of gathering qualitative data.
- Research budgets have tightened, forcing corporate researchers to look at new, faster and cheaper methods for even historically tried-and-true research.
The qualitative researcher must be a consultant, not a processor of focus groups. They will be hired for the value they bring to the client, not their knowledge of the focus group process. Such value will be measured in terms of:
- Knowledge of and application of the correct qualitative methodology (online, in-person, mobile, etc) to the marketing problem.
- Understanding of the marketing problem and how research applies to that.
- Understanding of the research buyer’s strategy, category and business problem.
- Insights gained from the qualitative research that adds to the buyer’s knowledge base and helps make a more informed decision.
- Informed, applicable, actionable recommendations arising from the research.
Qualitative researchers who can deliver on this value do themselves a disservice by using the term “moderator” to describe their services. It’s time to have the Qualitative Research Consultant (QRC) front and center.